Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Picking your battles: How far has our society come in how we view domestic violence

This morning I woke up at the unholy time of 4:30 in order to drive my husband to the airport. As I was driving home I started to scan the stations on his radio and stopped when I heard a peppy little song that sounded like it was from the 1930's. My head started bopping. Then my jaw dropped when I heard the lyrics. I wish I was kidding, but the singer actually sang "my man is sometimes mean and he hits me, but as long as he doesn't quit me I don't care." The song also included lovely little stories about how this guy is unemployed and she has to steal in order to get him money (which was never enough) so that he can go out while she has to stay at home alone because "it's better that way". But, she loves this man, so despite her ability to be with other men who would treat her better, she stands by this gem of a human being. At that point I turned off the radio and started to think how different the times are today. We as a society would be shocked if songs that glorified domestic violence and subjugation of women blared through the airwaves. Right? For a moment, I was really proud how far our society has come. But then, as sun started its climb, my silly notion and pride evaporated. The truth is our society is not that far from that of the song recorded probably 80 years earlier. Last year in Norristown, Pennsylvania, Lakisha Briggs who was physically assaulted by her boyfriend called the police and had him arrested. The police officer then told this woman "you are on three strikes. We're going to have your landlord evict you." You read that right. The police threatened this woman with an eviction because she called the police. The police officer was enforcing a Norristown law that allows the city to penalize tenants or landlords when the police respond to three instances of "disorderly behavior" in a four month period. This ordinance includes incidences of domestic violence. After her first strike, Ms. Briggs was terrified of calling the police and risk losing her home. Her now ex-boyfriend's violence continued to incidences of attacking her with a brick and stabbing her in the neck. Ms. Briggs still didn't call the police because she was afraid of losing her home. Someone else did however call the police. Now Ms. Briggs was on three strikes and the city pressed her landlord to evict her. Thankfully a housing court refused to order the eviction. Unfortunately, laws like this one are present in towns and cities across this country. As a society, how far are we from a song that rationalizes physical abuse in order to keep your man to a city ordinance that rations police intervention in order to keep your home.

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