I love this song. I know it created a lot of controversy in the feminist and domestic violence fields, but I love it.

I think this song represents an important narrative. If we ever want to solve social problems like violence, we have to look at both sides of the equation, the perpetrator and the victim, and we have to focus healing efforts on both. Anything else is just a band-aid. I am a survivor of abuse and domestic violence, and I’m also violently-inclined. I tend to turn it towards myself, though, but I can definitely understand the mindset of (some types of) abusers. I identify very strongly with both the viewpoints presented in this song.

All people are human, even people who rape, murder, and torture. Obviously those actions have to be stopped, but you also have to ask why they do it. Do they do it because they really have no conscious, no sense of morality, no feelings of empathy? Or do they do it because they were once victims, because they have no other models, because they’ve been hurt and all they know how to do is hurt others? This isn’t to say all victims become perpetrators, because that isn’t true, but I think you’d be hard-pressed to find one person who hurts other people who hasn’t been victimised themselves. Studies of prisoners have yet to find one prisoner who was not physically punished and/or abused as a child, but we know people who have not been physically punished or abused do exist out there in the general population. You can’t ignore the previous trauma. People who hurt others still deserve to have their hurts acknowledged, validated, and healed, just as much as their own victims do.

There seems to be a disturbing tendency towards retribution in American society. American society seems very vindictive and un-empathetic. Yes, violence is bad. Yes, someone who is violent should not be allowed to be violent, and his/her victims should be protected. No, the fact that they hurt someone does not mean they deserve to be hurt. A good example is the case of someone who rapes someone else. The majority of people will say things about how that person deserves to be locked up somewhere where they will be raped. No, they don’t. No one deserves to be raped. No one deserves to be murdered. No one deserves to be abused, tortured, hurt, have their safety threatened, or any of the other horrible things we have a tendency to do to each other.

We have this thing in America, where if someone does something we find wrong, we decide to punish them. We even do this to kids, punish them, even when we know punishment doesn’t truly work and when we know there are better alternatives. America just really enjoys punishment, I think. It’s like the macro of the old tale of the man who is yelled at by his boss, who comes home and yells at the wife, the wife then yells at the kids, and the kids kick the dog. It’s like we, as a society, have all been hurt and abused, and all we want to do to make ourselves feel better is to continue the cycle and hurt someone else, someone we deem as deserving.

I really hope that one day we can put aside this drive to punish others and instead focus on healing. Maybe one day we’ll start to look below the surface and find the causes of behaviours and work to change or heal that, instead of just labelling someone as bad and locking them up for an arbitrary amount of time, hoping they’ll experience things that no human should ever have to experience (and quite probably, things that they have already endured).