In a wonderful act of synchronicity, the Jackson Free Press, the Center for Violence Prevention and its director, Sandy Middleton (story), all found one another back in 2004. Under Middleton's direction, the center has become a force in the movement to end domestic violence in the state of Mississippi.
Despite many great strides forward, it's an effort that is far from complete.
Domestic violence and rape continue to be crimes where the victims are blamed as much as the offenders. The attempted-rape case against the former head of the International Monetary Fund, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, is one such example. The media are raking the victim over its bed of judgmental coals, not because Strauss-Kahn is innocent, but because the victim turns out not to be a perfect witness. She is black, poor, a refugee and may have cheated on her taxes. She may have told a lie. None of those things make her a "hooker" as The New York Post declared in its four-inch July 2 headline. They just make her human.
The case against Strauss-Kahn is a stark reminder of why half the victims of abuse, domestic violence and rape never report their assaults. Until police, prosecutors and the media can figure out that the victims aren't at fault, we'll continue to ask stupid questions such as, "why doesn't she leave?" instead of smart ones like "why does he terrorize her?"
Not so very long ago, women who were being terrorized by stalkers could only count on friends and family for protection. No stalking laws existed in Mississippi until 1993, so police could offer no help until violence occurred. Until last year, a victim had to prove she was in imminent danger of death to have her stalker convicted.
In Mississippi, victims who were strangled by their abusers could not count on a felony assault charge against their attacker if they survived. That changed last year. This year, judges can order abusers to wear GPS tracking devices to be monitored by their victims, giving the abused another way to protect and empower themselves.
We would like Mississippi lawmakers to stop "protecting" victims by forcing them to stay in dysfunctional marriages. Taking a beating or submitting to terror is not a better option than divorce. It just is not. No child should ever be subjected to violence inflicted on a parent. That isn't sane public policy, any more than not funding women's shelters and batterer's intervention programs.
Abuse victims deserve our collective attention and our concerted efforts to bring an end to the traumatic violence that permeates their lives. The Jackson Free Press is pleased to have made contributions to the movement to end domestic violence in Mississippi. We invite everyone to make the contributions they are able to. Come to the Chick Ball if you can. Tell someone about it if you can't.
See http://www.jfpchickball.com for ways to help.