The Forgotten Issue: Domestic Violence

Article excerpt

Perhaps now we can remember what the O.J. Simpson story was all about. Because, God knows, we had forgotten. It became a referendum on black and white, a litmus test of race relations in this country.

It became an exorcism about police prejudice and corruption inflicted on African-Americans.

It became a dialogue about defense and prosecution tactics, about the quality of justice for rich and poor, about the special privileges and profound disadvantages of fame. It became a chance for craven self-pr omotion for endless hustlers and hangers-on, a national orgy of celebrity as we ordained new stars: Marcia Clark, Kato Kaelin, Johnnie Cochran. The point of the O.J. story was so distorted that I'd been wondering for days how to cover the civil trial verdict when it came in. Where could I go to get a fresh perspective, if there was such a thing? The possibilities seemed obvious - a campus, a bar, anywhere there'd be black and white people together to see if they'd react differently. And then I realized with a jolt - that I'd forgotten what the story was about. It was supposed to be a national teach-in, a chance for enlightenment, a serious look at something long misunderstood. Domestic violence, not race. Remember that? Remember the hundreds of people who flooded hot lines right after the murders, battered women and their families who realized, perhaps for the first time, that batterers often become killers? Remember the women who jammed shelters in record numbers the summer after the murders, fleeing for their lives? Remember the revelations that had the potential to end all the misconceptions about domestic violence? The criminal trial ended it all, silenced the discussion and turned it to issues of race. The buzz on the talk shows was about rifts between lawyers, about judicial demeanor, about payback for years of police brutality. It was rarely about domestic violence. "There was a time I really believed the one positive about this case was that it was an educational tool about domestic violence," Joan Mintz Ulmer of Women Against Abuse said this week. …


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