“If It’s A Domestic Issue, We Just Stay Out Of It…”

Wednesday, March 1st, 2017

I feel like that’s a daily common refrain I hear about abuse within a relationship.

First off, I’ll agree with you to some extent. You’re not a detective, or a police officer (unless you are, in which case, thank you for your service, and sorry for all you have to deal with). But assuming you’re not, then no. It’s not your job to get to the bottom of domestic dispute issues.

But sometimes I get the sense with abuse that people are like, “Oh, well, you know, people fight. Who’s to know who’s right?”

And I think we’re a little better at our general response to child abuse (maybe… I’m not even 100% certain on that really)… I have seen a lot of people be like, “Well, you know, who am I to judge? That person parents their kid in whatever way they see fit.” And if the person aware of the abuse doesn’t literally fear for the child’s life, if it’s “just some bruising, or some ‘roughness,'” then, like, “it’s none of my business.”

And I think it especially gets hard when it’s a “partner,” because we want to believe we’re equal, and “the person is a grown adult who could leave.” But, I don’t think we necessarily take into account all the other factors. Can they really leave? Do they feel safe leaving, or – even in the face of violence, maybe counterintuitive to some people, but not to those affected by abuse – does it actually feel overall safer to try and stay and not make waves and be “good”? Do they have overarching family issues, or economic issues, or other things that would make them feel they should stay?

They might not be making the choices you’d make, but they’re making the ones that seem more normal to them in the time. (This is often why past victims can often so easily become victims again. They get conditioned to thinking there is no way out, and the best you can do is stay and be “good.”) Even in a “partnership” – that has a very word that denotes equal-ness, the victim may not have equal power, or equal opportunities, or equal physical strength and on and on. It’s not necessarily just as simple as “if someone abuses you, leave.”

And to some extent, I respect that people want to respect others’ privacy. I respect that people are like, “I can’t make complete judgements based on the small piece of the picture I see. What if I don’t know everything?

But I also – and I know this is so nuanced – but I think there’s a difference between saying, “I’m not a law enforcement officer. I don’t know enough detail to help, but I feel empathetic toward the people affected by abuse, which is way too prevalent in our society” vs. someone burying their head in the sand, and shrugging their shoulders, and being like, “Well, you know, fights are weird and they break out, and who’s really at fault? [blah, blah, blah]”

Sometimes people think abusers abuse because their victims “provoke” them. (And oftentimes abusers will say they wouldn’t have done it had the person not “made them angry,” or even just said something in a different way. But sometimes these “provoking” instances are just people simply saying their feelings are hurt, or asking if the person wants dinner, but doing it at the wrong time. To abusers, things that can provoke them can potentially be very small.
Also, think about yourself. Would someone making you angry make you beat someone, or sexually assault them? How many times have you punched someone in the face because you didn’t like something they said?

I believe we all are potentially capable of violence. If our lives are in danger, or if someone really pushes someone to the brink. I’m not saying there’s no scenario in which you could ever punch someone in the face. But is that your normal reaction? How are we so quick to normalize abuse when it’s not normal?

The idea that like, “well, probably everybody’s kinda wrong or has some issues,” on a much smaller scale is kind of as dumb as Donald Trump saying there’s “violence on all sides.” Like, no, there’s not dude. One side is merely trying to stand up for themselves. And on the other side, a man ran over a woman with his car. You can see which “side” is in the wrong.

And domestic abuse is not always quite as clear as someone being run over with a car, which I do understand makes it harder.

I also know that we only have so much brain space to care about things. We have all of our own lives to worry about. So, how can we care about every victim of every thing at all times? We can’t. I guarantee you there are many different types of cancers and other diseases that I don’t know much about, and I haven’t donated to charities focused on wiping them out. But I also have never thought, “I wonder if cancer is the one in the right here.”

We can’t help everybody. We can’t focus on every single thing.We can’t be mad at the world all the time.

But I also just feel like there’s something about this seemingly-at-least-semi-prevalent attitude of, “If it happens mainly behind closed doors, it’s totally between them,” to “Maybe not. Maybe doors aren’t a magical portal to make crimes more palatable or less bad.”

I don’t have a magical answer for how we do that, or how we measure that. I just feel like I’d really like to see a shift in our at-least-semi-collective thinking.

I'd love to hear from you! So whaddya say?