Thursday, December 3, 2009

Dogs and Domestic Violence

Last week as my friend’s and I were entering their apartment, a Turkish woman came screaming and ran past us into the apartment. At first we are not sure what was going on.


She told us that her sister’s husband was hurting her and there was a six- month old baby in the home. She was crying and shaking and totally out of it. We wanted to call the police but they don’t get involved in ‘private’ matters. We called the compound security and they assured us they would take care of it.


According to recent statistics, 4 out of every 10 married women in Turkey have been physically or sexually abused by their husbands. From the stories I hear, it seems that this is a gross underestimate. When we lived at our old apartment I remember hearing horrifying fights between a neighboring couple. When the fear seeps in under your door and into your night, should it still be a private matter? When you can almost feel the pain the woman must be going through, should you still not call the police?    


Two days later there are some beautiful purple orchids at the door. Attached is a note in poor handwriting saying, “I am very sorry to disturb you and your family on Saturday. It connected to alcohol. When my husband drunk to get angry. Thank you so much.”


When we read the note, I wanted to cry. Here, the woman who is already being abused feels the need to protect the image and reputation of her husband. She attributes the behavior to the alcohol instead of to her husband. She takes the blame by being the one to apologize for the disturbance. She thanks us for… what? Understanding? Not saying anything or calling the police? For not being upset with her?


The first issue here is the matter of domestic violence being a ‘private’ issue. The compound is hesitant to involve the police because these are their residents and more likely than not, the husband is paying the outrageous rent that comes with this address. Are they not getting involved to protect the sanctity of the family’s private sphere or to assure that they have a happy customer who can beat his wife with the protective shroud of the compound’s policy in place?


Do the police not get involved because they really feel this is a private matter? Or is it because most of these men who make up the police force have a vested interest in maintaining a status quo that permits the abuse and oppression of women? Or is it because the men who do want to speak up are afraid to do so in the face of their colleagues and a society who still quite openly subscribe to a machismo and misogynist culture.


No society should take the stand that domestic violence is a private matter. It never was and never should be The general safety of an individual is a responsibility that should be born by the whole of society.  In this instance, what happens in the private sphere significantly impacts the public sphere. Society’s that condone the abuse of women and allow children to be raised in such environments suffer economically, politically and on a multitude of other levels. Most importantly they carry the shame of these abused women. The blood of the women hurt by abusive men is on every member of society who turns a blind eye and keeps their mouth shut.


What can we do in this particular situation? We write a note that says “No problem at all. We just want you to know that our door is always open.” We make sure the husband doesn’t see it. But when the institutions in place don’t protect women, who do we call? What do we really do to help?


Last night I was taking the dog out for a walk and the elevator door was open. The sister and another man were there. The lady got really frightened and started screaming ‘I am scared of dogs.’ So I pull the dog close to me and say go ahead making room for them. They are over five feet away from me so they can easily pass, and the dog is being calm anyways so they have nothing to be scared of. This guy starts Screaming at me. He yells ‘Go away!! Get away!! GO GO GO!!” I thought he was going to hit me. His veins were popping out of his head. 


I was quite shaken by the incident but the thing that struck me the most was that this woman was willingly standing in the elevator with this seeming monster and she is more scared of a dog that has never done a thing to her. Who is the real beast anyway.


  1. I just saw an interview with Reese Witherspoon who's promoting DV awareness with Avon. She's traveling all around the world doing this. It might be worthwhile to bring her to Turkey, I'm sure she'd be interested. Something to look into yeah?

  2. I think you want to read "Women Hold Up Half the Sky," if you haven't already. Nicholas Kristof wrote it with his wife -- they're both reporters -- and it's about these very issues. It's going to make you cry; I already know that. It's made my very angry; it really resonates with me, and I need to do something about these kinds of issues. I hope you'll want to, too. In fact, I'd be happy to buy you a holiday copy and ship it off your way if I can get your address!


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