I did something today that I’ve only done previously in some of my American Politics courses. I shared that I had been assaulted years ago over a parking spot. Previously, I’ve used the assault as an example, when differentiating between civil and criminal cases. The students usually write away and understand the difference between the type of cases. A few students have approached me later in the term and acknowledged that he or she was a victim of some random act of violence or a survivor of domestic violence.
This week in my Gender and Politics class we are examining violence. Specific to Tuesday’s class, we had a student led discussion about violence and intersectionality. When I was in front of the students, I suddenly decided to quickly share my first brush with violence. (And, yes, I ruefully noted that it’s a shame that there was more). The Coles Notes (similar to Cliff’s Notes) version is that an undergraduate student chased me down and assaulted me. This was during my first year of Graduate School. This man attacked me in front of Fraternity Row and the frat brothers playing basketball did not intervene. They later told the detective that, “We thought she was his girlfriend.” Oh, that statement still speaks volumes.
I shared this story with my students, so that they could have a human face in their minds, when we have these heady discussions about violence. I know that some of them have survived violence, too. I don’t know if this was an over share. Did some of them think this was unprofessional? I don’t know. I’m sure that the course experience surveys (evaluations) will speak to this, if they had a problem. The major reason why I did this–is we are uncomfortable talking about violence. Violence does not happen to us. But, it does.
I am hopeful that the Twitter exercise will field some honest points. I asked them to discuss the framing of violence via Twitter posts. You will see them (fingers crossed) with the #Poli335 hashtag.
So, I ask you, how do you see violence framed? Is it framed as an issue that only certain people are victims of violence?
Interestingly, just yesterday there was a discussion of elder abuse on the CBC radio (in response to a recent case in Toronto). The Ottawa police force has a specialist team for dealing with that kind of thing and they were interviewing the head of that team. The journalist asked something about how it must be harder because it is family members.
I was kind of shocked at the way it was asked. I thought it was common knowledge that family is a locus of violence for many people but I guess there is still a lot of denial about that. (The police officer was clearly working with this knowledge, it was the journalist who shocked me.)
That example highlights for me the way violence is still framed as something that is mainly random and from a stranger. Despite the fact that most violence is between people known to each other, and probably even intimate. (Gang violence isn’t random between strangers either. Those guys know each other well.)
I missed that story. Will have to look for it. And, you’re right someone you know is usually the perpetrator of violence. As far as the journalist being a little clueless, well that doesn’t surprise me too much. There are so few in the know about these sort of matters. I haven’t noticed any negative comments about my disclosure. But, more apt to see it on evals or through the grapevine.