Men, gather round and listen, this is for you. When a woman suffers abuse – physical, emotional or both – in a relationship, your response should never be to shame her or wax ecclesiastical, using her as a cautionary tale. Do not say: ‘didn’t she notice all these qualities in the man before she went into a relationship with him?’; ‘she was after his money and she deserves whatever she met’; ‘why didn’t she study him well before jumping inside the relationship’. No, those should not be your responses.
I reckon that if you fall into a ditch, the response you desire from passers-by isn’t blaming, but help. You want people to say things like: ‘are you okay?’, ‘how can I help?’, ‘hang in there, let me go and get help’. These are the right response to show to anyone in distress. Women in abusive relationships are not to be used as cautionary tales. The desire to inspire should be tempered by a higher virtue – empathy and kindness.
Do you see that woman that is a victim? You do not know her story, nor have you walked in her shoes. And because you do not have all the facts, kindly refrain from judging. For argument’s sake, let us consider several reasons people give for shaming victims of abuse. The first is that the women were drawn to their abusers because of wealth, influence and ability to spoil them silly. Does that justify the violence perpetrated against them? Is it okay then for women who desire to be pampered to be subjected to abuse? Is the just reward for ‘gold-digging’ violence and battery? Let us examine this desire to be pampered further. The desire to be comfortable and have the good things of life is shared by all; and if a woman desires that her future partner be a man of means, what wrong has she committed? Is desiring comfort now a vice to be eschewed? People say: ‘women should not marry for money but for love, and should marry a man of character’. This is good – on the surface. It shifts the responsibility of the outcome of marriage on the woman, thus, if a woman becomes abused, it becomes her fault – she married poorly or failed to see the red flags, etc. What these people fail to realize is this – people change. Also, people are capable of hiding their true nature for as long as they need to be in order to get what they want. It is possible for a man to act gentlemanly while courting a woman, and then turn around to become somebody else afterward.
Let us assume, the woman saw these so-called ‘red flags’ and goes ahead to marry a violent man. Does she then deserve to be violated? Are we saying that poor judgment qualifies women to be abused? When we say things like – ‘didn’t she see the ‘red flags’ before entering the relationship?’ or ‘if not that she is greedy, she would not find herself in this position’, we are giving a silent nod to domestic abuse of women. What we imply, albeit unspoken, is that the man cannot be blamed for acting violently. Rather, it is the woman’s fault for not steering clear of a violent person. While we must preach the doctrine of espousing danger from afar and fleeing, our voices should be louder in condemnation of violent behaviors by humans; we must demand a higher standard of behavior from men.
When these men go out of their way to woo a woman, do they not profess love and eternal devotion? Do they not explicitly and implicitly promise to take care of, cherish, nurture, and protect them? If so, then, turning around to then harm the ones they have vowed to love, is in itself illegal – you can call it false advertising and a breach of contract, and on that premise prosecute them. How do we condone violence in a relationship whose very foundation is predicated on affection and devotion? How do we turn around and blame a woman who fell for charm, who entered a relationship based on the hope that she has found someone to love and care for her? How can we blame a woman for wanting something good – for wanting to be pampered? How?! How do we turn good desires into a shameful act?
Yes, let us, by all means, raise women who are independent, women who are self-sufficient, and who have a strong moral sense. But, more than ever, let us raise our voice to denounce every form of oppression and subjugation of women by men. Let us then go further to raise men who will never think of raising their hands against women, who will view women as equals, who will respect women, and who will in their quest to woo their partners, go all out to charm, act gentlemanly, spoil and pamper, and who will continue all these virtuous behaviors long after they have secured a place in the hearts of these women.
Men, everywhere, listen – whether as an observer, a social commentator or a perpetrator: it is not okay to physically or emotionally abuse a woman. There is no excuse that justifies it. Do not, I repeat, do not fall into that age-long patriarchal mode of victim shaming/blaming or donning a sage hat and doling out cautionary tales. Stop it, please. Just stop.