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Dr. Lewis holds healthy discussion and lecture on domestic violence

The cycle of domestic violence

Boggs Oceanlane

The cycle of domestic violence

Janice Peregrina, Staff Reporter

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Women’s History Month should provide resources and education of all aspects of womanism, whether the subject be regularly discussed, or considered taboo. Dr. Libby Lewis, a professor and scholar in Women’s Studies and Pan African Studies, opened up a discussion on domestic violence in intimate relationships- a sensitive and tricky topic to address. Dr. Lewis opened the doors of her regularly scheduled lecture (for her students) to the public instead. This was one of several sessions in a series held throughout the week to raise awareness of women’s studies and issues that everybody could attend.

The lecture focused highly on Bell Hooks, who is a feminist author and social activist famous for her contributions to the subject of domestic violence toward women. Lewis had her students read from Hooks’ piece on violence in intimate relationships to discuss the author’s viewpoints toward the symptoms of violence and its effects.

Dr. Lewis spoke on Hooks’ definition of dislocation: Introducing the topic through violence against children coming from the people close to them. “If you grow up as a child of abuse, you don’t really have a sense of what’s normal. To you, it’s normal to be knocked about.” The dislocation occurs when these negative experiences start to affect future relationships with others and the environment around you. Lewis explained that when one experiences violence from loved ones,  “feelings of safety, and security, and trust…it gets replaced with lack of trust and difficulty in distinguishing between a safe versus a dangerous situation.”

In terms of how violence specifically affects women in heterosexual relationships, Dr. Lewis discussed hooks’ definitions of patriarchy, and how gender roles come in when it comes to domestic violence. With both public and private patriarchy, displays of “male authority” are involved. These examples of patriarchy are “social organization[s] marked by the supremacy of the father in the clan or the family,” and with public patriarchy “the legal dependence of wives and children” come into play. In intimate relationships, the man can take on the hypothetical role of “father” by controlling those supposedly below him. Dr. Lewis cited cinematic examples of each of these social organizations in the film The Color Purple, where Oprah Winfrey’s character is slapped in public by a man she does not know, and where a father forcibly separates sisters from each other in their home because one refused to have sex with him.

The tone of the lecture shifted to a more positive note when Dr. Lewis spoke on Bell Hooks’ refusal of women who have experienced domestic violence in their relationships as “battered.” To directly quote Hooks, the term ‘battered woman’ is used as though it constitutes a separate and unique category of womanness, as though it is an identity, a mark that sets one apart rather than simply a descriptive term. It is as though the experience of being repeatedly violently hit is the sole defining characteristic of a woman’s identity and all other aspect of who she is and what her experience has been are submerged.” Hooks rejects this definition of a woman who has experienced domestic violence because a woman is more than the events that happened to her.

Dr. Lewis closed the lecture on how to identify the signs of domestic abuse. She handed out a wheel diagram from the Domestic Abuse Intervention Project that broke down eight key ways abusers strive to maintain power and control over their partner. By using coercion and threats, intimidation, emotional abuse, isolation, children, male privilege, and minimizing/denying/blaming, abusers have a hold over their partners. The whole diagram is also circled with the term “violence,” indicating its overarching role in power and control. Dr. Lewis offered extra copies of the wheel and also provided some helpful links and phone numbers to facilities that help women out from abusive situations.

Overall, the lecture was an open and safe discussion about domestic violence, how to identify and stop it, and an empowering message to those out there who may be in violent situations. If you are experiencing something similar, please contact the Jenesse Center Domestic Violence Intervention Program at jenesse.org, or another of the many resources available to help.

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