Thursday, March 15, 2012

Bad Advice

When it comes to domestic violence, most of us don't know the signs, yet we love to blame women for not noticing them and not getting out of the relationship fast enough. Case in point, a man writes to Cary Tennis, an advice columnist, and his letter is peppered with red flags. On Feministe, where we first saw this advice, Jill breaks them down:

I mean, we have some Classic Signs of A Controlling Man here.

  1. Isolates her from her friends and family.

  2. Criticizes her.

  3. THREATENS SUICIDE when she tries to leave him.

  4. Lies, or at least can’t keep his story straight, when he’s appealing for sympathy (see “we ended up having a screaming incident in front of our apartment” followed up with “I never threatened her or even raised my voice”).
The advice columnist, who by the way is paid to be an expert on relationships, has this to say:

It’s sad. I wish you two could patch it up.
This is the advice women are given. We are told to compromise so we won't end up alone, and then people are surprised when the violence escalates and we don't realize something is wrong until we are in too deep. To this advice columnist, the victim is the villain.

How hard would it be to tell women not to compromise, but only to commit to other people who treat them as equals and with respect? How hard would it have been for this advice columnist to tell this perfect stranger that his behavior is alarming and that his girlfriend is right to stay away? Domestic violence will not end if we tell women to put up with it and it certainly won't end until we are able to point out to men when their behavior is controlling or threatening. We need to stop ignoring the warning signs and start treating domestic and dating violence for what it is: a problem that needs to be addressed and can't be explained away.

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