Weekend Reading

Cloudy with a 70% chance of weekend reading:

The problem with that should-have, could-have conversation is the popular implication that the ability, and the responsibility, to change the behavior of abusive men lies not with the abusers, but with the partners they strike, strangle, and shoot.

It’s why the question “Why didn’t she leave?” is far more common than, “Why did he abuse her?”

But research shows us why she, whoever she might be, didn’t leave: she didn’t have the money, she didn’t want to take the kids out of school, she couldn’t find a shelter, there was no shelter, she was embarrassed, her pastor or her mother or her father or her sister told her a good wife doesn’t give up, her self-esteem was in shreds, she had literally nowhere to go, or she knew that, in leaving, she would put herself in more danger than if she stayed.

But if women can’t be blamed for inciting violence in their partners, or at least scolded for not bailing at the first red flag, the problem of why intimate partner violence happens in the first place, and what to do about it, becomes much more complicated than asking the broken-record question, “Why didn’t she leave?”

What hard evidence does show is that while the “why” may never be satisfactorily answered in every situation, we know, definitively, how most U.S. women killed by abusive partners meet their end: They are shot to death.

[D]espite its conspicuous absence from virtually every celebrated origin story in Occupy, alongside the medical tent established by activists in the early weeks of the movement, the first tent to successfully challenge the NYPD ban on structures in Zuccotti was a sukkah replete with a portrait of Jewish anarchist Emma Goldman, set up by Dan Sieradski and Occupy Judaism; a project that would go on to function as a sort of unintentional muse to the movement in New York. “The holiday immediately following Yom Kippur is Sukkot – the plural of sukkah,” Sieradski said. “A sukkah is a ritual hut – otherwise known as a tabernacle – that Jews sleep and eat in for a week to commemorate the harvest season in ancient Israel.” He knew cops weren’t letting structures go up in Zuccotti but figured a sukkah might pose a prohibitive public relations obstacle for Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the NYPD. “The goal was twofold,” he said. “I really wanted to push the Occupy Judaism thing, which was using Jewish ritual as a form of direct action – transforming sacred rites into acts of justice and not just references to ideas of justice – and to see if the religious liberty argument could be used as leverage to help put some shelter over Occupiers’ heads.”

In the process, he enlisted some unlikely support – most notably from Chabad (a Hasidic sect) and a company called PopUp Sukkah, who hardly supported the movement’s politics but donated materials for the sake of supporting religious practice. “I went down to Zuccotti and met with the direct action working group, got the buy-in of the resident Occupiers, who I worried might be ill-affected by an attempt to build a structure, and then rustled up a group of friends and folks, including media and legal observers, and erected the PopUp Sukkah,” Sieradski said. As predicted, the NYPD approached, but opted to avoid the likely blowback of interfering with a Jewish rite, ultimately letting it be. “That’s when I knew we had our opening,” Sieradski said. “A couple of kids tried it. One had theirs taken down; another was able to keep theirs up. So later, in the middle of the night, it started raining. And all of a sudden from the middle of the park you heard, ‘MIC CHECK! MIC CHECK! TONIGHT… WE ARE ALL JEWS! BUILD YOURSELF A SUKKAH TO SLEEP IN!’ And thus, the tent city began. The next day the medical tent went up, and on from there it went.” Occupy-related sukkahs appeared thereafter in Seattle (where ten were arrested in the process), as well as other cities.


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