Oppression and Relationship Violence

I Learned That Oppression Leads to Relationship Violence... Which Leads To Oppression

Oppression and relationship violence go hand in hand, and we have the power to prevent them both.


Content Warning: descriptions of physical and emotional abuse and mention of rape in a historical fiction novel called "Their Eyes Were Watching God"

Our society is and has been comprised of a lot of complex structures and systematic oppression that unfortunately cannot be fixed in a day. Implicit bias runs rampant, even with the most unbiased people. Oppression is tough to beat, and we still haven't fully accomplished it.

October is Relationship Violence Awareness Month. Relationship violence has tons of issues with oppression, many of which we may not even realize. Relationship violence stems from many areas, some of which are more well-known than others. For example, violence is cyclical. It can be caused by people searching for control. It can be caused by narcissism. In my English 129 class this semester, I learned about this additional cause that leads to relationship violence: oppression.

The first book we read in this class was a semi-autobiographical novel called "Their Eyes Were Watching God" by Zora Neale Hurston. (Fun fact: Carolina Hall will hopefully be soon changed to Hurston Hall!) The book portrayed what life looked like for a black woman in the early to mid-1900s. I wrote on this topic for my paper, which was 11 pages, so here's a shortened version:

Janie, the main character, is a black woman who, over the course of the story, has three different husbands, all of which are black as well. These men are oppressed and disrespected, unable to live as freely, to say the least. Because of the way they're treated, they feel small. They feel unimportant. They feel out of control and powerless. So what do they do? They fight for it. In all of the wrong ways.

Jody, Janie's second husband, is definitely one of the main perpetrating husbands. He both physically and emotionally abuses Janie through hitting her, manipulating her, and controlling her. He tells her what to wear. He gaslights her into thinking that she should appreciate the way he's dominating her; he's saying she's wrong to feel the way she feels. When she stands up for herself, he fights her into submissiveness. Gaslighting and other behaviors such as these are avenues of abuse.

As stated before, he acts these ways because he feels oppressed as a black man. The reader can see this through his other actions as well: he becomes mayor of a town in which black people are trying to find success. When Janie is asked to speak, he takes over for her.

Later on, Jody dies and Janie marries a man named Tea Cake. At first, he seems promising they go on spontaneous dates, he brings excitement to her life. However, not long after, he shows his true colors. He causes her to suffer then grins as if nothing has happened which is a form of gaslighting. He whips her solely because he feels scared. When he hits her, he pampers her after in a way that ignites jealousy in those around them. This cyclical nature of his behavior as well as the way he hides the abuse from others are also classic signs of relationship violence.

What makes all of this worse is the fact that relationship violence can also lead to oppression. For example, Janie's caretaker, Nanny, was raped by her slaveholder. Through her life, she realizes how much men can hurt women and how important it is that Janie marries a man who will protect her and not hurt her. So when Nanny sees Janie kissing a boy named Johnny Taylor as a teenager, she tells her she has to marry a man named Logan Killicks instead. Janie protests, and Nanny slaps her, hard. Nanny, out of fear and out of knowing violence so well, engages in violent behavior as a result. The violence that the two of them endure causes them to feel oppressed because they feel they can't speak up about what happened to them. Janie has been hurt and is limited in what she's "allowed" to do as a wife of Jody and Tea Cake. When Janie is married to Jody, she's not allowed to engage in "porch talk," for example, which embodied something many people enjoyed at the time.

Through these examples, we can see that people who feel powerless try to take it back in other ways: when they feel hurt, they hurt. When they feel oppressed, they oppress. When they feel as if they cannot speak up, they put others in a place where they feel they can't speak up.

Unfortunately, these situations are still present today, many years later. People of minority groups feel they can't speak up out of fear they'll worsen stereotypes about their group. Black women may not want to report against black men because they don't want to further the incorrect stereotype that "all black men are violent." People in the LGBTQIA+ community may not want to talk about the abuse at the hands of their partner in that community because they don't want to further the incorrect stereotype that people who are LGBTQIA+ are "gross" or "sick" or simply "bad."

Further, the need people feel in which they must desperately search for control is common to most if not all people. Feeling out of control is scary. Enduring violence is scary. Feeling powerless can lower self-worth. And while this is definitely not the case for all, sometimes hurt people hurt people.

Relationship violence is incredibly prevalent. Something I didn't notice was the number of women murdered by their male partners is almost twice the amount of soldiers U.S. troops in Afghanistan from 2001 to 2012. And that only accounts for the categorically "most severe" (I put in parentheses because we shouldn't rank violence and all kinds of violence are incredibly valid) examples of relationship violence. Further, 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men will endure partner violence in their lifetimes. Again, this only accounts for physical abuse -- it doesn't include emotional abuse, financial abuse, sexual abuse, or the many other variations.

What's important to know during this time is that relationship violence can be prevented and survivors can be supported. This information should be dispersed all year not only during RVAM. Some important resources include the Love is Respect organization, the Carolina Women's Center for those at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

When we serve as allies to ourselves and our loved ones, we have to keep in mind that relationship violence exists outside romantic relationships as well as inside them. I find saying Relationship Violence Awareness Month is so much more important than Domestic Violence Awareness month because RVAM embodies relationship violence at the hands of parent-child relationships, friendships, family relationships, and so many more. In addition, women can be perpetrators in addition to men. I will discuss this further in another article for my RVAM series this month, so stay tuned!

In addition to understanding the different relationships in which violence can occur, we need to be able to recognize the signs and ways to support loved ones who are struggling when they aren't able to access those above resources yet. If you go to UNC-Chapel Hill, consider taking a HAVEN training, in which you'll learn how labeling others' experiences isn't helpful, how empathy is crucial, as well as other important resources and information that you may not have heard or realized before.

As stated previously, it's vital to be empathetic rather than sympathetic by putting yourself in the shoes of the person you're talking to. Don't blame them for what happened to them. Don't pressure them to make any decisions they aren't comfortable with; remember, they deserve autonomy as well, and are currently being stripped of it.

If you're interested in helping the issue on a less direct level, share the above resources on your social media pages. Speak up when people discuss stigma and stereotypes pertaining to relationship violence. Volunteer with and attend events of organizations like the Carolina Women's Center and Compass Center when they put on RVAM events. Check out the RVAM calendar that the UNC-Chapel Hill safe.unc.edu website provides.

A multitude of ways to fight oppression also exist. For example, acknowledge your privilege. If you're a woman, acknowledge the fact you're more likely to be believed about your experience with sexual violence. If your a man, acknowledge the fact that you can walk home at night without fear. If you're not a minority, acknowledge the fact that you're less likely to be affected by violence generally speaking.

We can also fight oppression by listening to what people who are oppressed need, respecting their experiences, and supporting them however we can.

These two options aren't all that hard to do, yet they have such a big impact on public health and safety. What ways can you support other people today?

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I Am A College Student, And I Think Free Tuition Is Unfair To Everyone Who's Already Paid For It

Stop expecting others to pay for you.


I attend Fordham University, a private university in the Bronx.

I commute to school because I can't afford to take out more loans than I already do.

Granted, I've received scholarships because of my grades, but they don't cover my whole tuition. I am nineteen years old and I have already amassed the debt of a 40-year-old. I work part-time and the money I make covers the bills I have to pay. I come from a middle-class family, but my dad can't afford to pay off my college loans.

I'm not complaining because I want my dad to pay my loans off for me; rather I am complaining because while my dad can't pay my loans off (which, believe me, he wants too), he's about to start paying off someone else's.

During the election, Bernie frequently advocated for free college.

Now, if he knew enough about economics he would know it simply isn't feasible. Luckily for him, he is seeing his plan enacted by Cuomo in NY. Cuomo has just announced that in NY, state public college will be free.

Before we go any further, it's important to understand what 'free' means.

Nothing is free; every single government program is paid for by the taxpayers. If you don't make enough to have to pay taxes, then something like this doesn't bother you. If you live off welfare and don't pay taxes, then something like this doesn't bother you. When someone offers someone something free, it's easy to take it, like it, and advocate for it, simply because you are not the one paying for it.

Cuomo's free college plan will cost $163,000,000 in the first year (Did that take your breath away too?). Now, in order to pay for this, NY state will increase their spending on higher education to cover these costs. Putting two and two together, if the state decides to raise their budget, they need money. If they need money they look to the taxpayers. The taxpayers are now forced to foot the bill for this program.

I think education is extremely important and useful.

However, my feelings on the importance of education does not mean that I think it should be free. Is college expensive? Yes -- but more so for private universities. Public universities like SUNY Cortland cost around $6,470 per year for in-state residents. That is still significantly less than one of my loans for one semester.

I've been told that maybe I shouldn't have picked a private university, but like I said, I believe education is important. I want to take advantage of the education this country offers, and so I am going to choose the best university I could, which is how I ended up at Fordham. I am not knocking public universities, they are fine institutions, they are just not for me.

My problems with this new legislation lie in the following: Nowhere are there any provisions that force the student receiving aid to have a part-time job.

I work part-time, my sister works part-time, and plenty of my friends work part-time. Working and going to school is stressful, but I do it because I need money. I need money to pay my loans off and buy my textbooks, among other things. The reason I need money is because my parents can't afford to pay off my loans and textbooks as well as both of my sisters'. There is absolutely no reason why every student who will be receiving aid is not forced to have a part-time job, whether it be working in the school library or waitressing.

We are setting up these young adults up for failure, allowing them to think someone else will always be there to foot their bills. It's ridiculous. What bothers me the most, though, is that my dad has to pay for this. Not only my dad, but plenty of senior citizens who don't even have kids, among everyone else.

The cost of living is only going up, yet paychecks rarely do the same. Further taxation is not a solution. The point of free college is to help young adults join the workforce and better our economy; however, people my parents' age are also needed to help better our economy. How are they supposed to do so when they can't spend their money because they are too busy paying taxes?

Free college is not free, the same way free healthcare isn't free.

There is only so much more the taxpayers can take. So to all the students about to get free college: get a part-time job, take personal responsibility, and take out a loan — just like the rest of us do. The world isn't going to coddle you much longer, so start acting like an adult.

Cover Image Credit: https://timedotcom.files.wordpress.com/2017/04/free-college-new-york-state.jpg?quality=85

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A Little Skepticism Goes A Long Way

Be informed citizens and verify what you see and hear.


These days more than ever before we are being bombarded constantly by a lot of news and information, a considerable amount of which is inaccurate. Sometimes there's an agenda behind it to mislead people and other times its just rumors or distortion of the facts. So, how do you sift through all this and get accurate information? How can you avoid being misled or brainwashed?

This is an important topic because the decisions each of us make can affect others. And if you are a responsible citizen your decisions can affect large numbers of people, hopefully positively, but negatively as well.

It's been said that common sense is not something that can be taught, but I am going to disagree. I think with the right training, teaching the fundamentals behind common sense can get people to have a better sense of what it is and start practicing it. All you will need is to improve your general knowledge and gain some experience, college is a good place for that, then add a little skepticism and you are on your way to start making sensible decisions.

One of the fundamental things to remember is not to believe a statement at face value, you must first verify. Even if you believe it's from a trusted source, they may have gotten their info from a questionable one. There's a saying that journalists like to use: "if your mother said, 'I love you' you should verify it.'" While this is taking it a bit too far, you get the idea.

If you feel that something is not adding up, or doesn't make sense then you are probably right. This is all the more reason to check something out further. In the past, if someone showed a picture or video of something that was sufficient proof. But nowadays with so many videos and picture editing software, it would have to go through more verification to prove its authenticity. That's not the case with everything but that's something that often needs to be done.

One way of checking if something sounds fishy is to look at all the parties involved and what do they have to gain and lose. This sometimes is easier to use when you're dealing with a politics-related issue, but it can work for other things where more than one person/group is involved. For example, most people and countries as well will not do something that is self-destructive, so if one party is accusing the other of doing something self-destructive or disadvantageous then it's likely that there is something inaccurate about the account. Perhaps the accusing party is setting the other one up or trying to gain some praise they don't deserve.

A lot of times all it takes is a little skepticism and some digging to get to the truth. So please don't be that one which retweets rumors or helps spread misinformation. Verify before you report it.


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