Welcome to part 2 of our Inspirational Interview with Kit Gruelle, advocate and subject of “Private Violence“. In this part of her interview, Kit becoming an advocate and how violence against women affects all of society.
You can read the first part of her interview here
6. When did you decide to become an activist working to end domestic violence? Did you have a particular moment when you realised that this was the path for you?
After my abusive husband was killed, I remarried and took my sons and moved out of the mountains and down to the Chapel Hill area. It was there that I saw the ad to become a crisis-line volunteer for battered women. I went to an interview to find out more and then signed up for the training.
That was in the mid-1980s and I still, to this day, remember laying eyes on the Power and Control Wheel for the first time. After talking with other women who had experienced domestic violence, and seeing how woefully inadequate the criminal justice system was, how punitive the laws were towards battered women, I knew I had found my calling. I came to understand how sex, class and race played out in American socio-political power structures, and seeing how that increased the danger and struggles for battered women and their children was profound and outrageous to me and the others who were attending the advocacy training.
7. There have been recent cases of high profile American footballers committing domestic violence and their acts not being condemned by the NFL. Why is it so important that companies in the public eye speak out against crimes against women?
Because we should know what their position is regarding Violence Against Women. I am astonished that, as we approach 2015, images of violence against women are still used so routinely to sell products, music and movies. The disconnect between the public displays of these images and how it plays out in the lives of real women and children is deeply disturbing and has real consequences for us all.
8. A campaign run by UK activist Karen Ingla- Smith named “Counting Dead Women” calls upon the government to start collecting data on women who are killed through domestic violence. Ms. Ingla-Smith wants the government to start investigating male violence. What do you think about this campaign and what are the benefits of collating violent crime by gender?
I think domestic violence should be regarded as a hate crime, and collecting the data would demonstrate that. Many abusers are serial abusers who never go after anyone else like their neighbour, their bosses or co-workers etc. If we could show how predatory and determined these offenders are, then we could come up with better, more comprehensive community sanctions to hold them accountable and send them the message that their abuse will not be tolerated. In the US, the Violence Policy Center also keeps the numbers collected by states of the women murdered in the previous year, and breaks the homicides down based on the weapon used. In the US, guns are the most common weapons used in Domestic Violence homicides.
9. What can our readers do to support your cause to end domestic violence?
The best thing readers can do is:
- Know your community resources including whether or not your law enforcement officers and criminal justice professionals have been trained to investigate and prosecute Domestic Violence crimes thoroughly,
- Listen to and support anyone you know who is being abused or is afraid of her partner,
- Remember that leaving an abusive relationship is a process, not and event, and she deserves to be given the time and support she needs,
- Do not judge her: she needs connections to people who care and will not marginalize her,
- Make sure your community has good, clear sanctions for abusers and that they actually employ those sanctions.
10. If one of our readers is in an abusive relationship and reading this interview today, what would you advise them to do, to find a way out of the situation?
Contact their local Domestic Violence programme and get help. The process can start out with just identifying what is happening, and that takes someone listening to her respectfully and giving her the time she needs. Advocates can do safety planning and lethality assessments with her and give her the opportunity to talk about what is happening and process the options that will work best for her. It is our job as advocates to meet her where she is, support her and honour her wisdom.
11. In your considered opinion, how can we end violence against women for good?
By raising boys to be whole people, not one-dimensional men who feel entitled to treat women as if they are subordinate to them. The more men are raised to understand that respect and fear are not one and the same, the more we will have women and men entering relationships with a strong sense of what it means to relate to each other as equals and to love each other for each other’s strengths and weaknesses, because we all have them.
It will take more men taking a stand, too. If men begin to realise that any man’s violence against any woman reflects badly on all men, perhaps we’ll start to get somewhere. But it will take us working together. I believe we can do it.