Sheltering in (a dangerous) Place

If you are like me, your biggest challenges these past two months have been frustration with zoom meetings, cabin fever, loneliness, anxiety and occasionally desperately needing some space from the other people in your house.

One thing I have not had to worry about, however, is getting beaten, threatened, or killed by my partner. My home is a safe place to be, and I hope yours is, too.

However, you and I both know that this time of pandemic sheltering-in-place has been catastrophic—even deadly—for countless women and children (and some men, too) who are stranded at home with their abusers, without any of the possible networks of support that would normally be available to them. It’s pretty hard to call a domestic violence hotline when the person you are calling about is in the same room.

I’ve been thinking about this lately because I just finished a good book on domestic violence, No Visible Bruises, by Rachel Louise Snyder. It is divided into thirds: the first third about the victims, the second about the abusers, and the third about those individuals and organizations who are trying to make a difference. It’s all pretty bleak, actually—-and not least because of the pitiful enforcement of restraining orders and incidents of stalking, and the failure of our legal system to take seriously the “smaller” acts of violence and threats that are the best predictors of homicide. Too many people look the other way, don’t want to get involved, or think somehow it just isn’t that bad.

Snyder also mentions the Violence against Women Act (then-senator Biden introduced it in 1990), whose funding currently has not been renewed by the Senate; and Crawford vs. Washington, a 2004 case where the Supreme Court ruled that witnesses had to testify in court against their attackers, even when they feared for their lives. And, she mentions our current president and the statement he made that “It’s a very scary time for young men in America, where you can be guilty of something you may not be guilty of.” (He said this two days after a report was released documenting an 11% rise in the murder rate of women by a domestic partner since 2014.)

There is a deep misogyny underlying all this: an attitude that assumes men should be excused when they lose their temper, that women get hysterical and need to calm down, and that violence in the home is a private matter. Oh, and I do need to even mention the role of guns in all this—they increase the danger to women exponentially, by any measure.

Home should not be the most dangerous place to be a woman, especially in a pandemic.

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