Domestic violence and the Red Riding Hood Project

Stand up to end domestic violence this Halloween: Dress up as Red Riding Hood. Photo: Warner Bros.

WASHINGTON, August 17, 2012 —National Domestic Violence Awareness month is October, less than six weeks away. October is also, of course, the month of Halloween. Neighborhood stores are already displaying bags of candy corn, costumes, and treat bags.

The decision of what to “go as” is quickly approaching.

This Halloween, dress up as Red Riding Hood. Who doesn’t know the story of Red Riding hood?

While there are numerous interpretations of the story, a modern moral is that no matter how much pain and destruction a victim of domestic violence endures mentally, physically, or sexually, there is someone willing to listen to you and believe you and help you escape and be saved from the clutches of your abuser.

According to the University of Southern Mississippi’s Little Red Riding Hood Project (USM Project), there are at least sixteen English versions of the classic fairy tale.

Here’s a summary to refresh your memory:

Red Riding Hood, a little girl wearing a red riding hood, sets out on foot to visit her grandmother. At the start of her journey, Red Riding Hood encounters a wolf, The Big Bad Wolf. The wolf wants to eat her but knows there would be too many witnesses and chances for him to get caught if he did it in the open. So, he gets the innocent Red Riding Hood to reveal where she is going: “I’m going to my Grandmother’s house.” She proceeds to tell the wolf exactly where Grandma lives.

The wolf, in order to buy some time, convinces Red Riding Hood that fresh flowers would be a great gift for Grandma. Red Riding Hood agrees and sets off into the forest to pick flowers, while the wolf makes a beeline for Grandma’s house.

As Red Riding Hood is picking flowers, the wolf is eating Grandma alive. By the time Red Riding Hood makes it to Grandma’s house, the wolf has already disguised himself as Grandma, dressing up in her clothes. Upon seeing her grandmother (a.k.a. the wolf), Red Riding Hood becomes suspicious but isn’t quite sure what’s wrong with Grandma. Red Riding Hood notices her bigger nose, eyes, and body. But by the time she realizes it’s actually the wolf, she’s trapped and she is eaten alive, just like Grandma.

The wolf falls asleep, exhausted from his feast, and a lumberjack, a friend of Grandma and Red Riding Hood, comes to visit. The lumberjack enters and realizes Grandma and Red Riding Hood are missing, sees the sleeping wolf and his bloated belly, and knows in an instant he must have eaten them alive. The lumberjack takes his axe, kills the wolf, and opens the wolf’s stomach, setting Grandma and Red Riding Hood free. The wolf is dead; Red Riding Hood and Grandma are safe.

Domestic violence/intimate partner abuse is a growing and often ignored epidemic in the United States. Most victims will never be heard because they are too scared, too ashamed, or already dead at the hands of their abuser. According to a 2000 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and The National Institute of Justice, one in four women (25%) has experienced domestic violence in her lifetime. A related 2006 study by the Allstate Foundation determined that nearly three out of four (74%) of Americans personally know someone who has been a victim of domestic violence.

If this many people are affected by domestic violence/intimate partner abuse, why isn’t anyone talking about it? Are you talking about it? It is not a subject we discuss in the break room at the office or on the sidelines of soccer games. As enormous as the problem is, why not? It could be because most of us consider the subject too personal and intimate to discuss with strangers or casual acquaintances. Or maybe we don’t discuss it because we really don’t understand what it is.

The website for The National Domestic Violence Hotline provides the following definition of domestic violence:

  • Domestic violence can be defined as a pattern of behavior in any relationship that is used to gain or maintain power and control over an intimate partner.
  • Abuse is physical, sexual, emotional, economic or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person. This includes any behaviors that frighten, intimidate, terrorize, manipulate, hurt, humiliate, blame, injure or wound someone.
  • Domestic violence can happen to anyone of any race, age, sexual orientation, religion or gender. It can happen to couples who are married, living together or who are dating. Domestic violence affects people of all socioeconomic backgrounds and education levels.

To make a statement and give a visual to the troubling statistics of domestic violence and intimate partner abuse, I challenge anyone who has ever been a victim of or knows a victim of domestic violence/intimate partner abuse to dress up as Red Riding Hood for Halloween.

This is the “The Red Riding Hood Project.”

Note this is not the little Red Riding Hood Project, because there is nothing small, diminutive, or weak about Red Riding Hood. Red Riding Hood is strong.

To be clear, since the wolf can be a man or a woman, Red Riding Hood can also be either a man or a woman. This isn’t a gender-based challenge. I am a female who has experienced physical and emotional abuse at the hands of an intimate partner. I know my story and share my story as a woman. I also acknowledge that men also suffer greatly at the hands of the female wolves among us. According to a 2010 survey one in seven men experienced severe physical violence by an intimate partner. So, I would like to see some men wearing red capes and hoods this Halloween, too, in support of ending domestic violence/intimate partner abuse.

Domestic violence and intimate partner abuse affects nearly all of us. Like finding a cure for cancer, we must work together alongside the health professionals and researchers to put an end to this silent and deadly disease lurking in our society. Let’s make Halloween 2012 one to remember and one that brings strength to those who feel no one cares about their pain and abuse.

More details about the Red Riding Hood Project can be found on Ms. Carrasquillo’s blog, Paula’s Pontifications.

The Little Red Riding Hood Project, University of Southern Mississippi

The National Domestic Violence Hotline 

National Domestic Violence Resource Center, Domestic Violence Statistics

National Center for Injury Prevention and Control of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, 2010 Summary Report (PDF - 4.27 MB) 

Escaping the Boy: My Life with a Sociopath


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Paula Carrasquillo

Ms. Carrasquillo lives and works in the Washington, D.C. area. She earned a master's degree in communication and adult education from Regis University in Denver, Colo. and a bachelor’s degree in English from Frostburg State University in Frostburg, Md. In addition to her column for The Washington Times Communities, Ms. Carrasquillo contributes and edits stories for various online outlets including Elephant JournalPaula's Pontifications, and Places to Yoga. She also works as a Web editor and analyst for a Fortune 500 company headquartered in Bethesda, Md. In May 2012, Ms. Carrasquillo published her first novelette, Escaping the Boy: My Life with a Sociopath. Visit her online portfolio to learn more about her education, career experiences, and her next book.

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