(or "Since I've already stepped in it, in for a penny, in for a pound...")
Yesterday I posted a provocative letter I had received after the letter-writer had read an off-handed comment I had made on Colossus of Rhodey
. My letter-writer had written in defense of corporal punishment for men who abused women. We had much correspondence back and forth over a couple days discussing the issue. I am still not clear where I stand on his proposal because I do abhor violence (although I must admit I really do enjoy seeing the violent bad guy who picked on the weak and innocent get it back in spades in the movies). I've certainly been wronged in my life in various ways, and I have never sought revenge. It's not my way. Then again, I have never been physically assaulted.
Nevertheless, as I had mentioned in passing yesterday, I am the repository of many truly troubling stories and the secrets and hurts of many people. Being one of few outstanding skills who will probably never be anyone "important" in this world, I've found the one thing that I can give to others is my ear and my compassion. So what if I can't sleep for a couple weeks after hearing yet another horror story? If my listening and accepting someone who feared no one would care brings some measure of healing into her (his) life, who am I to turn her away?
The friend who was regularly beaten, subjected to indignities I won't repeat, and even raped by her husband who, knowing he would probably try to kill her if she left, finally drummed up the courage to do so because she didn't want their little boy hurt or to grow up in that way. Never was there a sweeter, less argumentative little person than she. How someone could harm such a soul is a mystery, or a nightmare.
Another who was threatened with death regularly by her husband, who was being strangled and was rescued by a police officer. Once the police officer thought he had the situation under control, he turned away momentarily only to find the man again
strangling my friend. Even after hearing the policeman's testimony, the judge, in her wisdom, ordered them to family counseling. So much for automatic prosecution by the state helping an abused woman. It didn't do much for her though it certainly wasn't the fault of the cop who testified on her behalf. She finally escaped, through drastic means, to secure a safe and happy life for herself and her son. She still shuts down out of fear when someone becomes angry with her rather than defending herself because of her conditioning.
A friend whose mother confided in me that my friend had never been quite the same since she was raped* and that that was, in her opinion, why she never married.
Another who refused to let me walk home in the dark because "bad things happen in the dark".
Many others who have confided to me that they as children or teens or that their own children were the victims of sexual assault by trusted relatives or family friends. I simply cannot tell you their suffering, a couple rivaling Sybil for grotesqueness. Twelve have immediately sprung to mind.
Another friend's husband had her up against a wall, fist cocked ready to slam into her face. She cried out, "You do and I'll tell my father and brothers, and they will get you." He shook with rage, she recalled, because she could see in his eyes how much he wanted to, but knew that her particular father and brothers did not fear police or prison sentences and would make him pay dearly.
There are so many others. My head hurts as their stories and faces swirl in my brain. I've had to pause to compose myself many times so far, but I have spared you the goriest details so as not to sensationalize the issue. However, I think I've made my case that there is a real problem of abuse towards women (and children) however secret it might be. Any one who has read my work for any time knows that I do not hate men**, nor blame them indiscriminately for the ills of society. My goal is merely to demonstrate that there is a real need for justice and that we have not achieved it.Paul Smith
pointed out in his comment yesterday that he would not mind if a woman's family knocked some sense into an offending male. I wouldn't either. Many women, however, lack fathers or brothers to come to their aid. Others fear telling, knowing that their loved ones could end up in prison should they seek to avenge them. Furthermore, one of the first things an abuser does is to isolate his victim, cutting her off from family and friends. Then he daily undermines her self-confidence, like Chinese water torture---drip...drip...drip.
I recall a relationship of my own that could have headed down that road. While in high school, I dated a reincarnation of Adonis. He was studying psychology in college and liked trying out little theories on me. He worked to undermine my self-esteem, whittling away with carefully placed comments and criticisms. After we had broken-up, I visited with his brother whom I still considered a friend, as he had requested that I help him with something. He confided to me his great pleasure that we had broken-up--because he truly believed that I deserved better than his brother. He confessed that his brother used to beat a previous girlfriend right there in their home. I was surprised, but not that much. It made sense as I had witnessed cruelty in him. To what I owed my good fortune in having escaped relatively unscathed, I cannot be sure. Perhaps my unspoken vow to never be a silent victim, to never allow a man to physically harm me and get away with it was evident to him. Or perhaps it was my mother who wore combat boots and could reduce a young man to a whimpering mass of flesh with her evil eye that declared no one would hurt her girl. Or at least that's how one male friend described her to me. Anyway, the mind control clearly precedes the abuse in most cases of ongoing victimization.
Most men are not
abusive. Many become righteously angry when those weaker than themselves are harmed. I've seen
that anger in their eyes at injustice. I believe that that masculine propensity to protect begins early on. I recall visiting a cousin a couple years older than myself when I was a kid. Every night around one or two in the morning, the yelling and the hitting and the crying would commence in the apartment above us. I would reach for the phone, poised to dial 9-1-1 but be forbidden to get involved. My cousin would rail against the "ninety-eight pound weakling that should have the crap beat out of him". He was old enough to want to protect, but not big enough to do anything about it. We tried to help her one morning as she was still weeping after he had left for work. We'd certainly heard it all. We begged her to leave, to see a doctor, to press charges, anything, but she was thoroughly brainwashed. I wonder what my cousin, as a grown-up man, would do.
To be sure, a strong male presence can avert danger. I myself have been the beneficiary of such a defense. A too ardent admirer insisting
that I go out with him instantly disappeared once I latched onto an acquaintance who was providentially at the right place at the right time.
But what of my friend's acquaintance? She works at a restaurant and one of her regulars, a great guy, wound up in jail for a year for having the balls to defend a woman being accosted in a parking lot. A year in jail! For doing what a man is supposed
to do! I have heard of rapists being freed after three years because of time off for "good behavior". Three years in exchange for ruining a woman's life! No wonder many won't press charges. To go through all that humiliation only to know he may not face much of a real
punishment? Why put oneself through it?
With courts sentencing habitual wife-beaters to family counseling instead of treating them as the criminals they are, judges trying to repair families where sexual abuse has occurred instead of getting the perpetrator the hell away from his victim forever, often far too light sentences for rapists, and real men being sentenced to jail for being...real men
--well, is there justice? I honestly haven't seen much.
No wonder men like my anonymous letter-writer suggest corporal punishment to put some fear into the souls and bodies of abusive men.
*Please note, of my over a half dozen friends who have been raped, none of them are he said/she said stories or of the date rape variety. There were no murky circumstances involved or misunderstandings or any other such thing. That's not
what I'm talking about and that would be a whole other post, I'm sure.
**To be fair and in the spirit of full disclosure, I've had a couple of male friends on the receiving end of relational violence. In both those cases (and in a third which was second-hand information), I'm proud to say that they used their greater strength and size to de-escalate bad situations, and not to inflict harm on little people who didn't know how stupid
it is to pick on someone bigger. Therefore, this post is not to be taken as an anti-male screed.