Are we any better?

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 30, 2002

We have watched the news from other countries and murmured anguished protests at the abuses we have seen - women in Afghanistan beaten for leaving their homes without veils, female infants murdered in China, young women executed in Saudi Arabia for defying parental commands, women sexually mutilated in Africa…. These are horrible events and we are right to be appalled and outraged. We are right to demand the brutalities cease.

It is time to look in the mirror. In our own country, our "Land of the Free," variations of every one of the aforementioned atrocities occur all the time, and yet rarely do they make the headline news. What makes this omission all the more abhorrent is the fact that in our country, in our culture, we know that such abuse is wrong. In the Middle East, in Africa, in China, their cultures have condoned such behavior in the past. Condoning it does not make it right - nothing will ever make physical abuse, torture and repression right - but it does make the popular acceptance understandable.

What of our own culture? While we paint a pretty picture of justice and equal rights, the story behind that image is far different. Only recently were the police allowed to interfere in domestic violence cases - much less required to. Only recently, were battered wives given a legal voice and a sympathetic ear by the predominately male legal profession.

Despite our rosy self-image as upholders of truth and justice, there is an ugly subculture in America, one that perpetuates the abuse of women. A son, watching his father "teach his mother a lesson" will more than likely use the same approach with his own wife in years to come, continuing the cycle with his own children. A daughter, watching her mother submit silently, passively, will believe that this is the proper response, just as an Afghani youngster will believe she deserves to be beaten to death for walking alone in public.

We must change those perceptions in every arena, from the "entertainment" media that promulgates it, to your next-door-neighbor. We must let the children know that violence is not acceptable. We must let the abused know that they, too have rights. As Americans, we have taken pride in being enlightened in the matter of human rights - it's time to prove it.

Opportunity House is an United Fund of Andalusia

organization dedicated to that enlightenment, and to helping the victims of domestic violence. Call them today at 493-4835 today to see how you can help, or give to the United Fund in the name of Opportunity House.