The hidden half of domestic violence
By Trudy W. Schuett
The biggest myth surrounding male victims of domestic violence is that
they are somehow supposed to be able to defend themselves; that there's
something wrong with a man who can't 'control' his wife/girlfriend/significant other. The problem with this myth is that is it
wrong. When two people enter into a relationship, there is no consideration of 'preparedness,' or control.
A loving relationship begins for entirely different reasons.
The beginnings have more to do with comfort. Two people enjoy each other's company and therefore eventually decide to live together, and though it is of course much more complex than that, nobody goes into a relationship thinking, "How will I need to control her?" The violence evolves later, in a setting that all of society agrees is the safest place in the world for anyone to be; their home. How does one prepare for or defend against something that's not supposed to happen at all?
Most men aren't ninjas or Navy Seals; even if they are, they have to be
off-guard sometime. Where else but at home?
The second biggest myth is that women, with their obvious childbearing and nurturing capabilities, are somehow less-inclined to or even incapable of violence. Yet history is full of women who left the kids at home and we went out and fought wars such as Boadicea, and Molly Pitcher-and what about the women who served in the in the Gulf War? All of these women went out and killed people. Native American legends in many tribes across the country have many women who either killed their children or husband, and some even ate them!
On television on any given day, women can be seen expressing their
more-violent tendencies. There's Buffy the Vampire Slayer, kicking butt, who sometimes 'accidentally' injures her main squeeze, even though he's a big, hefty, commando-trained dude. This is supposed to happen-after all, he's only human, unlike her previous vampire sweetie who was already dead, anyway. There's "That 70s Show," where the men are regularly (several times an episode) slapped around by the women whenever they say something the women think is stupid. In this case it's a generational thing, where the son, who sees his petite mom hit his 6-foot dad, so he has a girlfriend who hits him, too! Not long ago on the USA network I saw a brilliant demonstration of how to take down a big guy, if you're a short woman. I refuse to elaborate!
What about "COPS"? If this is 'reality,' then think again. If the reality is
that women are somehow genetically less violent, then what are the female officers throwing suspected criminals on the ground for? Why are female suspects fighting with the big, male cops?
The third myth is that women, due to their lesser size, are somehow less
dangerous than men. This is also wrong. It is because of their lesser size
that they are more dangerous. Why? Because women use weapons. Practically anything can become a weapon in the hands of an angry, out-of-control woman.
A CD case, a bent paper clip, a simple nail file can become harmful, even
lethal weapons. Most women know that to hit a man with her fists is simply not effective if her intention is to cause harm. We are not talking about all women here. Most women love and respect the men in their lives. Their husbands, fathers and sons are safe in their care, as are most women when it comes to these same husbands, fathers, and sons.
Most women would no sooner hit their husband than take a trek to Antarctica, but some women do. Unfortunately, far more women have hit their husband than taken a trek to Antarctica. It's somehow OK to give the old man a slap or a punch now and again, just to make sure he's paying attention. Some women throw things, like dishes or books, and others use their $50 acrylic fingernails for all kinds of things besides looking nice.
"Oh. Well, she was just mad," they say. Or drunk, or 'on the rag,' or
feeling neglected, or whatever. Is this OK? Once, maybe. But only once.
More than that, it becomes domestic violence, and when it's a usual thing,
it's time for the guy to get the hell out, if he can. So, where are the programs? The resources? Mostly nowhere. Because the guys
aren't talking. Would you? Would you admit that your wife beats you? Hardly anybody ever does admit to the fact that their charming, lovely significant other could or would ever cause them harm. And, if you were the Executive Director of a woman's shelter, would you be too willing to cut off a single dime of your funding by saying sometimes your own clients may possibly actually be perpetrators and not 100% always victims? Ooh-tough call.
All we can do right now is go on what is called, 'anecdotal evidence,'
which amounts to one person telling their story to another. (This is how the gargantuan organization known as Alcoholics Anonymous got started, by the way. Somehow they lost focus, but that's neither here nor there.) Networking between people can be a powerful force for good.
I will begin right here, with my own story. It's far too simple, I know,
but it's in a way, illustrative of the fact that a single snowflake can
become a snowball. Nobody dies or is jailed, so if you're looking for drama,
I guess you'll hafta tune into "ER" (Thursday night, NBC, check your local
Back in the early '80s I was the mother of a toddler, and reasonably happy
wife of a guy who worked in a prototype garage in Detroit. Happy? Hell, I
was ecstatic! Nice, 4-bedroom house in the city with 2 baths, two kitchens, even! We loved to cook, and blessed the former owners for being smart and having both a summer and winter place to turn on the oven. There was also a grape arbor in the backyard, as well as an excellent two-car garage with plenty of room for my husband's projects. He's a highly intelligent guy with a huge dose of mechanical understanding, so there was always something going on back there.
Then overtime hit. My husband was working 10-12 hours a day, and he'd
gotten into the habit of stopping at the local bar after work. The only
thing he did then at home was sleep. He didn't know what to do anymore than I did, when I look back. This is what his dad encouraged him to do. I wasn't much of a housekeeper (still don't) and my best friend at the time was a nurse who'd been brought up in Grosse Pointe, with a maid, and had never even vacuumed a rug until she got married. She thought you had to sterilize your couch cushions(!) We'd attended LaMaze class together, and it didn't take me long to discover why her fancy friends had deserted her. Mary was an RN whose specialty was long-term care and rehab, so she didn't know jack about babies. She'd married a long-distance truck driver with a booze and battering problem.
Even though the guy scared me, I went over to Mary's several times a week. Like Mary, I was also feeling lonely and isolated. One day, "the Boss," as he preferred to be called, was home when I showed up for our regular playdate. So far the meanest thing he'd done to me was
yell at me for five minutes when I left a banana peel on the sink, when it
should go in the trash. I'd said to him, "I'm not your maid, I'm Mary's
friend, you idiot!" I was conveniently on the outside sidewalk, and ran to
my car. This time, he was right there at the kitchen table where we'd done all our girl stuff. Today, according to him, was Harvey Wallbanger time. He had a blender full, and was offering drinks as well as a head full of strange ideas, so I grabbed my kid and got outta there as quickly as possible.
Later that week, 'my best friend' phoned me and accused me of everything from trying to steal her husband to communing with the devil. Never saw them again. I don't know how long after I did my violent thing (it doesn't seem like much, but read on.) My little boy, Sean was in the kitchen. He'd done something wrong in school, and I was very angry. I was making some cookies at the time, but also deeply upset and hurt at losing my friend. Sean said something I didn't like. Whatever he said, I threw my measuring cup at him. Not a big deal in itself-didn't hit him! The cup bounced off the wall and landed on the floor.
What was a big deal was how good it felt to do that. Throwing something at my boy! Yikes!!! This is twenty years ago, so the order of things are lost, but it seems to me it wasn't long after, or maybe soon before, we went out to a big blow-up sort of party at a farm. I'm told I was abusive and ugly. I know I was drunk. I know I was yelling about something. My husband was driving at the time, and probably couldn't handle me screaming and punching for whatever reason and I woke up the next morning with a huge bruise on my left arm. Other people in the car at the time have since told me nobody understood why I was upset at all. He whacked me, to shut me up, because what I was doing was dangerous enough to kill
everybody in the car. Once he hit me. I've been married to this guy for 26
years now, and he's never again raised a hand.
After that, I got scared. If I could flip out and hit my husband, and throw
stuff at my kid, could I not also 'lose it' and really do one of them
serious harm? Of course, I could. Despite the fact that I am not a large
woman (5 feet tall) I was aware even us 'little girls' can do serious
damage. I've got three older brothers who were always telling me how to
'protect myself.' Add a husband with military training, with similar
concerns for my welfare. All of those things can add up to make a rotten, killing bitch, if out of control. I won't do it. I love my son, and whatever I feel for my husband, I don't care to cause him harm. I can't think of a single male I know who would deserve the kind of treatment I've been trained to use to defend myself. Men are not pigs!
What I do with my anger is go out in the desert, with plates (or any
breakable crockery) bought at rummage sales or the thrift store, find a big
rock, and THROW!!!! It is an incredibly satisfying feeling, particularly if
you've got issues with the kind of people who would've had such things.
When I was living in Detroit, I'd go out behind the cement-block garage and pitch plates. I'd give each one a name, and holler that name as I threw.
Any woman can do this, and this can work anywhere, providing you have a
hard, vertical surface. The cleanup also provides some healing, as well.
Tell yourself you're doing a Zen thing: "Pitch plates, clean up."
Love and light, gentlemen.
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JUNE is Domestic Violence Against Men Awareness Month