Tuesday, October 25, 2011

'Waitress' emphasizes importance of addressing domestic abuse

Three women sit on a bench outside of a the small-town diner where they work as waitresses. They start up what appears to be a conversation familiar to them. Dawn: "But now here you are [Jenna], married to this handsome guy … who's got very good hair, and pregnant with a little girl. But neither of us would trade places with you for one second, now would we Becky?"

Becky: "No we wouldn't, Dawn, No we wouldn't."

As the offending, attractive-haired husband in question, Earl, tears into the parking lot to pick up Jenna, the nature of the waitresses' conversation becomes clear: Earl is a controlling jerk.

Earl speaks in a threatening tone and reacts with satisfaction when Jenna gives in to his every command. As he proceeds to collect all of Jenna's tips from the day and threatens to make her leave her job, the viewer gets the uncomfortable feeling that Jenna is walking on egg shells with her every move around Earl.

The film, "Waitress," depicts between 600,000 and 6 million women's realities in the United States per year. This number doesn't take into the account the number of men who experience the same violence and control. While women do make up the majority of domestic violence victim, 15 percent of those affected are male.

The myth that only physical abuse can be considered domestic violence saturates the media. Films and television shows typically show cases of murders or extreme physical attacks. This is an important and very real occurrence in the world. The Domestic Violence Resource Center states, "On average, more than three women and one man are murdered by their intimate partners in this country every day." However, a typical case can be much more subtle and complex.

As demonstrated in "Waitress," domestic abuse includes much more than physical abuse; intimidation, isolation, emotional and financial abuse are all common weapons perpetrators use to control their victim. Perpetrators can lower the victim's self-esteem, restrict the victim from seeing or speaking with friends and family, and control their access to finances.

These all serve to keep the victim under their control and create major barriers that keep them from leaving. It is important to recognize that these behaviors are just as serious and abusive as physical attacks and are often more difficult to detect.
With young people comprising almost half of domestic violence cases, it's important to remember these myths when observing relationships in our daily lives. Whether for our personal relationships or those of our friends and family, it is necessary to keep an eye out for these traits. They are neither excusable nor normal; they are indicative of a violent relationship and must be taken seriously.

Promoting Awareness, Victim Empowerment (PAVE) is a student organization dedicated to ending sexual assault, dating/domestic violence and stalking on the UW-Madison campus through education and activism. In honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, PAVE will be screening "Waitress" on Tuesday, October 25 at 7 p.m. in Ogg Hall.

-Olivia Jonynas

**As published in The Daily Cardinal