Sunday, September 14, 2014

Domestic Violence - A Perspective

Violence, especially domestic violence against a spouse or child, is something that I find abhorrent and difficult to understand.  All the media attention to the Ray Rice story has prompted me to reflect on the realities of domestic violence as well as the way the issue is used and misused today in the divorce system.

As a society we have come a long way. I have read books from the 1800s that quite seriously stated that it was important to hit your wife every once in a while to ensure she knew her place. In the 1950's sitcom The Honeymooners,  the character Ralph Kramden, played by Jackie Gleason, was famous for making empty threats of physical violence against  his wife Alice such as, "One of these days... POW!!! Right in the kisser!" or "BANG, ZOOM! Straight to the moon!" Sadly, for many of those watching, the threats from their spouse was not so empty.  Spousal abuse wasn't even considered a serious problem issue in those days, it was a subject for comedy.

When I was younger, and even today to an extent, there was a lot of debate regarding corporal punishment of children. Many people assumed  and many still assume that if you don't spank your child when they do wrong they would turn out bad because they learn they can get away with doing wrong.  In my view, hitting a child is child abuse, pure and simple. How someone can strike any child, let alone their own child, is bizarre to me. Hitting a child encourages the child to be violent; it does nothing to correct bad behavior.

Spring grew up in a family where corporal punishment was normal. In addition, she was regularly threatened by her siblings. She once told me that for a period of time her brother threatened her with a knife every night before bed. This may explain, in part, her subsequent violent behavior.

My parents were not ones to strike their children. I was taught that we were better than that - violence was what bad people did.

One of the things that strikes me about the Ray Rice case is that the fiancee he beat up is now his wife. My initial gut reaction was to ask why on earth did she marry him knowing how violent he was? It is crazy. But sadly it didn't take long for me to understand. All I needed to do was to breathe through one nostril. I get a good breath through my right nostril but the airflow through my left is maybe half that. The reason is because Spring slugged me. So hard that it shifted my septum enough to impede the airflow through one nostril. So hard that an ENT doctor today isn't even able to put a scope down that nostril. And this was before we were married.

So what the heck was I thinking in marrying Spring? The fact is that despite my shifted septum, despite the bruises, despite the dodges from objects she threw at me, I didn't feel abused.  And I still don't. I am a guy and a product of my culture. We aren't abused by women no matter what the damage. And it isn't like I was cowering in fear which is my image of an abused person. My reaction to her violence was to try to change her behavior. And I think I succeeded. Gradually she became less physically violent. Before we had children she told me she was worried about how her reaction would be to a crying child. By that point she not only had stopped being violent to me she was self-reflecting on her behavior and recognized that it would be wrong to strike the children. I took this a a good sign. In my mind I had helped Spring be a better, a much better, person.

Hoping to change an abusive person is a common reason people stay with someone that abuses them. My guess is  that the reason Ray Rice's wife Janay stuck with him is that she always hoped to change him for the better. To feel you help someone be a better person can be incredibly alluring. It was for me.

Unfortunately really changing the behavior of an abusive person is very difficult. Abusive people want control. Because I was not cowering in fear, I think Spring changed her tactics from violence to using me. She lied incessantly, stole money, committed forgery, and made me do the bulk of housework and raising the children. It was her way of satisfying her need to dominate me. Ultimately I think she divorced me because I just took it. I turned the other cheek. That she could not take. So in a final act she went for the jugular and turned me into an income source. I have to pay her a huge amount of money every month until the day I die. That kind of control must be incredibly pleasing to Spring.

When it comes to domestic abuse almost all the attention is given to abuse by men upon women. The fact that we have a federal law called the Violence Against Women Act is a pretty good indication of that. Other than the title, the act itself is gender neutral but it has never once been successfully used against a female abuser. When it comes to women committing violent acts against men we are in the Honeymooners era. It is a subject for comedy. Ironically, the Centers for Disease Control states, More Men than Women Victims of Partner Abuse.

The horrible reality of domestic violence along with the false perception that it really only is perpetrated by men against women has led to a surreal situation in the courts where false accusations of abuse are incredible common. The statistics show that the vast majority of allegations of domestic abuse are simply false. As because there is virtually no negative consequence to making a false allegation of abuse, they have become routine in divorce cases.

Spring accused me of being abusive. She repeatedly implied in affidavits that I was violent. (but on the witness stand and under oath she did state that I had never once been violent - sadly this did not matter as the damage had already been done) I practically begged the judge to talk to the children and marriage counselors about the veracity of her allegations as they would have all strongly contradicted her but Spring's lawyer always objected. Spring was the only one in the marriage that was abusive in any sense. Not only does it make me sick that she was able to get away with this but my heart aches for my children knowing they have to live with the knowledge that their own mother did such an incredibly horrible and immoral thing.

No comments:

Post a Comment