Good Woman Down

I’m tired. I’m tired of being superwoman. I’m tired of being told that I need to be a hold it down woman for my man, family and business. Truthfully? It’s exhausting. I don’t want to wear my cape all the time. I get tired of trying to save the world. Whose gonna save me?

How many times do we have to convince ourselves that a good woman stands by her man? You are told that you have to be his ride and die and you have to have his back no matter what or you’re not a real woman. You’re not down. You’re not good enough. But, I have a question…should this apply to all men? Shouldn’t we be selective in our search of finding men who will love and want us without jacking us up emotionally, spiritually or physically?

Black women experience intimate partner violence at rates over 30% higher than white women. Yet, we continue to stay. We continue to say that “he didn’t mean it” or “I made him angry”. We make excuses for fear of being ridiculed in our own community because we left him. We convince ourselves that it’s okay because we’ve been told that “he’s a good man, he just has a temper”. But, it’s not true. Fact: He is a bully. He is our abuser. No good man will hit you.

I wanted to remind you that domestic violence affects everyone. It’s not an issue that we only need to focus on when a public figure is accused of a crime. It’s an everyday fight whereby we need to remember the numbers, educate our children and create policies that don’t allow for violence against women. Even in the private sector. I would love it if my employer could create a policy denouncing domestic violence and suspending employees who are accused of crimes. Wouldn’t that be revolutionary? Wouldn’t it show that we’re serious about the health of our employees and their families?

I read this great article last week on the Huffington Post entitled “30 Shocking Domestic Violence Statistics That Remind Us that It’s an Epidemic” by Alanna Vagianos and cried. Why? Because the numbers were painful.

Did you know my favorite number is 3? Probably not. Many people don’t know that about me. I am one of 3 children. I was a family of 3 and my birthday is on the third. Three is my favorite number. Three is also the number “of women murdered every day by a current or former male partner in the U.S.” Sad huh? Three.

Read the article. Read the statistics. Understand that it is an epidemic. Long before the article, I heard “Good Woman Down” by Mary J. Blige and knew that I would never forget the lyrics to this song. Why? Because her words were truthful and illustrative. They were haunting. Mary sings…

“When I used to see
My daddy beat
My mother down
Down to her feet
I used to say
That ain’t gon’
Never be me
(Never be me)
Now look at you
Bruised up
From him
Girl recognize
You’re better then
Him tellin’ you
That he’ll never hit
You again
Girl don’t cry”

Powerful isn’t it? Mary is taking me back to my own childhood. Violence. 

Now that we are wrapping up Domestic Violence Awareness month, I don’t want us to forget. I want us to remember. I want us to do something. Like the NFL did. They created this video denouncing domestic violence and sexual assaults against women. I love to see strong men standing up for women and women’s rights. No more blaming the victims and making excuses for the aggressors. Hopefully, we can reduce some of these staggering statistics next year, because I believe that together we can make a difference.

 

Check out Mary’s video from the Essence Festival. Start at 4:35 to see her perform “Good Woman Down”

Dating and Domestic Violence

I read the tragic story of Bianca Richardson Tanner this summer and was immediately heartbroken. Bianca was a beautiful, 31-year-old educator and mother. She was reported missing by her boyfriend and 10 days later her body was discovered in a wooded area in Charlotte, North Carolina. She was a victim of domestic violence.

According to her family she had moved to Charlotte with her boyfriend to start her teaching career this fall. Her dream. Her dream died the day she did. Thankfully, her boyfriend was arrested for the crime. How did they catch him? Because Bianca’s courageous three-year old son told the police “Mommy got a spanking with the belt. Angelo kicked mommy’s butt and made her cry,” the boy told police according to court records. “Angelo is mean to mommy and hurt mommy in the face.” The police now had a starting point.

Let’s talk about Bianca’s case. Bianca’s boyfriend was a violent offender against women. He had abused other women prior to Bianca. Bianca never knew. How could a man have three separate abuse charges filed and not have spent time in jail? Why can’t we enact a required law that causes charged abusers to register like sex offenders? I mean did he really have to abuse three women before murdering the fourth. No.

We as women need to be educated when it comes to dating men especially when we have children. We need to diligent about background screenings for potential mates. Even if everything comes back clear, we need to leave at the first sign of abusive behavior. Why do we stay with our abusers? I don’t care if he says he’ll never do it again. I don’t believe it and neither should you. I mean Bianca was abused before right? According to her son, her boyfriend was mean to her. Last month, I read this great piece, by Feminista Jones, for Time where she said:

“Racism and sexism are two of the biggest obstacles that Black women in America face. But because many Black women and men believe racism is a bigger issue than sexism, Black women tend to feel obligated to put racial issues ahead of sex-based issues.”

As I read this, one thought entered my mind, “Yes.” This is why we stay. We have been programmed to believe that our value as black women is to support our black men first and then women issues. We wonder “Am I black or Am I woman”. We can’t seem to simultaneously fight two battles because we have to be strong black women holding down our black men and our black people. But, what about self? I want to change that.

We need to change that. A study of 2011 homicide data conducted by the Violence Policy Center examined that “The disproportionate burden of fatal and nonfatal violence borne by black females has almost always been overshadowed by the toll violence has taken on black males. In 2011, black females were murdered at a rate more than two and a half times higher than white females: 2.61 per 100,000 versus 0.99 per 100,000.” These are not total strangers. More like boyfriends and intimate partner violence.

Recognize the signs. According to Safe Horizon here are some signs of domestic violence:

Does your partner ever:

  1. Accuse you of cheating and being disloyal?
  2. Make you feel worthless?
  3. Hurt you by hitting, choking or kicking you?
  4. Intimidate and threaten to hurt you or someone you love?
  5. Threaten to hurt themselves if they don’t get what they want?
  6. Try to control what you do and who you see?
  7. Isolate you?
  8. Pressure or force you into unwanted sex?
  9. Control your access to money?
  10. Stalk you, including calling you constantly or following you?

So, what do you do if you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence or intimate partner violence? First, get help. Call the police! Leave. There is no reason to stay in an abusive relationship and you have to trust that people will help you. You can call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).

Safe House Center has created a handbook for survivors of domestic violence. You can download it here.

Let’s remember that October is Domestic Violence Awareness month and not forget the women who have fallen victim to domestic violence like Bianca Richardson Tanner. Let’s encourage each other to never forget Bianca and know that we can make a difference.

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Check out this video I posted last month about a woman who didn’t hit first and was a victim of domestic violence:

October is Domestic Violence Awareness

Not sure if you know it or not, but October is Domestic Violence Awareness month too. I realized that many may overlook it because it’s easier to remember to wear pink and show support for an equally worthy cause, breast cancer. But when I read this article on USA Today about the National Football League (NFL), I was in agreement with the author and decided to do something about it. So, I will spend some time each week bringing light to domestic violence in hopes of educating and encouraging us to recognize the signs and to hopefully seek help to get out of unhealthy situations. It’s not just women that are abused. Men too.

It’s about control. Plain and simple. I witnessed domestic violence first hand as a child. As a young woman in relationships, I was a victim too it. Not to the physical violence, but the emotional, psychological and sexual violence. I am the face of domestic violence. But, I didn’t know it was domestic violence. No one ever told me.

October is not just Breast Cancer Awareness month but also Domestic Violence Awareness month. Although I don’t know anyone who has ever been diagnosed with breast cancer, I still support it. But, as a victim of domestic violence, I think I have to take a stand and promote this awareness. Not just for me, but for my friends, family and others who may be suffering.

So, each week I will dedicate one post to hopefully bring about awareness to this serious and just as worthy cause.

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Provoking Violence

Today we found out that Stephen A. Smith, ESPN commentator, was suspended after his comments regarding Ray Rice knocking out his girlfriend earlier this year. Smith said last week that women should avoid provoking men into assaulting them. The internet went on fire. Tell me Stephen, how does a woman avoid provoking a man into assaulting them? Are you saying that women are responsible for the assaults against them because the men are inadequate or incapable of controlling their tempers? We, women can prevent men from knocking us out? Please Stephen tell me how?

It was Smith’s own colleague at ESPN, Michelle Beadle, that called him out on his disturbing remarks by saying that “Violence isn’t the victim’s issue. It’s the abusers. To insinuate otherwise is irresponsible and disgusting”. Thank you Michelle! This is the basic premise that we are all trying to educate men on. Some men get it and sadly other’s don’t. ESPN took a firm stand in suspending Smith for his comments and for that I am happy. Does it take away the sting of his comments? No, but at least they are trying to stand up for women’s rights to not be abused.

This situation runs close to home for me. As a child I watched domestic violence in the form of my parent’s marriage. My first understanding of love and family came at the sound of fists flying and broken glass. I don’t wish that childhood on anyone. I felt helpless. As a mother to a young boy, his father and I stand united on the fact that he should never put his hands on a woman. He’s too young to understand our concern. But, even in his playing with his female friends, I watch his interactions and use it as a teachable moment when he gets too rough with the young girls. Not to hurt his feelings, but to remind him that we keep our hands to ourselves and that you should never hit a girl.

I’m tired of having to stand on my stage and scream that women matter too. I don’t deserve to be abused because I hurt your feelings and emasculate you. You’re grown. You know better. That whole “sticks and stones” nursery rhyme comes to mind. Words never hurt. I know some men will probably say that some women do “provoke” men into hitting them. I offer you this simple explanation: No, they don’t. Life is about choices. You chose to be violent when you put your hands on a woman. Walk away. Women aren’t responsible for your lack of self-control. We all have choices. You can choose right or wrong. I implore men to choose wisely.

Raising my Boy

As a mom to a two year old toddler, I always seem to find myself complaining to my girlfriends about how rough and tough my son is. Brennan is always running, jumping and throwing things. He runs when he gets outside as though we have “freed” him from the plantation of parenthood. He jumps off the bed, the chair, the stairs and anything that he can think of. He is a major league pitcher in training. It’s funny how he hated T-ball practice and sat on the sidelines the entire hour during practice, but when it comes to throwing a tantrum or toys at the dog, he has perfect aim.

I always wanted a son. I wanted a son from the minute I got pregnant. I knew he was boy when he was just a teeny embryo in my womb. I told my husband, “Look at our son. Isn’t he magnificent?” He told me I was crazy. He believed we were having a girl. I knew it was a boy so I talked to him all the time like he was a boy. I would rub my stomach and tell him that he has to watch himself, because girls today have changed. There are too many “fast girls” out there. We read Us Magazine together. Well, I would read it out load to him and he would listen intently in my stomach of course.

Never did I imagine that my son would be born with no fear of jumping head first into any situation. I watch him, trying to understand what he is thinking when he piles the pillows and toys on top of the dining room chair and proceeds to jump off like Superman. Does he really think he can fly? What’s he doing? Why is he doing that? That’s just how boys are is what all my friends say. I do know that I’m not alone and that other parents have said boys are handful in the beginning, but they calm down as they get older. Girls are calm in the beginning but a handful when they become older. I don’t regret my boy. I know that Brennan will jump without fear because he knows that he will always be safe. We will always pick him up, wipe his tears and clean his wounds, just so he can jump head first into something else.