In working to bring an end to domestic violence and family abuse, I have been fortunate and blessed to come across many kind souls and kindred spirits along the way. One such person is Ben Atherton-Zeman who is the one man behind his one-man play “Voices of Men” http://www.voicesofmen.org/index.html
I can’t remember when I first met Ben; he and his awesome wife, Lucinda, are like family relatives to me (if you can get around the fact that our “family gatherings” and reunions occur at domestic violence conferences) but they are the warm, welcoming and familiar presences that bring me a sense of comfort, unity, understanding, back-up (and Ben’s specialty, humor – yes, humor!) as we combat the effects of gender-based violence through education, activism, advocacy and in Ben’s unique way, through theater.
Typically light-hearted, Ben is also quite serious about bringing an end to men’s use of violence against women (ie: he identifies as a “recovering sexist” which may bring a smile and a chuckle but let me assure you, he is solemnly resolute about living that title) so when Ben gets serious, his words carry weight. Such is what I’m about to share with you.
In recognition and remembrance of 9/11, Ben sent me the following with thanks to Patty Branco of the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence http://www.nrcdv.org/ saying to feel free to reprint and repost. I thought to summarize, condense or para-phrase it but after reading and re-reading it, I just cannot do it.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Ben Atherton-Zeman:
9/11 and Domestic Violence
Both 9/11 and domestic murders have claimed thousands of lives. Over 3000 victims were killed in the September 11 attacks - about 2000 victims/year are killed in the United States by their intimate partners.
Both were results of terrorist attacks - 9/11 from Al Quaeda, domestic murder from "domestic terrorists." Both kinds of terrorists use fear, violence and intimidation to get what they want. But Al Quaeda terrorists are vilified, while domestic terrorists are often called "pillars of the community."
Our country's response to each has been completely different. We responded to 9/11 with the war in Iraq - hundreds of billions of dollars. We responded to domestic murder with funding the Violence Against Women Act and other federal legislation - hundreds of millions of dollars.
Why the disparity?
What's the difference between the victims of 9/11 and the victims of domestic murder?
One is gender - many more men kill their wives and girlfriends than vice versa.
But I think the main reason for the disparity is victim-blaming.
Nobody blames folks for going to work in the Twin Towers that day. But every day, people blame the victims of domestic abuse for the violence perpetrated against them. People say, "I wouldn't let anybody do that to me," not realizing the implication of blame for those who stay with abusive spouses and partners. People ask "Why doesn't she leave?" instead of "Why is he abusing her?" and "What can we do to help?"
I've had the honor of knowing people who responded to each. Ground Zero workers, people in the United States military who fought on behalf of our country. Advocates for domestic violence survivors, volunteers and staff at shelters for battered women. All heroes - all underpaid and overworked.
As the 10th anniversary of 9/11 arrives, our country will honor those who lost their lives on that day. We will honor those who worked at Ground Zero afterward. We will honor those who are serving in uniform.
But let us also take this opportunity to realize that we've spend 1/1000th of our country's resources on stopping domestic violence, than we have on the war in Iraq. Let us question why these victims of intimate terrorism get less sympathy than the victims of Al Quaeda terrorism. Let us honor advocates for victims of domestic violence, just as we honor our women and men in uniform.
Those who’ve paid the ultimate price fighting for our country are regarded as undeniable heroes yet victims of domestic violence who’ve paid the ultimate price trying to keep their families together or their children safe from the harm of a known abuser receive no such credit, honor or praise – just shaking heads.
Unless we heed Ben’s message of change and call to action, the human casualties resulting from the war against intimate terrorism will far exceed the total casualties resulting from our war against terrorism (if we’re not there already) and that’s a blood-stained price this country cannot afford to keep paying.