Imagine a cartoon where a prince is pursuing a maiden. Drawn as an unlikeable lout, his dimensions are ungainly and exaggerated; about two heads taller than his quarry. He’s gained entrance to the maiden’s living quarters and has proceeded to throw his weight around. His goal is to get the woman to leave with him. The maiden responds by yielding to his advances, meekly accommodating his rude behavior. She seems to agree with every word he says without challenging him. One ‘yes’ after another flies from her mouth until, finally, the big lug is shown the door. More irony is contained in this hypothetical scenario than you may realize and it is the perfect illustration upon which to base a discussion about domestic violence.
Popular animated movies are designed to offer relief from the dark side of life but sometimes they inadvertently give us added insight into them. A conventional take on the above scenario would see the woman as the victim and the man as the aggressor. Some might argue it is employing a stereotype. Contemporary culture has a more fluid understanding of gender roles. Like the yin yang symbol of Eastern culture, masculine and feminine are merely concepts that complement one another. There is no assumption of one’s dominance over another. So, in that light, let’s review that cartoon. What were the goals of the two ‘combatants’ in this ‘fight’? He wanted her to leave with him. She simply wanted him to leave. How did the scene end? The prince exits the way he came in and the maiden remains in her home. Who achieved their objective? Her yielding was not weak. It was a solution and it worked. Ideally, protection and self-defense need not involve resorting to violence.
Please don’t misunderstand. Physical self-defense is without a doubt a very real possibility and a useful set of skills to have. The exaggerated size difference in the above scene simply drove home that the maiden’s methodology was simply sounder in comparison with trying to use force. Back here in the real world, let’s start by defining what we mean by ‘domestic violence’. Of course, we could go broad and simply say it is any behavior in the home that is threatening, abusive or violent. On the other hand, the decision to open this article with that particular scene was no accident. More often than not, where domestic violence is concerned, we as a society are discussing one intimate partner in a relationship using fear and intimidation tactics to establish power and control over another. In that sense, the above scene could be presented as a mirror of the Western society in which we live.
As recently as 2010, The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey conducted by the Center for Disease Control told us that one in three women are victims of relationship violence. For men, it’s one in four. Race, religion, culture and economic status are no exceptions and can happen between same sex couples as well. The perpetrator can be a woman, against a man. None of this has reversed or remedied the aforementioned stereotype. We must consider all scenarios and offer approaches that work for either gender.
The best protection comes from preparation. No, that is still not a push for enrollment in self-defense classes nor is it any sort of discouragement from doing so. Instead, we must discuss mental and emotional preparation. A victim must look inward and ask some very tough questions:
Can you put your own well-being above that of your partner?
Putting others before your self is a noble trait and one certainly not uncommon to wives and mothers. It is also the first that needs to go when a partner has become violent. You are not asked to stop loving or caring here. Rather, you must develop the ability to focus on a plan of action which you have spent time preparing for, when the time is right. Heeding a well-honed instinct for survival does not invalidate your feelings for another person.
Do you know where to go if you leave?
Part of the plan of action has to involve a definite, pre-established destination. This is where you will head once you kick the plan into gear.
Do you know how to get help?
Once you have put distance between yourself and any immediate danger, there must be a long-term plan to follow. Do not make any assumptions regarding how deep your wounds, emotional or otherwise, may be. Seek counseling or some other form of support.
Do you know how to keep custody of the children?
If you haven’t already, seek the aid of an attorney specializing in divorce & family law. At this point, it could seem that your spouse has no case but that is not a chance you want to take. This is clearly a matter that will require that expertise.
Do you have the economic means to survive?
This is clearly the most pragmatic preparation to concern oneself with before escaping an abusive environment. Obviously, the further in advance you can begin the better. At the same time, this must not be a concern that will hold you back when it becomes time to get out. There are shelters and similar refuges for women in your situation.
Bruce Lee once defined martial arts as “the art of fighting without fighting.” The good news is that you don’t have to learn how to fight to not fight. As difficult as it may be, remaining aware and in relative control of your thoughts and emotions will always go a long way towards protection from domestic violence.
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