During a conversation earlier this week, I was shocked and amazed to hear another person make the statement, “She just got what she deserved. She should have kept her legs closed.” At the time, we were discussing the incarceration of someone who had been found guilty of the double murder of his wife and her lover. I found myself wrapped in multiple emotions, trying to find the proper way to respond without seeming aggressive. The victim, along with her paramour, had been beaten to death with a baseball bat. It’s not always easy for this advocate to remain calm, cool and collected when such a conversation takes place. She got what she deserved? This mindset amazed me. It also shocked me.
In the midst of the confusion running around in my mind, I stood there, mostly speechless, but thinking, “Haven’t we come any farther than this? Do we still find ourselves thinking she got what she deserved? The last time I checked, adultery is not a defense for murder. At least I would like to believe that is not possible. Saying she got what she deserved, well, I wonder if anyone truly deserves to die at the hands of their spouse or intimate partner. For those of us who have ever been embroiled in domestic or intimate partner violence, it will most likely be an affront to be told this during a conversation, or overhear it being said. Once I gathered my thoughts, my instinct was there needed to be a training session, education if you will, on what domestic violence truly is. I wanted to pull out my easel, grab a marker and draw a pie chart that just might have made it a little clearer than, “She got what she deserved.” I wanted to start a lecture, and I wanted to start immediately. But, I knew that was not the approach to be taken.
If she truly got what she deserved, it would have been help. Yes, plain and simple, HELP. Such comments and mentalities are frustrating for survivors, advocates, attorneys and others who work tirelessly not only to help victims of domestic and intimate partner violence, but to be a bridge to safety. I would point out the person who made this comment was not illiterate, uneducated but, rather they were a high-ranking professional in the community. What does this tell us? It flies in the face of everything we work so hard to prevent and avoid. It also affirms there is still much work to do in training, educating and bringing awareness to the entire public. There is a wide difference between ignorance and stupidity. While we cannot eliminate the stupidity, surely we are able to decrease the level of ignorance when it comes to domestic violence, and hearing such comments as, “She got what she deserved.” This certainly acted as a wake-up call, alerting me to the fact that in spite of all the work we have done over the past few years to curtail domestic violence, there are still those who believe the victim can be considered the cause of the violence.
As a survivor of domestic violence, it was extremely difficult for me not to take the statements personally. Was this a trigger? Absolutely! Did I feel revictimized? Probably a little. Will I let it bother me? Perhaps only for a short while, but more importantly, I choose to use it for motivation to increase my level of passion in the work I do. No, she did not get what she deserved. I find an immense amount of pain in my heart for those victims who are out there, being beaten and battered, and hearing, “She got what she deserved.” If you are one of those victims, please do not believe what you hear or are told. It is not your fault. You are not to blame. The truth will set you free. You are a unique, gifted, special creation, and when you walk into freedom, faith and joy, it is then they will truly be able to say, “She got what she deserved!”
After being selected by Verizon as 1 of only 5 women in the nation to represent them at an international conference, Carolyn was then invited by ABC Action News to feature her story as the opening segment on their annual prime time special, “Taking Action Against Domestic Violence.” It was nominated for an Emmy award. She has also appeared on nationally syndicated programs, was interviewed by CNN regarding the Rihanna/Chris Brown story, and sought for her expertise by Fox News 13 for insight regarding the Jerry Sandusky trial. Her website has reached 181 countries around the world, and received nearly 30,000 visits in 2013.