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Column: On blaming the abused

I'm writing in response to Kathryn Jean Lopez's column titled "Confusion reigns as tradition decays," published in The Jamestown Sun on Monday. In it Lopez says, among other things, that the feminist (women's rights) movement is to blame for the results of a survey in which almost half of a group of 200 teenagers "blame the pop star Rihanna for her recent beating, allegedly by her boy-friend, Chris Brown."

Her claim is absurd. We have been blaming victims of domestic violence for centuries. It is nothing new. If this had happened in 1960, I can guarantee that almost everyone would have been wondering what she did to provoke his violence.

The fact that more than half of the teenagers surveyed did not blame Rihanna for Brown's assault on her is more telling of the effect that the feminist movement has had on our society during the last 30 years.

Domestic violence has existed for a very long time and is not defined by physical violence alone. Domestic violence is a pattern of behavior, involving emotional, physical, and sexual violence, and is intentionally used as a method of intimidation and control in a relationship. While men can sometimes be the victims of domestic violence, the overwhelming majority of its victims have been women. Our culture excused it and kept it behind closed doors for too long.

In the late 1970s, groups of women started speaking out and saying, "Enough!" That was the beginning of the battered women's movement and, yes, it grew out of the feminist movement. Since that time we have been trying to change the attitudes that had condoned domestic violence for hundreds of years by helping people understand that there is no provocation to justify violence, that no one deserves to be assaulted, and that women stay in violent relationships because they are afraid to leave, and because they see few options available to them. We have challenged the people in our communities to stop asking why she stays and to start asking what can be done to make abusers take responsibility for their violence. And our communities are responding. Attitudes are changing, as proven by Lopez's question, "Where is the outrage over what Brown is accused of doing?" Even 30 years ago, few people were asking questions like that.

Brown was arrested and charged with two felony counts of assault. He is being held accountable for his violence. That is the result of the feminist movement. It is proof of how far we have come.

That some people still blame Rihanna for her own victimization is proof that we still have some distance to go.

Incidentally, the feminist movement asserts only that women should have the same social, economic and political status as men. There's nothing radical about it. It doesn't promote the idea that women and men are the same or should act the same. Femininity, masculinity and feminism can co-exist. It's only extremists on either side of the political/social discussion of feminism that make the idea distasteful to some.

LYNNE TALLY, executive director Safe Shelter, Jamestown, The Jamestown Sun