It Happens Here: Beverly Gooden and the Dynamics of Domestic Violence

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by Claire DeRosa, Contributing Writer

“But whether you stay or go, the critical decision you can make is to stop letting your partner distort the lens of your life, always forcing his way into the center of the picture. You deserve to have your life be about you; you are worth it.”
― Lundy Bancroft in Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men

TW: abuse, domestic violence

As a part of October’s Domestic Violence Awareness Month, social activist and survivor of domestic abuse, Beverly Gooden, came to the University of Wisconsin-Madison to speak on the pressing issue of abuse to university students. Gooden is the creator of the hashtag, #WhyIStayed, a response to the reactions targeting Janay Rice after a tape surfaced of her abuse at the hands of her then fiancée, Ray Rice. Frustrated by social media comments that questioned Janay’s innocence in the relationship, Gooden sought to shift the conversation from victim blaming to explaining why leaving an abusive partner isn’t as easy as everyone makes it out to be. Instead of asking, “Why didn’t she leave him?” or “What did she do to make him mad?” she wanted to answer, “Why does he hit her?” and “What made her stay?”

According to the National Domestic Abuse Hotline, victims try to leave their partner an average of seven times before becoming successful. So not the second time, the fourth, fifth or even the sixth time allow victims opportunity to escape. It may be physical and emotional abuse or financial dependency prevention that prevents victims from leaving. Even so, leaving an abuser isn’t always the safest option. The Domestic Violence Intervention Program reports that “women are 70 times more likely to be killed in the two weeks after leaving an abusive partner than at any other time in that relationship.” These stats in themselves refute any claims that women are responsible for ending the abuse by leaving; sometimes it is more dangerous for them to leave than to stay.
Gooden demonstrates that there are many reasons to leave and just as many to stay. In 2014, Gooden tweeted,

Inspiring other survivors to share their stories of domestic violence, #WhyIStayed trended on Twitter and started a conversation on a subject that typically isn’t openly discussed in the media.

Conversations like these need to happen here at UW-Madison. It is incredibly important for students, especially new students, to be aware of domestic violence (also known as intimate partner or dating violence) on campus and conscious of available resources. At 57%, “more than half of college students who report experiencing dating violence and abuse said it occurred in college.” At Beverly Gooden’s keynote speech, held in the Education building on October 20th, she suggested that the reason behind these startling statistics may be due to loneliness as a result of being removed from one’s comfort zone, inspiring the desire for love and affection. Combine this with a relatively un-navigated environment of partying, alcohol and independence, the risk of sexual assault and unhealthy relationships is exponentially increased. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence states, “Women between the ages of 18-24 are most commonly abused by an intimate partner.” This is evident in the alarming 1 in 2 lesbian women who experience domestic violence today, according to Gooden. These women are sitting your chemistry lecture, living in Witte residence hall and studying in college library with you. They’re your sisters, floormates, roommates and friends.

Although the majority of domestic violence cases are reported by women, men, too, are victims of relationship violence. In fact, Gooden revealed that 1 in 7 men of all sexual orientations and 2 in 5 gay men experience domestic violence. However, many never report in part due to expectations of masculinity and the treatment of domestic abuse as a female issue.

With this, it’s important to know the warning signs of abuse before it escalates. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence provides guidelines for identifying characteristics of abusers, including the few that follow:

An abuser often denies the existence or minimizes the seriousness of the violence and its effect on the victim and other family members.

An abuser objectifies the victim and often sees them as their property or sexual objects.

An abuser has low self-esteem and feels powerless and ineffective in the world. He or she may appear successful, but internally, they feel inadequate.

An abuser externalizes the causes of their behavior. They blame their violence on circumstances such as stress, their partner’s behavior, a “bad day,” on alcohol, drugs, or other factors.

The NCADV also lists several warning signs of abusive behavior, such as “extreme jealousy” and the public disparagement of their partners. These are targeted behaviors aimed toward isolating the victim, making them feel devalued and creating a system of dependence that leaves the abuser in control. For more information on identifying abusers and their behaviors, head over to the NCADV website.

As a student here, you can help. Whether it’s at a party, a restaurant or a friend’s house, intervene when you think someone is being treated poorly or at risk of assault. If a friend comes to you to tell their story of abuse, listen to them and be respectful of their privacy. Remaining non-judgmental is absolutely crucial in preventing victims from falling silent and refusing to seek support. However, it is ultimately the victim’s decision to reach out to professionals and that decision must be respected.

A list of available resources for student victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault both on and off campus can be found here. Though this list is by no means exhaustive, it will hopefully be a place to start. If you have suggestions for resources or how we can develop this document, please reach out to our Culture Editor or email us at moda.wudpublications@gmail.com.

Photos: Cover

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