Several years ago, G. K. was a presenter at a NOW meeting attesting to the fact that domestic violence is not necessarily a one way proposition, man the abuser and woman the victim. Speaking about it publicly for the first time ever, 30 years after it happened, he got emotional and had difficulties in speaking. At that time he promised himself that he would never speak publicly about it again. It was too painful to retell the trauma he had suffered. But he was willing to draft a short essay and this is what he wrote:
“It has been so long since my ex-wife committed suicide with my then seven year old daughter as the only other person in the house. It was that little girl’s task to deal with her dead mother on the floor. Luckily, she knew one phone number, that of her best friend. That suicidal action ended seven years of on and off domestic abuse, both psychological and physical, against me and our two daughters.
“Even then it seemed strange to me that there was so little discussion about the fact that either parent can be the abuser and that either parent can be the victim. And the reason for that is easy to understand–the overwhelming number of reported cases involved men abusing their wives, which is true in the United States and all around the world. Given that men are, on average, 20% larger than their wives and that world-wide women are treated as property as in “I now pronounce you man and wife.” not “I now pronounce you a married couple.” The woman was “given away” by her father to the next male to take charge, the groom. It is also interesting that when the father “gives away” his daughter, his wife sits quietly in the audience. She has no standing in this transfer of ownership from one male to another. So, male dominance in the marital “contract” is institutionalized and encouraging of male-on-female abuse. I get it. But that imbalance of power should never be allowed to mask the fact that sometimes it is the man who is abused in a failed marriage.
“Men are also less likely to report being the target of female rage. It somehow denies their masculinity. It is he who is supposed to be in charge as in he is “the man of the house” and, in such a damaged relationship where he is afraid, he is clearly not in charge.
“I have been asked what happened in my marriage. Actually, I knew that the woman I loved had a near-violent temper even before I married her. But, with my social work background and my love for her, I was sure I could overcome her demons. Obviously, I was naïve. Even with marital counseling and individual therapy things only deteriorated over the years. I have also been asked why I stayed. There were two little girls I found myself protecting and if I left, they would remain with a psychologically damaged adult who was becoming increasingly violent in the expression of her rage. In addition, I was fairly confident that in a custody hearing, I would not prevail since one of the girls was hers from her first marriage. In fact, my step-daughter filed child abuse charges against her mother and was allowed to leave our family to rejoin her father. I was, of course, right about the gender bias in custodial procedures and that is how my daughter was alone in the house with her dead mother.”
“Both girls are now parents in a two parent families. Both have children. It did take years for me to work through the anger one of them harbored toward me for “abandoning” her to an abusive and violent mother. In her young adulthood she just did not seem to understand how laws restricted my options, especially since I was not her biological father. I did the best that I could do for her and, finally, she came to understand that.
“Domestic violence is a scourge in the human family. It seems to be as old as humanity and will probably continue as long as humanity does. However, we can make laws and provide programs which provide victims some protection and some options. We can also make laws which would reduce the danger that some violent partners pose such as the banning of the right of abusers to own or purchase guns when the charge of violent or threatening behavior is made known to authorities. There are limited things we can do but, that means that there are things we can do. Let’s do them.”
What comments do you have on what G.K. says?