Thursday 14 August 2008

Urgh just Urgh Vol. 2

Just a week ago I was lamenting the state of humanity after reading about a horrific case of child abuse which left a little girl with environmental autism in the States. But sure enough I found something worse, figures on domestic violence in New Zealand graced our newspapers which made my stomach turn in much the same manner.

According to a University of Auckland study which interviewed nearly 3000 women from 18 to 64 in the Auckland/Waikato region almost 10 per cent of pregnant woman are victims of violence during pregnancy.

Though I'm not particularly religious, I hope that there is a special place in hell for these, and believe me I loathe to use the term, 'men.' Because I've come to the conclusion that the perpetrators of domestic violence sure as hell don't view 'their' women as people.

A few years ago I was out on the town with a group of expats. The guy who agreed to be our sober driver for the evening liked to think of himself as being a bit of a 'player.' Like most men, he liked attractive women and living in Seoul there were plenty of them around to fawn over him. Except this man didn't seem to have many girlfriends and any conquest was always used as some sort of trophy to laud over his mates in the same manner as an expensive car or new gadget.

The night I had been out with him he had struck out badly with a woman he'd had the hots for and unbeknown to me he had started hitting the soju. On our way out to my country bumpkin town I noticed he was driving rather erratically down the motorway but things were about to get worse. After he asked me if I wanted to continue drinking at one of the local establishments, I told him I was calling it a night at which point his speed increased to over 160kmph and he started playing silly buggers with the other cars on the road. My and other passengers' pleas to slow down just seemed to egg him on so we spent 10 terrifying minutes silently hoping that he wasn't going to collide with anyone. Once we got off the motorway, I jumped out at a set of lights and caught a cab home.

The next time I saw him he was all apologetic. He started laying on the charm and sure enough he promised he'd never do it again. And he didn't do it again because I refused to have anything to do with him. I'm not sure if this man ever hit a woman but he certainly exhibited so many of the characteristics that macdoctor notes are also those of an abuser: he was drunk, he liked to appear like a 'top dog' yet he used aggression when he couldn't control the women around him.

Because domestic violence really is all about control. Abusers don’t view their partners as human beings, just possessions they’ve acquired. And when they can't control them they start to get angry in the same manner we all do when a gadget stops working or the car has a flat tire. Many of us swear and yell, occasionally we might kick or hit the the object that isn't working properly. Thus when an unexpected pregnancy comes along,the gadget isn't working properly. The abuser doesn't have control over his partner and the baby will suck her attention away from him, if it hasn't already.

My fear about this research is that it will get mixed in with the abortion debate. I can see conservative groups using this research as an excuse to further restrict New Zealand women's already limited rights to abortion in the interests of 'protecting women.' This approach would further perpetuate the actual problem, male control over women's bodies, rather than dealing with the environment which is contributing to her 'choice' to abort. I say 'choice' because according to this research victims of physical abuse are 1.4 times more likely to have a miscarriage and 2.5 times more likely to abort their foetus, so there is likely to have been verbal and physical coercion placed on abused women by their partner in their 'decision' to terminate their pregnancy. But abuse doesn't make it ok for the state to make the decision for abused or indeed non-abused women in New Zealand either. Because spousal intimidation is the very antithesis of the ideal of the pro-choice movement, that the person who will make the ultimate decision on whether to continue an unplanned pregnancy must be made by the woman and woman alone because it is her body that will endure the abortion or pregnancy and birth.*


*Standard disclaimer: ideally this decision should be made after talking through it with partner. But as this research points out making a choice when the partner uses force to get his way isn't exactly a 'choice.'


Anonymous said...

This doesn't surprise me at all. I remember reading on one of the American feminist blogs around the time of the Scott and Laci Peterson investigation/trial, that the number one cause of death of pregnant women in the US was murder. They don't tell you that in What to Expect.

It also reminds me of that up and coming league player who with two of his mates lured his very young, pregnant exgirlfriend into a park and tried unsuccessfully to beat her into miscarrying, because being a father would mess with his career.

It's one of the bad places that treating women as baby-vessels takes society. I don't buy the kiwiblog argument that pregnant women are more deserving of protection for the sake of their baby, because that leaves out the important point that they deserve protection for their own sake, and that of being in a more delicate physical condition than they'd otherwise be.

Stephanie said...

Trouble, I have a post in the works on the whole object thing because I think that it is something that needs exploring in greater detail.

I do think pregnancy thing is particularly heinous. Not only because there are two lives at risk but more because of the idea that someone is using force to deny someone else her reproductive freedom.

Anonymous said...

The UK govt recommended in 2005 that midwives routinely ask about domestic abuse. Not sure how that's going though.