Okay starting off 2016 with a bit of a controversial post. Wait, am I ever not controversial? Probably rarely or not.
So… there has been stuff coming up in the media recently that is pretty disturbing for women and survivors of any gender. Not the least of which is what is happening with Camille Cosby because of Bill Cosby. Whether or not, you believe the dozens of women who have courageously come forward (which you should, btw, because otherwise… rape culture), Camille is being dragged through the mud because of her husband. She has to go to court to testify. She has been accused of aiding and abetting rape so she can reap the benefits of marriage. Seriously, I read a comment online once that accused her of that.
If you believe the women who have accused Cosby (and you should) then why exactly are you pointing your finger at Camille? Obviously none of us can know for sure what happens in their marriage. We also can’t know for sure what doesn’t happen in their marriage. So let me just pose this question, knowing we will likely never for sure in this specific situation… generally speaking, what are the chances that a woman who is married to a serial rapist is not also being raped by him as well?!?
Before I entered the domestic violence field, I didn’t realize how many everyday citizens (many of whom are also batterers) engage in fraudulent, scamming and other types of illegal behaviors. Sometimes, these people are violent with others but more often, they connive and cheat (though it’s worth noting that many batterers’ “only” illegal/immoral behavior is DV). People make up bogus lawsuits, physically harm others and perjure themselves over false criminal claims. It happens all the time. And if these people are straight, married men, it doesn’t look too good for their wives. On the surface, it looks like the wives are in cahoots with their husbands and benefiting from their illicit activities, perhaps even enabling it. It looks like she lives a comfortable, secure life. If you dig deeper though, that’s typically not the case (and you’re also being sexist to say a straight, married woman is nothing more than an extension of her husband). Often these (straight, married) men engage in all types of illegal behaviors, most of which flies under the radar because it happens in their own homes in the form of domestic violence. So the woman who seems to have access to illicit funds is actually being physically, emotionally, verbally, sexually and financially degraded. She likely doesn’t have access to the finances, regardless of whether the money was earned legally or otherwise. But she will bear equal brunt (maybe even more brunt) to the public shame and scorn should her husband’s illegal behaviors become public.
This is not to say that when someone does something illegal and they’re married that their partner is never also culpable. Sometimes this is the case, perhaps even sometimes when there is domestic violence the survivor does legitimately share some of the responsibility. But it’s usually not a black and white issue and more often than not if there is domestic violence, the survivor does not benefit from her partner’s behavior but rather is further harmed by them. And it is pretty absurd of us, as a society to assume that when a man is harming women that his wife is in cahoots with him. Dude hates women – why would his wife be an exception to this? The most misogynistic of men often have wives.
So when I hear people say Hillary Clinton enabled her husband to harm women, I inhale sharply. Because as someone who knows a lot about DV, I believe that when someone is in the public spotlight for harming others, it’s important to at least consider how he treats his partner. And I recognize that while I’ve spoken in a very heteronormative way in this post, all that I have said also applies to LGBTQ folks and relationships.
I know some people will shake their heads and point to the number of times that both Clinton and Cosby have publicly defended their husbands. Why would a victim do that? And again, not saying either of these women are victims because I don’t know that, but in general it is very common for survivors to defend their abusers, especially when they are still in a relationship with them. There are many reasons for this but not the least of which is safety and constantly living in survival mode.
The takeaway is that there is often an overlap between people who scam and harm others and people who abuse their partners. So the whole notion that the partner is reaping all the benefits of marriage (whatever that even means anyways) is thrown out the window when you consider how likely it is that the partner is a victim. To be clear, an abusive marriage is not a marriage. It is a private hell in your own home. There are no benefits for survivors of such marriages and relationships. They are the most harmed by the person they’re married to.
It’s also important to remember that there are intersections of oppression. So for women of color, for lesbians, for gay men of color, for people with disabilities who are in abusive relationships, the ramifications are that much more severe.