Preventing Violence Against Women
I recently learned my friend was murdered by her husband. She was a sparkly woman, a talented musician, and a pillar of the community. I couldn’t believe she was gone. “How could this happen?” mutual friends asked. I knew he’d started drinking again and there was tension between them. Why didn’t I see this coming?
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and according to research by U.N. Women, one in three women experience violence by an intimate partner during their lifetime. Yet, despite its prevalence, many of us fail to recognize when it’s happening to someone we know. Globally, 38% of murdered women are killed by intimate partners, according to the World Health Organization. Men die by their lovers’ hands, too, but less often: 82% of victims are women. According to the U.N., “partner violence affects 641 million women globally, making it the most common type of violence affecting women.”
The Gabby Petito case gained international attention in September. Bodycam footage showed the 22-year-old demonstrating how her fiancé had grabbed her face hard enough to cut her cheek with his fingernail. Later autopsy results revealed she died of strangulation. Brian Laundrie, the only person of interest, was recently found dead. Although their story continues to unfold, it teaches us that domestic violence begins early, mostly impacting women between the ages of 18-24.
I saw myself in Gabby. I also wanted to make my mark and dated controlling men. It was hard for her to admit to police that her fiancé had hurt her. She said she’d slapped him first, as if she was protecting him. I’ve seen this type of behavior before…in me. How long have I been protecting my father from what people would think if they knew how he had harmed me as a child?
As I grappled with this excruciating aha moment, I happened to see the latest James Bond movie No Time to Die starring Daniel Craig. I was surprised to find myself crying as Bond openly declared his love for a woman, fiercely protected a little girl, and accepted help from two kick-ass female agents. I loved this new Bond.
Sean Connery had always been my favorite, but when I googled him afterward, up came a 1965 interview with Playboy Magazine in which he’d said, “I don’t think there is anything particularly wrong about hitting a woman […] If a woman is a bitch, or hysterical, or bloody-minded continually, then I’d do it.” Misogyny was a sign of the times and seemed to define the Bond brand, until this 25th installment.
My original favorite film was On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969) because Bond (George Lazenby) fell in love with a Contessa (Diana Rigg) and married her, although she died in the end. But as I watched the trailer for it, I was taken aback by a scene of her father punching her in the face. Looking at these old movies with fresh eyes, I saw how sexualized and brutalized Bond girls were. Violence against women has been baked into our history and our culture.
Like me, many of us imprinted on James Bond and Disney princesses. Women can get blindsided by false Prince Charmings who pose as alphas or good guys but, in fact, are critical and controlling. Subtle jabs, manipulative behavior, possessiveness, and anger are indicators of coming trouble. Unfortunately, many abusers mask these tendencies early in dating. By the time women notice the obvious red flags, they’re attached. Ending the relationship is the most dangerous time for a battered woman.
Petito hooked our attention because she was an aspiring influencer who shared pictures of her perfect life. But friends later admitted the two fought a lot and described Laundrie as “controlling, manipulative, and often jealous.” According to WHO, the factors associated with intimate partner violence include a history of violence, marital strife, communication difficulties, and males controlling their partners. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says, “Violence against women is endemic in every country and culture […] and has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.” In the U.S., it happens mostly to women of color, lower economic status, and LGBTQ.
But, if James Bond can change, so can we. I choose to re-imprint on Craig’s final rendition of the spy because he loves, respects, and protects women. It feels like a choice to love, respect, and protect myself and others, and prompted me to learn more about domestic violence. I only wish I’d known the signs before and could’ve helped my friend. You, too, may want to educate yourself and check in with your friends, or even yourself, before it’s too late. For help, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1.800.799.SAFE (7233).