Despite the concept of domestic violence being almost universally deplored in this country, the Centers for Disease Control reported in 2000 that 1 in 4 American women will experience it in her lifetime.
The situation would seem to hold true locally. Lt. Douglas W. Brenner estimates that about one-quarter of all calls answered by the Oneonta City Police Department concern domestic violence.
We hear about the horrific lives of women in many third-world countries where they are considered chattel. The idea of a society condoning or even encouraging domestic abuse is anathema to us as we observe Domestic Violence Month.
But it has not always been so.
Take, for instance 1934’s “It Happened One Night,” one of the most beloved movies ever made, and winner of all five major Academy Awards, including Best Screenplay.
Toward the end of the movie, Clark Gable’s character, Peter Warne, is talking angrily with the father of the woman he loves, Claudette Colbert’s Ellie Andrews:
“What she needs is a guy that’d take a sock at her every day — whether it’s coming to her or not.”
The camera shows Mr. Andrews smiling approvingly as Warne continues:
“If you had half the brains you’re supposed to have, you’d have done it yourself — long ago.”
In 1993, that movie was picked to be preserved in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress, qualifying as “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”
We used to laugh at “The Honeymooners” when Jackie Gleason’s Ralph Kramden used to ball up his fist and threaten his wife, Alice.
“One of these days... POW!!! Right in the kisser!” or “BANG, ZOOM! Straight to the moon!”
Alice knew they were empty threats, and so did we, but they served to give the impression that it was within Ralph’s purview to smack Alice if he really wanted to.
There is nothing funny about domestic abuse, and popular culture continues to be part of the problem. Rap music, in particular, is frequently guilty of degrading and dehumanizing women. The same goes for the porn industry and many misogynistic Internet sites.
Opportunities for Otsego’s Violence Prevention Program is working to put an end to that sort of thinking locally by educating people about intimate partner violence. On Thursday, OFO will present “In Her Shoes,” an interactive simulation that includes scenarios from the real lives of women with abusive partners. (The event is open only to those who have registered in advance.)
Domestic violence is never OK. It’s not something that can be tolerated until it goes away, and it will never go away on its own. If you are in an abusive situation, call the OFO Victims’ Intervention Program at 432-4855.