The South & Domestic Violence

Is Southern Culture Behind Domestic Violence Increase?

This article was very shocking to me. Not only is Tennessee the ranked fifth in the country for women being killed in a domestic dispute, but also some of the other states in the top ten are: Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia, and South Carolina. The news article claims that our southern culture can be to blame for this. The writers do not go into much detail about what in particular it is in our culture that produces such high domestic violence rates. One reason that I believe could be a factor is that many men in the South think that women are their property. It was a normal to believe this during the Civil War, but this belief should be long gone by now. In the 21st century, it is crazy that some people still have the mind-set that they can actually OWN another person. My guess is that men are taught this as young boys; from generation to generation they see how their fathers and grandfathers treat their wives. But aren’t they also taught to be “southern gentlemen” and to never lay their hands on a woman, no matter what? I have heard “men” (or should I say boys) state things such as: women should keep their mouths shut, they should not talk back, but only speak when spoken to, and that they only belong in the kitchen (as if women only have a role in the home and no where else). It is almost like some men in the South are closet abusers, they will act like they are the perfect southern gentleman, but in reality, they treat their wives as the opposite: cruel, harsh, demanding, and harm them physically as well as emotionally.

Also, some men in the South can be more physically aggressive because they think they have the right to honor and respect. Women in the South are less likely to come forward with domestic violence issues. They don’t want people to know that their husband beats them behind closed doors. In the South, women especially want their friends, families, co-workers, and even acquaintances to think that they have the perfect relationship/marriage. Because many women in the South are housewives, they might feel like they cannot make it without their husband, even if he is abusive, they need him in order to survive. We also have to think about the fact that the South is home of the “Bible Belt” and many women think that they cannot leave their husbands because, according to the Bible, divorce is wrong and women need to submit to and respect their husbands. Although many forget that the Bible also says for men to love their wives as Christ loved the church: which definitely means that if they believe and live by the Bible, husbands should not harm their wives physically or emotionally.

Domestic violence is also displayed in movies about southern culture, such as Fried Green Tomatoes. It is hard to watch as Frank slaps his wife, Ruth, and then pushes her down the stairs. This movie takes place in Alabama, which is the second highest state for domestic violence deaths. (Here is the clip where Ruth leaves Frank. If you have never seen the movie, it’s awesome!) In class, we briefly discussed the movie and book Gone With The Wind. I recently re-watched the film and was shocked to see how even the typical, independent and strong “southern belle,” Scarlet O’Hara, was a victim of marital rape. I had never really noticed the meaning of the scene until after talking about the movie in class. It is common for a person in the South to know a victim of domestic violence or even to know someone who was killed in a domestic violence situation. Domestic violence is not something to be overlooked. I believe that men and women should be aware of this terrible problem of domestic violence in the South and in our culture.