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Violence isn't funny
A while back, The Independent editorial staff ran a long, apologetic letter for printing a personal classified ad that was allegedly addressed to the victim of a gang rape and written by one of the rapists [Indy Personals, April 21, 1999]. I expected more sensitivity and caution after that letter, but the May 8 edition dashed my hopes.

In her Front Porch piece, Vicki Wentz hypothesizes that a woman was physically abusing her boyfriend because she was angry about his less-than-elegant ideas about entertainment or because she was neglected in favor of sports. She says that she and the rest of her "Self-Defense for Women" classmates were holding back "barely concealed smirks," and that there was a good deal of enthusiasm for shooting men. Later on in that issue, an ad for the Indy Personals says, "She said she'd love you forever? Even after the restraining order."

There are lots of ugly ideas underlying these pieces. Wentz blames the victim and justifies the abuse--hardly new tactics. The equal-opportunity taunting of abused people is not my idea of justice. She trivializes violence against men directly, and also indirectly trivializes violence against women by making it seem as if joking makes things even between the sexes. In actuality, although female survivors do not receive much social support, male survivors receive far less, and men are much more likely to be perpetrators than women are. Justice demands that both truths be honored.

The Indy Personals ad can be read a number of ways, all of them offensive. Regardless of whose behavior required the fictitious restraining order, and regardless of the gender(s) of the parties involved, the ad minimizes a hellish situation that too many of us have to work too hard to escape.

I expect better of you, Independent.

I was disappointed, almost angry that The Independent printed this story ["Hear Me Roar," Front Porch, May 8]. I agree that women ought to empower themselves against potential attacks from men and I think that self-defense classes are an excellent means to that end.

What angered me was Vicki Wentz's cavalier dismissal of domestic violence perpetrated by women. Women can and do inflict terrible damage on their partners. A 1980 survey of over 3,000 random American households showed 11.6 percent of women versus 12 percent of men to have reported hitting, slapping or kicking their partners; domestic violence rates for gay and lesbian households are equal to those of heterosexual couples. When Ms. Wentz jokes about shooting a guy who calls her fat, she makes it sound like a witty rebuff. Guns being the great and deadly equalizer of the sexes, ought to be taken seriously.

Sexist double standards like hers are why a certain baseball player could let his comparatively diminutive girlfrend "beat the crackerjacks out of him" (insert guffaw). They're the reason women threatening, slapping, or kneeing men in the balls is a movie and sitcom staple. Violence should never be used casually. It destroys lives and families.

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