“Why do men that abuse women continue to get away with it?”
Because, all too often, society blames the victim.
Stories of survivors who felt they had no choice but to put a permanent end to their abuse by killing their abusers in self-defense moved Becky Lee to act. Fueled by her passion for the prevention of domestic violence, Lee became the force behind Becky’s Fund, a DC-based nonprofit committed to preventing intimate partner violence and supporting survivors and their families.
Becky Lee, Catalyst for Change
With a B.A.in Women’s Studies from the University of Michigan, a Juris Doctorate Degree from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, and more than 12 years’ legal expertise, Lee is an apt ambassador for issues concerning domestic violence. While she hasn’t been a victim of domestic abuse herself, Lee believes “those who have not been personally affected by domestic violence are often the best voice for the victims. So often the abuser has taken their power. Our goal is to give them their power back.”
Her initial interest was piqued during a college lecture delivered by criminal attorney, Andrea Lyon, who specializes in acquitting battered women who were imprisoned for killing their abusers in self-defense. She has since devoted her career to addressing the legal and non-legal barriers that entrap domestic violence victims.
Lee’s superpower is listening without judgment and pulling in resources and support for victims from unlikely places. “People want to help,” remarked Lee.
As the founder and Executive Director of Becky’s Fund, Becky Lee is a change catalyst for those affected by intimate partner violence. She actively drives the organization’s mission to:
- Foster awareness of domestic violence
- Encourage advocacy among peers
- Promote activism through outreach programs
- Create support for victims
The organization’s innovative workshops, survivor independence courses, and outreach programs have been recognized by former Vice President Joe Biden, with the support of the Office of Violence Against Women. They recognized Becky’s Fund Men of Code program as an exemplary domestic violence prevention program working with young men and boys. Since then, the program has been nationally highlighted on ESPN’s Outside the Lines and the impact has expanded to hundreds more young men and boys in the Virginia, DC, Maryland region as well as colleges across the country.
Society’s Role in Domestic Violence
1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men in the U.S. have experienced rape, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime. This begs the question of whether society inadvertently encourages domestic violence.
The truth is that we live in a culture where violence is normalized from a very early age. If we grow up in a violent home, violence often becomes normal behavior. And if a boy pushes us down on the playground, we’re told that he’s doing so because he likes us. For some of us, this creates a warped view of relationships and what it means to be loved.
Despite advancement in women’s rights over the past decade, the prevalent view is still one where the victim is somehow to blame. This disturbing vantage point can be observed in the country’s response to high-profile abuse cases, such as Chris Brown’s abuse of Rihanna years ago when millions of American teens and women blamed Rihanna.
Even today, victim-blaming continues to happen: “Oh, what were you wearing?” “Why did you walk home that way?” “Why did you drink so much?” “Why don’t you just leave?”
These are the questions that prevent women (and men) from speaking out about their abuse. It creates a culture of stigmatization instead of a culture that seeks to understand the multi-faceted reasons that prevent women from leaving abusive situations.
The fact that Lee does not have her personal story of domestic violence to relate makes the Becky’s Fund platform all the more powerful: “It is up to us, those with loud voices, those with courage, those who have not been personally affected by domestic violence to stand up and speak out for the victims who cannot,“ she says. “I am not stigmatized by cultural judgment and barriers like the fear of being blamed and shamed in coming forward to ask for help.“
Five Reasons Why Victims Stay in Abusive Relationships
Based on Becky Lee’s experience with abused men and women, she understands the five basic reasons why victims remain in abusive relationships.
1. Fear for their lives
Leaving an abusive relationship is often more dangerous than living in an abusive relationship. According to Ms. Lee, “Women are 70 times more likely to be killed in the two weeks after leaving than at any other time during the relationship.”
2. Lack of finances
It is common for the abuser to take financial control in the relationship. Instances of control, as witnessed by Lee, can include controlling access to passwords, account information, credit cards, cash, and immigration papers for leverage. With no sense of financial control, the survivor often has no money or means of support if they do try to leave the relationship.
3. Emotional and mental abuse
According to Lee, emotional and mental abuse is one of the biggest reasons why victims believe that this violent life is the one they deserve. Their abusers instill in them the fear that “…they won’t be loved by anyone else and that the abuser is the best partner they will ever find,” says Lee.
In addition to emotional and mental abuse, victims are often isolated from family and friends due to their abuser’s controlling behavior. This leaves them feeling like they have no support system if they were to leave the relationship.
5. Feelings of attachment
Lee has observed that abusive relationships generally don’t start out abusive. First there is a honeymoon phase followed by tension-building and eventually a violent blow up. Although this cycle repeats, the survivor might hold onto the positive qualities first seen in their partner. This attachment becomes even stronger when the couple have children together.
Eradicating Intimate Partner Violence Through Prevention
“I have always been outraged by the lack of community support for those affected by domestic violence,” says Lee. This Survivor runner-up and kickboxer is eradicating intimate partner violence one powerful punch at a time.