A MIX OF IDEAS
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GAYS IN IRAN MEANINGFUL OPPOSITION
n January 1993, I began a journey of
and dangerous responses to her behaviors.
discovery by being in the right place
People ask, "Why doesn't she leave?"
at the right time.
The answer to that question is complex
As part of the requirements for my
and involves a dramatic increase in risk of
master's degree in social work, I was
physical violence at her leaving or threat
placed in the Windows Program at Jewish
of leaving. The real question is, "If he is so
Family Service for my clinical internship.
unhappy with her, why doesn't he leave?"
It was there that I first heard the
The stories are haunting.
stories of women for whom life
They are all so similar and
yet each has their own sense
These women's lives were
of individuality. Many of the
dominated by their husband's
women I work with do not
controlling behaviors. Most of
identify as being abused or
the women I worked with were
even as a victim. Most seek
not victims of physical abuse;
help because they want better
however, all of them were vic-
tims of coercive control.
They think that if they could
Coercive control is a dynamic
themselves, that their
in which one person systemati-
would be nicer to
cally removes another person's
could lose 10
individual freedoms. It is
accomplished through intimi-
dation, isolation, physical viola-
keep the house cleaner, that
tion and domination, which are
things would improve.
all connected to the woman's own shame
Unfortunately, what many of them find
is that as they do improve, the coercive
The education for me in working with
control becomes worse, culminating in the
these women was how each of them saw
most dangerous of controlling behaviors
themselves as to blame for their partner's
at her hint of independence.
actions. Each person in these relationships
For almost 20 years, Jewish Family
feels victimized by the other. He is a vic-
Service has provided service to the vic-
tim of her failure to do things "right" and
tims of domestic abuse in our Windows
she is a victim of his controlling, hurtful
Program. We provide therapy, concrete
OUR NUCLEAR WEAPONS 7,411*P - a••• ■
ONCE IT'S DEVELOPED,
services such as financial assistance and,
in partnership with the National Council
of Jewish Women/Greater Detroit Section's
Safe Place, a kosher, single-family domes-
tic violence shelter.
Safe Place offers a refuge for 90 days,
free of charge, for one family at a time to
be safe and create a plan for the future.
Since its inception in 1993, all of the
residents of Safe Place have been women,
except for one man who, with his children,
used our shelter to escape the violence at
home. The vast majority of our Safe Place
clients have returned home after their stay
at the shelter, but have returned knowing
that they have a Safe Place if they need it.
We know, statistically, that domestic
abuse occurs in the same proportion in
Jewish families as it does in the general
community. We also know that it occurs
equally across socioeconomic divisions
and across denominational sectors. The
controlling behaviors may change based
on income or level of religious obser-
vance, but the coercive control remains
constant. Unfortunately, as hard as we
have worked for nearly 20 years, the need
for Safe Place still exists. We have come
to understand the need for change at
the community level in order to increase
safety for our families. Our Detroit Jewish
community has come together with the
creation of the Jewish Coalition against
Domestic Abuse (JCADA), a community
coalition of more than 30 Jewish commu-
nal agencies and dedicated lay leaders.
too, until Bill decided to cut me
"What are you playing at:' he
said. "Everything is going your
way. If you don't understand
that you sure don't understand
much." I never tried that again.
There were poker games at
his home on the east side, with
his big booming laugh bursting
across the summer night.
Then it was graduation and
we started on our careers.
Somehow, though, the promis-
es Bill thought had been made
to him never materialized.
There was no job for a black guy in
his late 30s with a brand new journalism
degree. Not at Parke-Davis, and certainly
not at the Detroit dailies.
We heard that his marriage had ended
and he'd moved into an apartment. Then
we heard that someone had found his
body in the room after several days. It
appeared to be an overdose of something.
We attended the funeral at the House
of Diggs and the minister said "The love
of the Lord is like lemonade on a summer
day and how our brother William loved
lemonade." We thought if Bill could have
heard that, he would have popped up and
hit the guy right in the nose.
Then the whole gang of us went for
drinks, angrily denouncing an unjust
world. And as the years went by, Bill
became a fading wisp of memory.
Occasionally, however, on autumn days
like the one we met, I have a quick flash
of his smile. He is pointing back at the Big
Horns through his car's rear window, rid-
ing hopefully ahead to the future, trying
desperately to connect.
"Look!" he is saying. "Look at that!"
Domestic Violence on page 32
The Long Sunset
ill wandered into the Daily
Collegian offices one autumn
afternoon and said he wanted to
be a reporter.
He was quite a bit older than the rest of
us, having served two stints in the Navy.
But he was determined to get a journalism
degree and start a new career.
He worked for Parke-Davis in what
sounded like a senior custodial job, but
apparently there had been promises that if
he got a degree at Wayne State in Detroit,
there could be a place for him at entry-
level public relations.
It would have been a good fit. Bill was
bright, funny and had a solid grasp of
what matters. He was also black and
since there were no other minorities on
the reporting staff of the Collegian, we
thought it was a great deal to have him
working with us.
Through afternoons at the Alcove Bar
and the copy desk, he told us about growing
up in rural poverty in Alabama.
About coming to Detroit and
marrying too young.
About trying to keep it togeth-
er with his wife while in the Navy.
About reading during much of
his time at sea and developing a
hunger to know more.
When his service ended, he
and his wife left the base in San
Francisco and started driving
home. Late one afternoon, as the
sun was setting behind the Big
Horn Mountains in Wyoming, he
nudged his wife awake to see it.
"Look at that!" he said.
"Look at what:' she responded. He said
that right then he began to feel a hollow-
ness in his stomach.
It was the early '60s, when it was fash-
ionable for young men to display a certain
alienation or disaffection from the cur-
rents of daily life. I was quite good at it,
George Cantor's e-mail address is
October 15 • 2009