October is recognized as Domestic Violence Awareness month in an effort to bring attention to this issue. On Oct. 19, Bellevue College arranged a webinar on domestic violence and its root causes as part of their Gender-Based Violence Prevention programming.
Thank you to Ward Urion, social change manager of LifeWire, and Martha Mcginniss, bilingual inter-agencies liaison of King County Sexual Assault Resource Center, for the presentation. They were also joined by Consuelo A. Grier, the vice president of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Bellevue College.
A Lifewire Youth Advocate is available at Bellevue College. They specialize in youth support, but they are trained to support the entire community at BC. Don’t hesitate to reach out. They can be reached on their cell at (425)-389-2016 and by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s important to keep in mind that while this presentation focused more on gendered violence, domestic abuse can affect any gender and be perpetuated by any gender. One in four women and one in nine men experience intimate partner violence (IPV). Trans and nonbinary people are especially vulnerable to violence — around half of all transgender people experience IPV.
A big topic in the presentation was deconstructing the idea of masculinity and how our culture is toxic to people socialized as male. Boys are often told to “not cry” and to “be a man.” Men have no acceptable outlet for their emotions other than anger. This either turns inward in the form of self-destructive behaviors or outward in the form of violence and disobedience. They talked about how a lot of kids who act out in this way are brushed aside as simply “bad kids.”
They also talked about the cycles of abuse in families. It is common that a partner who is being abused is manipulated into staying. The presenters compared it to the situation of the frog being unknowingly boiled alive as the temperature slowly rises. They often might think that they can protect their children from being hurt and that the situation will not escalate. Another common thinking is a sunk-cost fallacy – of how so much time and effort was spent already in making this relationship work.
A form of abuse misleadingly separated from domestic violence is sexual abuse. These two are intertwined. Sexual violence is absolutely a form of control and harm that is often used to humiliate the victim. Scenarios brought up were prostitution or exchanging sex for favors as a means of trying to survive. That feeling of shame and dependency often prevents victims from seeking help.
So what are the solutions? Current research shows that downstream or interventive efforts are largely unhelpful and can be downright harmful for BIPOC. According to an analysis by the Seattle Times, the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office only filed two percent of sexual assault cases referred for charges in 2018.
What we need to focus on is addressing the root cause of violence, or a more upstream approach. We need to shift culture and build skills for healthier relationships. Sometimes all it takes is for one person to notice and reach out. Change like this happens through fostering human connections. An example we looked at was a man who grew up with an abusive father who reached out to his football coach. He was able to have a positive role model and break the cycle. Never underestimate the power of empathy.
We, individually, must look at our language around gender and violence and be careful about what we teach our children. We must recognize our trauma and try to heal and learn from it. We must shift our culture to reject violence and challenge narrow gender stereotypes. We need to support youth in their learning and model healthy communication. The presenters encouraged all of us to be active in advocating for others.
If someone you know is perpetuating harmful notions, you can try different things depending on your comfort level. You can shift the conversation away if you feel unsafe with confrontation. If it’s someone you know well, maybe try and have a conversation.
A topic brought up in discussion was the idea of confrontation and how to be able to foster that kind of dialogue. Many felt that it would be helpful if conflict training was made more readily available. I look forward to seeing what will come from this discussion and to seeing our community at BC work together to foster a healthy dialogue.