Tag Archives: rape prevention

If Only She’d Had a Gun

guns-and-domestic-violence

On Tuesday, I wrote about a friend who was beaten and stabbed by her ex last weekend. It’s been suggested to me from several sources that if she’d had a gun, her beating could have been wholly avoided.

I’d like to think these suggestions come from places of concern, and not from the navel-gazing urge to use another person’s tragedy as an opportunity to spout one’s political viewpoints.

Let’s address guns first. Perhaps if she’d had a gun, she could have shot her abuser the moment he broke into her house. If someone you were in a relationship with barged into your home, would you shoot them off the cuff, no questions asked? Probably not.

Domestic violence escalates through phases. There’s no way to tell if this is the time someone’s going to apologize, say they didn’t know what they were thinking, and leave; or if this is the time they’re going to beat and stab you.

The simple fact is that the presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation increases the likelihood of a woman being killed by 500%. That means a woman is five times more likely to die if there’s a gun in that house than if there isn’t.

Who’s to say, if there had been a gun in her home, that an earlier instance of abuse wouldn’t have turned into his using the gun on her?

When people speak for some level of firearm regulation, it’s not because guns in themselves make someone violent. Violent people will find ways to be violent no matter what. Guns just make that violence far easier and more efficient. Where before you could maim, now you can kill. Where before you could kill someone in particular, now you can kill a dozen or more. He was always the violent one, during and after their relationship. If a gun had ever been present, I guarantee you that he’d have been the one more likely to use it at some point.

If only she’d had a gun? She might be dead, instead of in the hospital.

Furthermore, the idea that all that’s needed to fix the situation is a gun ignores the cause of domestic violence. It treats an effect of domestic violence, a symptom, and it does so about as well as applying leeches treats a flu. The problem isn’t that women aren’t armed to the gills, the problem is that men are brought up to understand that violence is a proper solution when they’re confronted or rejected.

Someone gets in your face? Violence. Someone challenges your authority? You’ve got to out-man him, be bigger and stronger and tougher. Someone rejects you? You’ve just got to push harder and be more relentless. It’s ridiculous. There’s always got to be a winner. Compromise isn’t something we’re brought up to value.

I say this as a 6’3” black belt in taekwondo, who’s also trained variously in ninjutsu, aikido, and kickboxing: I’m far prouder of the fights I’ve avoided than the ones I’ve had. Believe me, there are times I wish the world were run on Conan the Barbarian levels of violence. I’d do pretty well and those loin cloths look damn comfortable, but the problem becomes that the more violent a world is, the more it’s being run by those who lack control and can think of no other way to regain it.

The truth is violence comes from one place – Panic. When you resort to violence, it’s because you’ve lost control over something or someone other than yourself – a relationship, someone’s opinion of your manliness, even something as simple as how your day turned out – and you can think of no other way to regain that control but through exerting your will over someone else.

The problem isn’t that women and others who are put in subjugated or subservient positions in our society aren’t well armed. The problem is that too many of us are very well armed, and have it in our minds that our superior firepower – be it through guns or fists – is all the license we need to utilize it. The better our firepower, the more we rely upon it to resolve our problems.

It’s systemic, it’s cultural, and we see it in every level of our society. We see it in our militarized police forces, such as the one that recently fired on unarmed civilians in Ferguson, MO. We see it in administrations so fearful that public opinion will view them as weak that we send in troops again and again where we once would have exhausted diplomatic compromise. And we see it in the plague of domestic abuse cases, the vast majority of which involve men who feel they’ve lost the control they had or imagined they had over a woman.

I was lucky – I had an instructor who drilled into our heads that the fight was the last solution, only to be used when cornered and no other options were available. To fight without exhausting every other solution was deeply shameful. If it didn’t get you kicked out of the school, he’d work you class after class until you wanted to quit. The better trained we were, the more responsibility we had never to exert that training on someone else unless absolutely necessary. In other words, it’s sometimes better to lose control of something outside yourself than it is to lose control of what’s inside yourself.

But we raise a culture of men trained to never admit defeat. It’s intrinsic to the American spirit – Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone wouldn’t stop, so why should I? All the sidekicks on TV get the girl after years of rejection, just by virtue of staying dutifully obsessed (and showrunners running out of other ideas). That’s what we’re raised to do. Be relentless, not listen, and value rejection and pain as signals that we’re on the right path to getting what we want. One day, rejection will be a story we both laugh over, that pain will be a battle scar we pridefully show off as evidence of how relentless and unforgiving we were in pursuit of our prize. If it weren’t so real, it’d be hilariously absurd.

What I’ve just described is not assertiveness, by the way. Some will tell you it is, but they couldn’t be further from the truth. What I’ve just described is addiction.

Men need to understand that losing isn’t just what happens externally, what other people see. Losing can be internal, too, and it can do far more in damaging who we become. When we control ourselves, our own decisions, when we don’t panic in the face of adversity, when we calmly seek solutions, that’s assertiveness. When we have so little control of ourselves, we seek to control others to compensate, when panic overtakes us so much that our most immediate reaction is violence, we’re just seeking a quick fix, another hit to numb our real loss of control.

Yeah, if only she’d had a gun… How about if only someone had taught him that no means no, that over means over, that women have a right to their own lives, that it’s OK to admit defeat so long as you don’t lose control of yourself, that a relationship means compromise and not control, that rejection at most deserves, “Can we talk about it,” and not broken bones, broken teeth, ruptured organs, and hundreds of thousands in medical bills?

If only she’d had a gun. If that’s what you take away from this, if that’s the lesson you feel you need to impart on others who are going through pain, then you are not part of a solution. You are part of an arms race.

On Beating Women

Stop Violence Against Women

I learned late last night that a friend of mine was beaten by her ex this last Friday. She was beaten so severely she has 20 broken bones, lacerations and penetration wounds, and a ruptured liver. She only escaped out her back door when the blade he used to stab her broke off its handle, and he left the room to get another one.

I was going to work on an article today about how women in B-films get treated differently from men, how an entertaining but decidedly one-note comedian like Will Arnett gets a pass for falling flat in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles while Megan Fox is reviled and critically downgraded for it, how Robert Pattinson, Michael Sheen, and Taylor Lautner get off Scot-free for the Twilight series while Kristen Stewart is held uniquely accountable for production failures beyond an actor’s ability to control. Their careers are somehow defined in a way the others’ aren’t. The Rock can make a dozen awful B-movies and we admire him for his muscles. Actresses like Fox and Stewart can make a handful and the media criticizes them for their looks. Now, that seems like an inconsequential piece of writing. I realize it’s not, that how our media trains us to look at and criticize men and women is the foundation that opens the door to later blame and hatred, but Jesus, I’m incapable of writing that article today.

Paramedics use a mnemonic acronym to help them learn how to evaluate a patient: DCAP-BTLS. It stands for, “Deformities, contusions, abrasions, punctures & penetrations, burns, tenderness, lacerations, and swelling.” It’s useful in describing the results of an injury and isolating a treatment. It’s not meant to describe a bad breakup.

My friend is missing teeth. She cannot chew. She cannot see out of one eye. She makes her living as a model. I fear that’s done with.

She is nothing but bruises now. I’m tempted to make a metaphor about how the physical ones will go away, while the emotional and mental ones will be the work of a lifetime. But the truth is many of the physical ones won’t go away either, not after how badly she was beaten, and they will be constant reminders of how someone else felt he had the right to take away her power, her livelihood, and her ability to make her own choices about her life.

I have no ability left to perceive or process this.

It happened on the other side of the country, and it’s easy to think this is somehow isolated, but the truth is that movements like the Men’s Rights Association – which teach men they are held down by women’s freedoms that still don’t measure up to theirs – plague the upbringing of young men in this country. We’re taught to assert ourselves by owning and possessing women, that dating is a competition for a prize, and that rejection or loss is only the go-ahead to aid your relentless pursuit with the tools of manipulation, drugs, and violence.

It’s not isolated. There was an afternoon this May when, between four friends: one was intentionally hit in the head by a man on the street, and later confronted by a man on public transit who asked to touch her. A second was followed to an appointment by a stranger who stared at her the whole way. He waited while she conducted her appointment, and then followed her home. A third wasted the afternoon talking to a string of photographers who treated booking her not as a professional photo shoot, but as an opportunity to ask her out on dates. The fourth was followed by a car whose driver asked her where she was going, if she needed a ride, and then repeatedly threatened her if she did not get in the car.

I have friends who are stalked. I have friends who’ve been beaten and raped. I have friends who have been drugged and raped. I have friends who were drugged and raped with the assistance of third parties. I have friends who were drugged and raped and kept in a house for days on end. Most of the rapists never went to jail, or even before a jury.

As Vanessa Tottle pointed out a few weeks ago, regarding the four writers of our music video countdown, “All four of us have taken a friend who’s suffered sexual assault to the hospital. Two of us have taken a friend who’s been rufied to the hospital.”

This is not isolated. Vanessa defined it after the Isla Vista shootings as a war, and it’s one that is severely underfunded and under-reported. After those same shootings, Chris Braak defined the reason they happened in an argument far better than I’m capable of making right now.

This Tuesday slot is ordinarily reserved for our trailer of the week article. I had picked The Theory of Everything, a biographical movie about wheelchair-bound astrophysicist Stephen Hawking. You know what I’d written after first seeing it?

“There come times in human history when we are blessed with gifted people whose minds we wholly don’t deserve. It is these minds alone that drive us forward more than anything, that give us the only hope we have of making it as a species. It is the responsibility of the rest of us to stumble after them and, in our best and most selfless moments, to push ourselves beyond what we knew how to be an instant before. It is the only real payment we can make on the huge debt we owe to them.”

I meant it when I wrote it. I’ll mean it again, in a few days. Today, however…today I have no way of believing we have it in ourselves to repay that debt. I have a friend in the hospital 2,600 miles away, the man who nearly killed her on the loose. The perceived transgression she made against him was to end a relationship in which she was abused. For this, he broke into her home, stripped her naked, beat, kicked, and stabbed her.

In a few days, I’ll go back to tilting at windmills and having hope it makes a difference. Today…today I just want to tear down everything I know.

If abuse is something you yourself live with, please ask for help. It’s there for you.

If there are other good resources, please mention them in the comments.

National Domestic Violence hotline: 800-799-7233

Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network online hotline
Resource number: 202.544.3064

Family Violence Prevention & Services Resource Centers
National Resource Center: 800-537-2238
Indigenous Women’s Resource Center: 855-649-7299
Battered Women’s Justice Project: 800-903-0111 x1