By Anne Scheps
“Between 1993 and 2010,domestic violence among adult women in the United States has gone down by 64 percent.” We should be content with this number, right? Wrong. It cannot be ignored that this was a result of hard work behind the scenes. In recent years, there has been an astounding difference in the ways domestic violence is discussed and handled and much of the credit can be given to activists like TED Talk speaker Esta Soler.
Soler, founder and president of the organization Futures without Violence (http://www.futureswithoutviolence.org/), says in her discussion, “And for all those years, I’ve had an absolutely passionate and sometimes not popular belief that this violence is not inevitable, that it is learned, and if it’s learned, it can be un-learned, and it can be prevented.” The key argument she presents in her talk is that domestic violence is not a hopeless problem. Part of her early project was to take pictures of women who came into the hospital with cuts and bruises all over. She would use a Polaroid and hand over the photo as soon as it printed, so that the women would be able to use it as evidence in court when they were trying to prosecute their abuser. Is this the best way to deal with the intricacies of domestic violence? What about the relationships and the difficulties the women faced trying to separate from their abuser? Looking into this problem, Soler also took legal action and managed to work on passing the Violence Against Women Act.
I think a lot more can be looked into here. Soler’s talk doesn’t go into the causes of domestic violence and how we as a society need to approach the issue from a different angle. Current discussion is paving the way for real solutions. As I was perusing the other TED Talks centering on domestic violence, one came up titled, “A men’s issue” and another called, “Violence against women – it’s a men’s issue”. It’s interesting that two talks are centered on the premise of looking at men. It should be acknowledged here that both men and women can be perpetrators of domestic violence, but as this talk focuses on women victims, we will specifically focus on those instances when men are acting as the abusers. Society needs to call them to action. Although I didn’t watch the talks about the problems with who we blame for domestic violence, I loved the point the titles drove home – the importance of engaging men in preventing domestic violence. Too long has society been focused on changing the victim’s response, changing how the victim can do things better, how the victim can make the situation healthier. It’s time to focus on changing the culprits. And although I do not think rape or domestic violence is a completely preventable, it makes a difference who we focus on. The victim is just that. A victim. Changing the perpetrator’s beliefs will make more of a lasting impact.
Too often, domestic violence becomes a boxed-in concept. It morphs into something unreal, not applicable, destructive in its foreignness. As a society, we need people like Esta Soler to fight to discuss the realities of domestic violence. It is activists like Esta that break-through the walls we put up.
TED Talk given by Esta Soler, “How We Turned the Tide on Domestic Violence. Hint: The Polaroid Helped.”:http://www.ted.com/talks/esta_soler_how_we_turned_the_tide_on_domestic_violence_hint_the_polaroid_helped.html