Husband Beaters, Ctd

A reader sharpens the discussion over female domestic violence, which the Dish broached back in June:

I think both readers you recently quoted regarding Janay Rice hitting Ray Rice have valid points. What bothers me is that it seems to be treated as a zero sum game when we talk about reciprocity in domestic violence. Do women have it worse than men? Of course! Does that mean that violence against men shouldn’t be mentioned? I don’t think so. If anything, I think it would help the conversation if men understood how universal it is. Not talking about it seems like it only encourages men to accept abuse until they snap back. That by no means justifies when they snap, but it does contribute to it. And just making that point clear definitely doesn’t mean men have it anywhere near as bad as women in domestic violence.

This should not be a contest of who is more oppressed. Everyone suffers from toxic or outdated expectations about gender. The more open and nuanced the conversation, the better.

Two male readers share their stories of abuse:

Never thought I’d be writing to someone about this, but your discussion is prompting me to write. I suffered a severe beating at the hands of a former girlfriend – broken nose, splinters (from a 2×4) in and around the eyes.

The incident, for lack of a better word, went on much longer than it should have simply because for me to defend myself would have involved my committing violence against a woman – such an ultimate “no no” that it’s practically etched on most (stressing “most”) men’s DNA.  I have sisters.  If I had touched my sisters in ANY WAY, my dad would’ve killed me.

I finally realized that if I didn’t do something, the woman in question might literally not stop, and I was somewhat disoriented as a result of the nose-breaking shot to the face with the 2×4, with which I was still getting hit.  I finally took her down to the floor as gently as I could and – I can hardly believe I’m writing this – put a hand around her neck, just enough to let her know it was there – and said “Stop.”   This served to make her snap out of the rage she was in.  It was like a light switched off, and then it was over.

I woke up the next morning and didn’t even recognize myself.  I have a driver’s license photo taken seven weeks after the event in which a black-and-blue shadow can still be seen along one side of my face.  It took two years for a splinter lodged near my temple to finally dislodge itself, and I have some scarring around one eye.  This was almost 30 years ago.

For a long time I thought I must have brought this on myself.  I mean, isn’t this kind of thing unheard of?  All I can say is that I found out years later that she got physical with her next boyfriend, and I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you that a great burden was lifted from me upon hearing that news.

I’m not saying in any way that Ray Rice was justified in hitting his fiancee/wife.  But sometimes – stress “sometimes” – these things are more complicated than they appear.

Another quotes a reader from another post:

Men are far, far more likely to injure, abuse and murder their partner than women are; it’s not a remotely equal situation, and treating it as such undermines the very real danger millions of American women are facing every single day.

What an absurd argument for the second writer to make regarding the need to crack down on female abusers.  This is not a zero sum game. Abuse is abuse, and the message can be universal without detracting from the fact that women are the more likely victims.

And quite frankly, speaking from experience, when you are on the receiving end, even as a man, it is your own personal hell and statistics go right out the window.  My partner liked to attack me while I was sleeping.  I would wake up in total confusion and then immediately try to restrain her.  I outweighed her by 80 pounds, but to hold a physically fit person by her wrists in the hope she will calm down when she is amped on adrenaline is an exhausting test of stamina.  Trust me: the person’s legs are free to kick out and a determined person can reach a neck with her teeth.

Even in a progressive city like Seattle, she counted on the expectation that she could shame and endanger me by calling out loudly for help as I held her back.  When the neighbors knocked on the door, you can bet your life I opened it as fast as I could, brought them inside and explained exactly what was going on (she often had been drinking and was still “ornery”). I consider it a modern miracle the police never came.

But that is the problem. Neighbors and society, in general, still shrug off the acts of female abusers.  It can’t be that bad, or “legitimate,” if the bad guy is a “bad gal” who is cute as a button and a hundred ten pounds in her stocking feet.  It even worked on me. The aftermath would be tears and apologies that left me feeling sorry for her and guilty about not doing a “better job” to avoid bruising her wrists in the act of holding her down.