I’m pleased to offer you a little Domestic Violence Awareness Month Madness from previous GWP guest poster Madeline Wheeler. Madeline is a newly single mother of two and writer of the social action theater piece Revealing Frankie, a memoir of childhood abuse. She is currently the Coordinator for the Palmer, MA Domestic Violence Task Force. Madeline earned a BA from Harvard and credits the positive changes in her life to the Woodhull Institute for Ethical Leadership (yay Woodhull!) –Deborah

Wife Beating, Speaking Out, and Army Wives
It’s National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. This fact is getting lost amongst the bailout and the fabulous SNL skits about Sarah Palin. It is not an issue that the candidates address with the passion it deserves; quips and VAWA sound bites don’t cut it.  It seems Becky Lee’s polite suggestion for a debate question “Freedom from Domestic Violence: Right or Responsibility?” on the Huffington Post went unheard by Bob Schieffer.

I admit, I love the SNL skits, and recently have been distracted by the accusation that my willingness to speak out as a survivor of abuse is a form of Munchausen–but what has really caught my eye last week?

1) The new Sunny Side of Truth ad revealing evils of the tobacco industry.  Blow up figures of women resembling Weebles sway in the background as young women sing a ditty about smoking preventing men from beating their wives. “If you smoke it may take your life, but if you don’t you might beat your wife.” The ad claims that in 1998, according to the New York Times a tobacco executive said, “Nobody knows what you’d turn to if you didn’t smoke.  Maybe you’d beat your wife”.

2) Last week I received an email from Lori Weinstein, Executive Director of Jewish Women’s International (JWI), informing me that in the past four months, the deaths of three Fort Bragg-based female soldiers have resulted in murder charges brought against the victim’s husband or lover.  I googled the murders and was shocked to find that in June and July 2002, four military wives at Fort Bragg were murdered by their spouse within a six week period.  Officials acknowledged that three of the men had recently served in Afghanistan but that there was “no common thread among the cases, and suggest[ed] it may simply be an “anomaly.”

I searched several websites before I found the Baltimore Sun article about the 2008 Fort Bragg murders.  Carol Darby, spokeswomen for the Army’s Special Operations Command, said the Army had no reason to be “overly concerned for [the] personal safety of female soldiers.”  Can this be considered an anomaly?  Where’s the smoking gun?

3) An article on Politico proffers that Michelle Obama’s new focus group is military families quoting her saying “The commander in chief doesn’t just need to know how to lead the military, he needs to understand what war does to military families.”  This isn’t just a political move—it’s a necessity.  An October 14th editorial in The Fayetteville Observer, a military newspaper for Fort Bragg, made the shocking comment, “In a way, it’s surprising that there aren’t more bodies piling up at military bases all over this nation.”

If this doesn’t catch your eye, maybe a polite stats reminder will. According to the National Committee Against Domestic Violence one in four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime and an estimated 1.3 million women are victims of physical assault by an intimate partner each year.

I know objectors will say that women are violent too, but 85% of domestic violence victims are women.  I’ve taken a stand with JWI, which is still in the process of spearheading a petition to make domestic violence an important position for the candidates.  In addition, each day in October they feature a survivor’s story.

Barack Obama should take note, since the wife of his supporter and friend Massachusetts’s Governor Deval Patrick’s joined with Jane Doe, Inc. and made a public service announcement revealing that she was a victim of violence in her previous marriage.

Women’s voices are strong and powerful! A survivor’s voice is powerful and to be respected!  Though I have received recent backlash, I will continue to be an advocate and continue to speak as a survivor.  Survivors are not to blame and should not be shamed. As the Bay State’s First Lady, Diane Patrick exclaims, “Talk. It could save someone’s life.”

–Madeline Wheeler