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Privilege & Power: The Anatomy of a Movement
“Shaped” by the same dynamics that shaped our society, the Battered Women’s movement has evolved … and where have we really arrived?
Since the beginning of this journey, we had to confront the established power structures of our society in order to introduce change. This “Reality” hasn’t changed. Many accomplishments like services and laws to protect victims of domestic violence have taken place and are sometimes helpful, but even those things put into place to protect “battered woman and her children” are not working all the time, or as they were intended. In fact, they deceive the purpose too often.
On a typical day in our nation -today- women victims of domestic violence lose custody of their children to their abuser, not because they are bad mothers but because they don’t have resources and the “law” is not protecting them. Many battered women find themselves in jail because they failed to show up to court to testify against their abuser, whose case gets dismissed for lack of witness. Many women today don’t find the help they need from programs, because they don’t speak the language, because the programs don’t have the capacity of meeting their needs. We need more inclusive programs and more types of services for women with different needs, like women with disabilities, with pets, who don’t speak the language or relate to the dominant culture and who can’t work to support themselves and their children, to name a few.
Although there are many programs in the nation addressing these issues and doing extraordinary work, is not enough. We are currently loosing funding and support for our programs. Perhaps, we can’t aspire to more until we create the awareness, the believe, at all levels, that “violence against women is wrong, that oppression and using privilege and power to control the unprivileged is not “cool” no matter who is doing it. When I hear how states are balancing budgets, cutting funding designated for domestic violence programs , I’m outraged but not surprised, since is the privileged with power making these decisions and again it is the women and children paying the consequences. Why? Because our society still blames the victim for the violence not the perpetrator. If you pay close attention to comments from the media and some law makers you will see how women are still been blamed for sexual and domestic violence. That is the only way that it could make sense to cut the vital emergency services needed by victims that are in its majority women.
It will be a great day for ALL women in the USA the day we heal ourselves…
… the day that is OK to use Federal money for a woman to get an abortion,
…the day an undocumented immigrant woman doesn’t have to prove a lawful entry into the country to be able to benefit from the waiver for victims of domestic violence,
…the day that the media reports domestic violence as a crime and as in any other crime the accountability lays on the perpetrator not the victim,
…the day that child protection penalizes batterers and not victims for being abusers and bad role models for the children and recognizes that separating a child from the non abusive parent is traumatic,
...the day that family courts stop giving custody of children to the abuser with the good attorney and the resources.
It will be a good day for all women when we don’t have to compete just to survive and that all the people with privilege and power think that is not cool to be an oppressor of any kind. We’ll make that day for ourselves. And yet first we must address within the movement the symptoms that indicate deficiencies. Inside our movement there are areas that need to be re-checked.
How is it that organizations with the same purpose have to “compete” for funding, for a voice and for an opportunity to do their work? Are we doing the same dance of privileged and power that kept our voices silent for so long? The goal doesn’t justify the means. We have walked a long way, but the road got longer, way longer. We have to help each other, come together, without hidden agendas and accept our differences. We’ll survive and thrive from these turbulent times with solidarity, dignity and respect.
By Maria Luisa O'Neill