Target: Dana Perino
Goal: Apologize for insensitive comments about female victims of domestic violence
Dana Perino, Fox News television host, recently suggested on her show “The Five” that female victims of domestic violence ought to “make better decisions.” Perino, former White House Press Secretary of the George W. Bush administration, made the comment during a discussion of football player Jovan Belcher, who recently shot and killed his 22-year old girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins, and then himself.
Perino noted that women are “victims of violence all the time.” And upon the suggestion of co-host Greg Gutfield that women should be armed, Perino suggested, “Well, maybe, or make better decisions.” While Perino is correct in saying that women are victims of violence more often than we acknowledge, her suggestion that they “make better decisions” reflects a dangerous thinking pattern that women who are victims of violence are responsible for their own hardship.
The truth is that Kasandra Perkins did try to leave Jovan Belcher before he killed her. Leaving is the most dangerous time for a victim of domestic violence, statistically speaking, because the abuser is losing control and often is willing to go to extreme measures to keep it. Perkins entered counseling offered by the Kansas City Chiefs. She was the mother of Belcher’s infant child, and probably, like any mother would, wanted to keep her child safe. She also wanted to do whatever she could to make the relationship with the child’s father work.
Rather than thinking about how society contributes to domestic violence or what we can do collectively to address these issues, Perino focused on the “mistakes” of the abused woman. This type of victim-blaming contributes to instances of violence going unnoticed and unaddressed. As a woman, Perino should know better than to evade acknowledging the nuances that are involved in domestic violence.
Dear Ms. Perino,
As a woman with an expansive media platform, you should be more thoughtful about the messages you wish to spread. Women who are victims of domestic violence are just that, victims. By perpetuating stereotypes of these women as weak and stupid, you perpetuate the dangerous paradigm of victim-blaming. You have a responsibility to correct the comments you made about Jovan Belcher and Kasandra Perkins.
Most abusive relationships do not start violent, but develop over time. The women in these relationships often love their partners, and are financially and emotionally dependent on them. Often the abuser has threatened her and she is terrified of the thought of uprooting her life or does not have the resources to leave. In other instances, their partners have emotionally manipulated them and they are often genuinely convinced that these men they love will change. These are just some of the difficult and human realities that are present in violent domestic relationships.
We should be encouraging positive decision-making, but please do not put the onus on the victims as if they chose to be in an abusive relationship. They must be given the opportunity to make better decisions. They need support, and to know that they have options. This is no easy task, and will involve legislation and a fundamental shift in our sexist, victim-blaming history. But you do no justice to current victims by suggesting they alone controlled their fate. This only contributes to the shame, helplessness and fear many woman in these situations feel. Please apologize for your comments and clarify that women who are victims of violence need our support, not judgment.
[Your Name Here]
photo credit: rawstory