They are all whores, Belgrade graffiti, photo: Slavica Miletić

They are all whores, Belgrade graffiti, photo: Slavica Miletić

Every guy has a “crazy girlfriend” story. I always wondered why women don’t have “crazy men” stories. And then I realized, it’s because if you got a crazy boyfriend, you’re going to die.
Donald Glover, comedian

Domestic violence has once again made the headlines after the murder in Serbian village Zitiste. Once again, the media are talking about the number of women killed in domestic violence. Once again, we discuss whether the problem is poor performance of institutions, individuals, or whether the problem is lack of coordination. The public is once again outraged by the comments justifying the crime. But, when a story about a celebrity who was a victim of domestic violence by her partner emerged later on the same day, once again we heard that there are two sides to every story. In a few days we will forget about the accountability of the institutions and officials and, in a week, when another woman gets murdered by former or current partner, we will, once again, read about the crime “unheard of”.

The mechanism the society uses to forget is quite simple – the essence is erased and the story about violence against women becomes a story about violence. To paraphrase Andy Warhol, when everyone is violent, nobody is violent. This was evident even in the first detailed reports on the murder in Zitiste, when the focus was shifted to the story about mass murders in Serbia. Even then, it was stressed that violence against women is the topic and that it must remain the integral part of all analysis in order to prevent similar crimes.

Nevertheless, ten days after the murder in Zitiste we still came to the point where violence is violence, jealousy is jealousy, and it’s hard to be left by a partner. You can read all about this in the article “To be left” published on the Politika website on Sunday evening. The first thing that catches the eye in this article is its gender neutrality. The entire text is about “partners” and “persons” without any gender run-ons.

The first sentence of this article is: “The frequency of murders of ex-partners, often followed by suicides, is troubling”. This sentence is basically true, but conceals the essence of the problem. The number of men killed by their former female partners is not the same as the other way around. Thus, the problem is not murders of ex-partners, the problem is the violence of men against women and it should be analyzed as such.

Gender neutrality was necessary in this case in order to reduce everything to the personal level. Once the gender aspect of the story is neutralized, it all comes down to an individual. In the conclusion of the article the author says: “When a child experiences unrequited love or gets “left” for the first time, that’s a delicate moment when its parents should help it not question its worthiness. In a same manner, close friends and relatives of an adult should influence them to correct their attitude on abandonment and not reinforce their negative distorted beliefs.”

With this, the problem of partner and domestic violence becomes a personal problem. As such, it stops being a problem which should involve the police, judiciary, welfare centers, and becomes a problem which should be solved by a family or a psychotherapist. I’m not trying to say that there is no personal level involved; not every man will be violent to his partner and not every violent man will kill his partner. However, just like with every social problem, we need to see the big picture. We need to take into account the facts about who the majority of violators and the majority of victims are.

By insisting on gender neutrality and reducing the societal problem of the most extreme domestic and partner violence to the personal level, the issue is trivialized. This trivialization opens the door to oblivion. It allows for the possibility that, sometime in the future, the public asks “who knows what she told him” or “what was she doing out at 1.30am”. But, above all, it allows for the possibility for us, as a society, to be free from the guilt.

Translated by Marijana Simic

Pešč, 19.07.2016.