Women are given mixed messages on a regular basis. We’re told that we’re shattering glass ceilings and are independent ladies, while at the same time we’re told we’re a mess barely keeping ourselves together. Just today I got a Facebook advert demanding my attention so I can discover the newest fad diet that doesn’t really work. I’m told I should love my body and loathe it on a regular basis. I’ve come to expect that kind of thing.
Recently The Washington Post cited a study by the Bureau of Justice purportedly telling women that we should stop taking so many lovers and instead marry our “baby daddy.” That choice of words speaks rather clearly about the fundamental racism and classism indicated within the article and the logic being displayed. We are not talking about wealthy white women here, are we?
This is why when someone writes “studies say,” you need to read that study to find out for yourself what’s actually in it. So, let’s look at that special report from the Bureau of Justice on intimate partner violence (IPV). You can pull out of it that having children is more likely to make women victims of IPV, but I don’t see headlines telling women not to have kids. Getting divorced decreases a woman’s rate of IPV by 67 percent says the special report, so why not call for mass divorces? Isn’t it interesting that instead, the Post decided to push heteronormativity in the form of heterosexual marriage, telling women to stop being so slutty and settle down?
Let’s talk about some other facts, here.
Let’s talk about the fact that most women know their attackers: this survey says two out of three female victims of violence are related to or know their attacker. Men, on the other hand, are more likely to be attacked by strangers. Think about that for a moment. While women are taught to walk on the other side of the street, tell someone who we’re with while on a first date, and always be wary of strangers, the reality is the men we need to be most guarded against are men we should feel safe with — our lovers, our family, our friends. We’re 10 times more likely to be attacked by an intimate than men are. 10 TIMES.
Let’s talk about the fact that earning under $9,999 a year makes you a hell of a lot more likely to be a victim of a violent crime. Or that having not completed high school also increases your risk. Or that being a woman of color also exponentially increases your likelihood of being violently assaulted. We could also possibly pull out of the survey that your education level has no impact on your likelihood of being raped. Or that Black women are more likely to be attacked by acquaintances or strangers than by their intimate partners. Or that police were more likely to take a formal report if the attacker was a stranger, instead of an intimate.
Additionally while the Violence Against Women National Crime Victimization Survey Report says that boyfriends or girlfriends made up 14 percent of the violence committed against women, spousal violence makes up 9 percent, and ex-spouses make up another 4 percent. The idea of citing marriage as some sort of weird protection spell is absurd, and quite possibly dangerous.
As someone who suffered abuse at the hands of an ex-fiancé, I’m relieved we didn’t get married. I may have had more difficulty escaping the violence by leaving him, as our finances and lives would have been even more entwined. He was abusive to his mother before me and it was witnessing that violence that made me finally understand how someone could seem to sweet and yet also be dangerous. He was one of the “nice guys,” a feminist, an academic. None of that mattered when he was angry, though. Like a storm, he would rage, and then grow peaceful, and I would wonder if perhaps I was blowing it all out of proportion. I probably would’ve married him, even though I should have known better. Even I, a bitter cranky queer, still believed on some level in the Hollywood fairy tale, where a wedding fixes everything.
You know who was the least likely to be a victim of violent crime?
Draw your own conclusions, Washington Post.
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[Image of a marriage certificate via Shutterstock]