Abuse is No Joking Matter

By Beth Morrison, HAVEN CEO

I recently had shoulder surgery and have had to wear a sling. Over the weekend, I attended a social function and three different times during this event I was greeted with “jokes” about my injury. These “jokes” all had the basic theme that my husband must have beaten me. How is this even remotely funny?

If I had been beaten, this approach, to joke and laugh about it certainly wouldn’t have made me feel at all welcome or comfortable in seeking support.  If I had been beaten, what message would my abusive partner have received, that abuse is laughable?

I was reminded of a former client of HAVEN who shares her story on one of our educational DVD’s. Julie talks about attending a college class after having been beaten. Several of her classmates laugh and “joke” about her bruises and one asked, “What happened, did your husband beat you?” She replies that yes, as a matter of fact, he did. Her classmates all just laughed and the conversation was over. Their response reinforced for Julie that no one would ever believe her and therefore no one would ever help her.

Yes language matters. It shapes our opinions and has influence on our future actions and reactions. And language has to change if we want attitudes to change about abuse.

HAVEN is hosting a workshop on April 14 about words and their power to transform communities. In “Language Matters: The Power of Words to Build Respectful Communities” participants will discuss the role of humor and motivating language in building respectful communities. Contrasting examples, like jokes about rape and calling young men “girls” as a put down or to motivate them will also be discussed.  

The workshop runs 3 to 4:30 and again 6:30- 8 PM. The fee is $10 and people are asked to register by April 12 online at www.haven-oakland.org/news-events.

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