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Men Against Women Must Stop!

The double shooting in West Tisbury this past week -- on the otherwise idyllic island of Martha’s Vineyard -- has taken everyone by surprise because things like that don’t ever really happen here.

The double shooting in West Tisbury this past week -- on the otherwise idyllic island of Martha’s Vineyard -- has taken everyone by surprise because things like that don’t ever really happen here. At least they’re not supposed to, except perhaps in a mystery novel by Cynthia Riggs or the late Phillip Craig.

But happen it did.

The reason it happened may never be fully known to us, but one thing is for certain. There is an epidemic of violence against women, not just in this country, but globally. Violence against women is a universal problem. And it must stop.

Some say seventy percent (70%) of women experience violence from men during their lifetime. That’s too many for it to be a considered an aberration. Domestic violence is common. Half of all women who are murdered are killed by a current or former husband or intimate partner. Sexual violence is another form of this widespread abuse of women. Twenty percent (20%), or more, of women are victims of rape or attempted rape, and the numbers may actually be higher, especially if all rapes were reported and rape in war were also included.

Clearly, there is a worldwide bias against women who are treated as chattel in marriage, kidnapped into sexual slavery, physically abused, mutilated and discriminated against in the laws and courts of every land. And men are guilty of this, either directly or indirectly through their ignorance, indifference or indulgence toward a system that condones violence against women.

How does this happen, and how do we stop it from happening?

In the case of the Vineyard double shooting, a couple was estranged, and the woman moved here to their summer house to seek peace in separation. She did feel threatened because both she and her husband were pilots, and he would have the means to show up at her door unannounced at any moment. So she applied for a restraining order, and it was denied by a judge.

I know firsthand about restraining orders.

In the middle of August I was cleaning out my garage and found a rolling backpack with luggage tags and a book bag with the name of my ex wife’s daughter stenciled on it. I knew her daughter would be heading off to school in New York in just a few weeks, so I thought I’d deliver it to her. So, on Monday morning, I dropped the backpack and the book bag on the porch of my ex wife’s friend, where I had been instructed to leave things for her previously, as we were not on speaking terms. I was giving myself brownie points for thinking of someone else for a change.

A few hours later while I was at work on a business report at home, a policeman came to the door with a restraining order for me. He informed me that my wife and her friend had called the police because they thought I’d placed a bomb on her porch. A bomb?  The policeman delivering the restraining order couldn’t help but stifle a guffaw. When police arrived to find an empty back pack and book bag, there was embarrassment all around. My ex immediately went to the Edgartown courthouse to take out a restraining order. A week later, a judge ruled in her favor and imposed the restraining order for one year’s time. Two weeks later my ex moved to New York to live with her daughter, as she had been planning to do all along I later learned.

Until I heard she had moved away a few weeks later, I had assumed that my ex really was in fear of what I might do to her. Though I’ve never been physically abusive toward women, I am physically large, and I used to be a very angry guy with a loud voice who drank way too much.  I’m quite sure it wasn’t hard for her to imagine me being abusive, and threatening, as she had had abusive experiences earlier in her life. And, I’m not proud of it, but I had raised my voice toward her and slammed a door or two in my time living with her. Mea culpa. So, on the one hand, I accepted the restraining order as a prudent move by a judge who really knew nothing about me, and on the other, I knew that my ex was fighting back against me, and against the men who had abused her earlier in her life, by using the courts to even the balance. No problem there.

But how can it be that a judge did not grant the woman in West Tisbury a restraining order? For one thing, she and her husband were both licensed gun owners. To my way of thinking that should have been enough.

It may seem like an impossible task to reverse the relentless bombardment of our children with media messages condoning violence against women. The language of hiphop is rife with it. TV shows and movies that exploit women sexually and promote male violence are still the norm. Even the Occupy movement last fall had to take deliberate actions to prevent acts of violence against women amid their growing numbers in the encampments.

Nevertheless, Amnesty International, the National Organization for Women, and other organizations are actively engaged in the ongoing campaign to end violence against women. The Republican Party seems not to have gotten the message though, as its candidates running for President and for re-election to Congress seem to have targeted women’s health, sexual and reproductive rights for their personal political vendettas. The gazillionaire radio host Rush Limbaugh recently fulminated -- frothing at the mouth for three straight days -- against a relatively defenseless college girl for her birth control testimony on the Hill. A subsequent grassroots campaign against Limbaugh has resulted in more than fifty sponsors leaving his show, so it is possible to organize against such abusive treatment of women and get results.

If we, as individuals, cannot exert strong influence, in numbers we can have a significant effect. We can hold our politicians accountable, confront abusive media voices, let advertisers know that we do not approve, and influence legislation that makes restraining orders easier to get, routine in marital separations, and especially when both parties are gun owners.

I know this is a potentially heated topic, but I welcome your responses, and expect your respectful comments will add so much more to this discussion.  Please let me know how you feel.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Michael West March 26, 2012 at 08:28 PM
Carol, I think if there is a restraining order you are required to surrender any licensed fire arms. That's already the law. If it had been granted, that would have made a difference, if enforced. I know in my case, that was made clear to me.
Michael West March 26, 2012 at 08:28 PM
Yes, Holly, I think tho it is a serious subject, men have made the restraining order way too onerous and stigmatizing, and in so doing made it more difficult for women to be granted them when they are needed, which is in almost every case of separation. If ony to make a woman feel secure, they should be granted routinely. Did you know there is no "legal separation" in Massachusetts? You are either married or divorced in the Commonwealth. I believe that a formal legal separation would be of benefit to both men and women, and should be granted when either party requests it. With legal separation there should be an automatic restraining order, but I'm not sure it should be lifted for the evening, even for such an even-tempered fellow as the wonderful comedy writer Marty Nadler...
Carol Lashnits March 26, 2012 at 08:31 PM
I am just not convinced that restraining orders work - that's not to say they shouldn't always be obtained. Guns are another major problem....this woman felt that she needed a gun perhaps because he had a gun. How, oh how would a restraining order have helped? She probably should have been in a safe house.
Skip Finley March 26, 2012 at 08:32 PM
Esta Soler's Futures Without Violence has been in the forefront of this battle for years and would appreciate your support. FWV has supported much needed Recent legislation on women's rights. Nice work and thanks Me. West. http://www.futureswithoutviolence.org/ for more info
Skip Finley March 26, 2012 at 08:33 PM
MR. West. Excuse me
Skip Finley March 26, 2012 at 08:36 PM
P.S. If there is a Domestic Violence arrest in your background you cannot obtain a firearms ID in MA.
Michael West March 26, 2012 at 08:43 PM
Anne, thank you for your insightful comments informed by decades on on the line experience. It is heartbreaking that this occurs. It is worse that it is condoned by men, and despite a few voices among us, I know that the majority just pretend not to notice. The sheer amount of violence in the public media is amazing to me, and of course because so many men feel disempowered in our society - especially young men who do not yet know what life is about - the violence on television, in the movies or in hiphop rants is a cheap-thrills drug to get the endorphins pumping. We reap what we sow. Yet it is men who are sowing this ugly seed, and we have to put a stop to it, by organizing to oppose advertisers who underwrite it and producers who finance it. The opposition to Rush Limbaugh did prove it is possible to make a dent, but we cannot stop there, but need to continue to pile action on action until this oppression ends.
Michael West March 26, 2012 at 08:44 PM
Carol, you have to surrender all weapons when you are served a restraining order. That's one thing that might have helped.
Carol Lashnits March 26, 2012 at 08:47 PM
Then yes a restraining order could have been a preventative. Neither party can have a gun? So they could be arrested if in possession of a firearm?
Michael West March 26, 2012 at 08:48 PM
Skip, thanks for the very helpful information about Esta Soler's Futures Without Violence. I really think there needs to be a reassessment of this gun licensing. Of course, the big problem is guns are big business, just as war equipment is a very big business. There ought to be a way to neutralize the gun lobby, but sadly nobody has ever figured that one out. But it all starts with the impulse to violent behavior. And THAT we can do something about by getting stronger regulations on violent content in the media.
Tammy deese March 26, 2012 at 08:49 PM
Mike thanks for sharing but to think that MV is some place where horrible things aren't suppose to happen! Get a clue domestic violence or any violence for that matter has no boundaries. The fact that there is such a cover up of all the things that happen such as rapes, robberies, etc gives a very false sense of security to people who come to the island so they get lackadaisical with their children allowing them to do things they wouldn't normally on the mainland. And to act as if you are protected because you live in the land of rich and famous is ridiculous
Mathea Morais (Editor) March 26, 2012 at 08:50 PM
Michael, thank you for this important blog. It just came through that Cynthia Bloomquist is not going to be charged. DA ruled it self-defense. Also, turns out he came in with two guns and that she shot him with one of them. She did not have a gun in her house, though she was licensed to have one. More here http://patch.com/A-rSpd
Michael West March 26, 2012 at 08:57 PM
Interesting development, Mathea. I feel so deeply sorry for Ms Bloomquist who now has to bear this in her soul for the rest of her life. She had no choice, but somehow had to take a man's life, and I know it cannot be easy to carry that. We really have to do something to make these things less and less likely. I feel sure that it starts with the impulse to control and, if not, to harm another person. I am sure that this stems from the norms and the images and the stories we all have in our minds from our childhoods into adulthood, heavily influenced by mass media.
Michael West March 26, 2012 at 09:06 PM
You're right, Tammy. I really was surprised it happened here, but as you say, I shouldn't be. Women are exposed to this here on the Vineyard just like anywhere else. As a man, I know I have a blind spot to the daily reality women face, the violence they see and feel in the air and on every corner. I know as a guy I sometime feel that too, but I'm physically big and cannot imagine what it must be like to be so much more vulnerable, as women are, and yet be constantly surrounded by the plague of violence on our land.
David Whitmon March 26, 2012 at 09:17 PM
Very powerful stuff Michael. I remember as a small child with my older sister, brother, and mom, cowering in a corner as my drunken father brandished a pistol and threatened to kill us. Fortunately he finally left when I was around 5 or 6 and moved 800 miles away.
David Whitmon March 26, 2012 at 09:22 PM
There are many men who fear a strong independent woman. Why? What is it about these guys that they need and want to subjugate another person. Is it that they can only elevate them selves by tearing others down?
David Whitmon March 26, 2012 at 09:28 PM
To use an analogy that I once read. There is but one human race. Men and women make up the two halves of that one race. Mankind is as bird and the two halves, men and women, are as the wings of that bird. A bird can't fly with out those two wings being equal. We are a handicapped civilization in that one half seeks to subjugate the other. That day is coming where throughout the planet, men and women will be finally acknowledged as equal. It will be beyond my life time but it will be. When that day is finally made evident, we as a civilization are going to sore beyond anything that we know of in this day and age. Men and women are equal. No ifs, ands or buts about it.
Michael West March 26, 2012 at 10:03 PM
What a beautiful post, David. Thank you for it! I am going to try to live long enough to see it happen. And do everything in this lifetime to help it along the way. I'm sure if we just can change the norm - there will always be ugly and brutal me - but why should the average guy have fear of women? There is no need for that. I think we have to work together, not just women organizing, but men and women working together to end fear and violence toward women.
Michael West March 26, 2012 at 10:04 PM
I think there is something wrong with the way we teach our children what a man is and what is is to be manly. Somehow a sense of physical domination seems to be mixed up in it, when we can teach our children differently and should.
Michael West March 26, 2012 at 10:06 PM
Thanks, David, for sharing that deeply personal, and I am sure painful, memory. What terror he must have created in you in that moment. I have no doubt the tenderness in your parenting of your two girls is a heroic response to overcoming that memory.
David Whitmon March 27, 2012 at 12:18 AM
Michael. I think as a society we fail our male children in how they are raised. That too will change in time, one person, one heart at a time.
Michael West March 27, 2012 at 02:40 AM
David, I agree we fail in raising our children but it's so easy to fail with the messages in the media, the laws and social customs, all of which ask men to be violent, dominating and patronizing to women, and ask the converse of women. I hope we can break this cycle of oppression.
Craig Hockmeyer March 27, 2012 at 09:25 AM
Great article Michael, I'm so impressed how you took on such a difficult subject and made it so accessible, compassionate and honest... and a great thread, All.. I had the thought to start a mens group, and I think I just found at 3 guys that I'd like to talk with. This kind of exchange and openness is what the "Change" we seek is all about, no?.
Michael West March 27, 2012 at 11:22 AM
Thanks for the kind words, Craig. If you do form a group, please let me know. I am coming to the conclusion that women cannot win this struggle alone. The polarization it creates just holds oppression in place despite formal advances. If men and women work together on this, that cooperation can break the division of us and them, invite the awareness of other men and women and eventually bring about their realization that we have nothing to fear from one another and cannot continue this oppressive dance of violence. I am also becoming convinced that violence of men against women is at the root of all that is wrong with our society and civilization, that what drives it also drives capitalism's worst excesses, the brutality of war and the callous indifference we display toward the planet we have attempted to subjugate, dominate and control in a rapaciousness that threatens all living beings. I believe the key to making lasting change on earth lies within our hearts and in the relationship between men and women, women and women and men and other men that is learned in childhood and nurtured through adolescence, by families, by schools and by the media whose messages we consume. These relationships must not be based on fear or the need to control, but on love, trust and mutual cooperation. We can bring about change, and this may be the only way to do it.
kathleen March 27, 2012 at 07:56 PM
Change needs to start not only with court system but with our local police depts. and their attitude towards women.
Michael West March 27, 2012 at 11:21 PM
Kathleen, I agree. It takes a lot to alter police procedure and attitudes. For example, check this out: http://www.niemanlab.org/2012/03/after-a-major-first-amendment-ruling-boston-police-settle-a-cellphone-recording-lawsuit/ But it's not just the police. It's all men, and I include myself in that. We need reschooling and our attitudes need retooling. We've got to start with our children because this is going to take a while.
kathleen March 31, 2012 at 09:28 AM
Agreed! I do however consider the misogny and abuse of power exhibited by some of our local police most troubling- they are after all public servants- guess some have their own interpretation of "public" they serve. Great post, thanks!
kathleen March 31, 2012 at 09:33 AM
PS- never leave my house without my cell phone nowadays.
Michael West March 31, 2012 at 10:58 PM
Thank, you, Kathleen. I feel the same way about keeping my cell phone with me, and many people I know no longer bother with land lines. I agree that some people seem to have been created more equal than others in the eyes of our government. We still need to stand up for our rights. I have also heard loud and clear from comments in other media and in person that in addition to violence and the threat of violence toward women, a perhaps even more pervasive and insidious form of violence is in the form of intimidation that men in positions of power or in one-up situations often display toward women. These are the everyday interactions that often contain a not-so-subtle undercurrent of menace or under-my-thumb condescension, conveyed by tone of voice, body language or simple disregard for common politeness. This latter form of violence is the one most frequently encountered by women, I now understand, and all men seem to be guilty of it, some more than others. For my own part I guard against it, but I am sure it slips out unconsciously from time to time. I can accept that I have been brainwashed, but not that I cannot reverse that conditioning. I believe all men who become aware of it have the tools to change, but this is an ongoing process, one whose outcome is progress, not perfection. Special thanks to AR and PG for gently bringing this to my attention.
Michael West April 01, 2012 at 01:32 AM
Help save the Violence Against Women Act http://act.credoaction.com/campaign/vawa_repub/?rc=fb_share1

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