violence and shame

Author: angiem, 11 24th, 2009

The weirdest thing happened today while I was washing the breakfast dishes and staring out the window at the shadows made on the sidewalk by the weak autumn sun.  An elderly couple, very well dressed, possibly European, or possibly history professors at the nearby university, was out for a stroll, when suddenly the man’s left arm extended out and pushed the woman off the sidewalk.  I was shocked.  I thought my mind or the shadows must have been playing tricks.  But no.  The woman righted herself and got back on.  The man turned and pushed her again.  Right off she went, and this time her knees buckled under and she fell.

And I have no excuse for it, but all I could do was stand there, unmindful of the running water, rooted to the spot, not knowing what to do.  I am ashamed.  I watched as she picked herself up, furtively glanced around, and followed him, careful to keep her distance.  And I still stood, shame washing over me.

A sick feeling came into my stomach and I left the dishes to go peer out through the other windows, making sure she was all right.  Would she be safe?  Would worse happen once they arrived between their own four walls?  I truly hoped not.  But why was she with him?  Why did she stay?  I had and have no answers.

I grew up in a loving home, where the worst my parents did was argue, and even that was a rarity.  Peasants were the wife beaters, because they lacked the culture and the education to know better.  Or so I was led to believe.  And yet this man today, was anything but a peasant.

A friend phoned soon after and I mentioned what I had seen.  ”Hmm.” Was all she said, and I was appalled at the apathy in her voice.  This very sophisticated friend changed the subject and started talking about a new rug she wanted to purchase and needed my opinion on.  And I left the conversation at that, wondering if domestic violence is so prevalent and accepted that it doesn’t unnerve us anymore.

As a mother to two young children I cannot imagine the terror that goes on, both within the woman, and within the children that are living in such a household.  It must be a living hell.  I have read a bit about it on the internet and am horrified at the mind tricks and methods these men use to keep their wives and children terrified of them, and fearing for their lives.

While still feeling ashamed for my cowardly reaction to what I have witnessed, I have made a decision that this holiday season I will see what it is that I can do to put a stop to it.  Will you, too? At least inform yourself, and take a stand against it, in whichever capacity you can.

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34 Responses to “violence and shame”

  1. Jessica Says:

    Oh Angie, I can so relate. I’ve been cowardly before and I still feel shame about it.
    What a horrible thing to witness! If they’re elderly, I have to think she’s been putting up with it for a long time. It’s hard for me to understand the kind of woman who stays in that kind of relationship.
    Grrrr…..
    I like your holiday vow and I’m in.

  2. Jena Says:

    This is awful Angie. Don’t be hard on yourself about not knowing what to do. I’ve been there too. I know of someone in my church who went thru this for many years before she sought help. I had a suspicion about it, yet didn’t ask.

  3. Jill Kemerer Says:

    Dread washed over me when I read this. It’s so hard to know what to do. Bringing awareness and empathizing are vital. Thank you for caring about that woman.

  4. Ava Says:

    I was in an abusive relationship for three years. I knew better however I was too scared to get out. He threatened to kill me.
    My mom pulled me out of there. He is married now and has children. I think about what his family goes thru daily.

  5. Bebe Says:

    Dear Angie, this happens more often than not. You had an idyllic childhood in a loving home. But the reality is that most homes are dysfunctional. It’s a shame that in this day and age men still beat the women who love them.
    The women stay because these men are such manipulators they come to believe that they have done something to deserve it.

  6. krista Says:

    it’s also hard to say if there was anything you could have done. “getting involved” is not always the best thing because it sometimes sets off the abuser in such a way that the person being abused takes the brunt of it when home later. speaking from experience. there is no right answer here. because i also know how it feels to do nothing. and that’s no way to live either.

  7. corine Says:

    How shocking and sad. It makes me want to kick his butt. But that makes me part of the problem instead of part of the solution.

  8. Deborah Says:

    OMGoodness. Do not be hard on yourself because you did not know what to do. But I will say, he is lucky he was not in my view, because in my advancing age I DO get involved! Although Krista does have a good point above. On a happy note, you are a lovely read.
    **blows kisses** Deb

  9. Lydia, Clueless Crafter Says:

    I don’t know if I’m going to be able to make this link easily, but I think part of your disgust toward your inaction comes from the position of being a voyeur into someone’s very private, in this case, hell.

    As we do with art, we gaze on as the canvas, the sculpture or even the happening (staged performance) without chiming in. We are visitors to a different place, removed from any position of power.

    Those two were having their private performance. She the subordinate; he the assailant.

    In their choreographed piece, you mattered so little that you’d certainly feel paralyzed; yet, ironically, without your eyes, the assailant’s malice would go unnoticed.

    It’s a Catch 22 if you intervene or whether you do not.

    (I wrote about how awkward it was to be a voyeur in an artist’s studio, watching on as she underwent fits of creativity that seemed very revealing.)

  10. Renee Khan Says:

    Everyone should take a stand against this. It is a criminal and immoral act.

    I know that I would be shocked too Angie, I have been lucky that I have never had to witness violence except on television.

    Love Renee xoxo

  11. angiem Says:

    Thank you all for your comments. I spoke with an 80 year old friend this morning about this, and she said that back when she had been a young housewife, it had been seen as a way to keep the females in line. Her husband had slapped her around, and she had told her mother. Her mother’s response had been along the lines that she had best start shaping up and acting like a proper wife.

  12. Holly L Says:

    That is a horrible story. I would have been completely shocked too. The other thing I always have to think about when I see something that involves any type of violence, etc….is my children. As much as I may want to help in certain situations, if my children are with me or relying on me, they come first and putting myself in any situation that could even possibly cause me harm in some way does a disservice to them as their protector. I have and will call 911 or for additional help, but you never know these days who is going to do what to you when and if you try to help. I know it is a pessimistic view, but I feel a necessary one when you have kids.

    Holly

  13. La Belette Rouge Says:

    So sad and awful to witness abuse of any kind. I have witnessed violence of children in stores and restaurants and I never know what to do. I fear that if I say anything it will further anger the perpetrator and by saying something the parent will punish the child further when they get home, blaming the child for being confronted.

    I admire your reaction to this. You are an inspiration.xoxo

  14. Karen@SurvivingMotherhood Says:

    It is so hard when you witness something like what you saw - or any kind of emergency, really. Sometimes we go into the “It isn’t my business, I shouldn’t butt in” mode, and we get paralyzed.
    A friend was just saying something the other day about a guy who observed kids beating the tar out of one another, and didn’t “get involved.”
    It happens.
    But I appreciate your vulnerability here. Maybe next time any of us is in your position we’ll be able to remember your story, and act.
    Bless you!

  15. Mary-Laure Says:

    This is poignant. But what COULD you have done? If you had gone out, he might have taken out his anger about you on her later…

  16. Ligia Says:

    Dear Angie, do not feel bad… is just so horrible and at the same time so shocking that I understand your reaction… my book will address this and other issues, but it is such a difficult topic (and at the same time so common) that our societies just want to look the other way… that is a mistake…. through the process of publishing my book I have touched so many people´s lives and I now realized that what you witnesses is sadly very common…. inform yourself, raise your children with a clear conscience that what is right and wrong treatment between couples and the moment my book see the lights… you will help me address this issue in a more hands on way… my book is a tool for healing a tool that I wish I had to stop the bad cycle… so… you will have an opportunity in the future to help women like the one you saw like washing dishes… a more strategic opportunity…
    thanks for addressing this…it just takes being caring, sensitive and more importantly standing by those women that are suffering…

  17. Ruth Says:

    Don’t beat yourself over it for not acting. Sometimes men take an outside intervention as a way to further show their power over the victim. So take it as something to discuss (as you are doing). Awareness is important! I personally know women who have gone through abuse, and from what I have seen and learned, it deeply effects their self esteem and self worth. Too sad.

  18. Evangeline Says:

    As others have said, please don’t feel ashamed of yourself. There is no one right answer for what to do, and sometimes trying to intervene can make things far, far worse.

  19. angiem Says:

    Thank you again for commenting on this issue and making me feel better about my lack of response. I appreciate it.

  20. audrey Says:

    i have a friend who gets involved when he sees something not good happening. it used to embarrass me. i wondered why is he getting into other people’s business. with time i am learning… i might ask a simple question, ‘are you alright? can i help?’ if it does or doesn’t cause more trouble, at least the woman knows someone cares. i haven’t done it yet, but i think about it…

    thank you for raising our awareness on such a difficult subject…

  21. deb @ talk at the table Says:

    I cannot imagine what I would have done. The feeling in the pit of my stomach as I read tells me I would have confronted him and /or consoled her. But sitting here and reflecting on whether or not that would have actually helped or how much I would have been committed to it, say getting authorities involved or finding out who they were etc. , I honestly don’t know.
    It is inexcusable. Despicable.
    And while I’m sure it goes on behind closed doors, I do discuss it with my children hoping to give them the strength they might need to muster up if they found themselves in this situation.
    Wishing you peace of mind in this.

  22. Carrie Says:

    Angie, Just reading what you witnessed leaves me with such a sadness. I don’t know what you could have done at the moment but perhaps, sharing what happened with all of us is a way to keep domestic abuse from being hidden away behind closed doors…and it is your way of doing something.

  23. Tess Says:

    Angie, thank you for sharing. And I know this isn’t a support forum or any such thing but I would like to ask - if you don’t mind - what you think of a husband who berates his wife, either in private or public, or is demeaning towards his wife. He loves her and is faithful to her. He tells her that he treats everyone else that way - his brash behaviour - not just with her. But that doesn’t make her feel better, in fact, it makes her feel worse. He realises his faults and wants to do better. But each time it happens, she gets upset. And so gets moody. And her negative mood then affects him and then he gets upset. I know it isn’t abuse. I know marriages aren’t perfect and there are bound to be fights and disagreements. But when he berates her, she feels small. Is “berating” a part of a marriage, imperfect as it is? Someone else witnessed all this when he came to stay and told her so, that he felt bad for her. So she felt better, that it wasn’t all in her head. Her husband isn’t perfect, but neither is she. So two perfectly imperfect people make for an emotionally charged relationship. Is that how it is? I guess that’s how it is for some people, anyway. Sorry to go on and on. Helps to write. Thanks for listening.

  24. angiem Says:

    Tess, berating isn’t part of marriage. It is actually considered verbal and emotional abuse. If he treats everyone the same way he must have anger issues and needs to address the reasons. There are therapists and classes that deal with anger management.
    An emotionally charged relationship is not a happy relationship. If he is faithful and loving, he’ll realize the damage he’s causing and seek professional help.
    It isn’t easy. That’s how reality is, though. And most men have a hard time admitting that they are in the wrong and need to improve. Maybe someone that he admires and trusts can talk to him about it. Not saying anything about how he treats her, of course, but how he treats everyone in general. Then he won’t take it out on her, and will be more receptive.

  25. Renee Khan Says:

    ‘He realises his faults and wants to do better. But each time it happens, she gets upset. And so gets moody. And her negative mood then affects him and then he gets upset. I know it isn’t abuse.’

    Oh but it most definitely is abuse.

    I notice that the victim here is faulting herself and thinking she is the instigator because she got moody when he was abusive. It gets twisted and the victim is now convinced it is her fault and not his, after all he is trying to change.

    Bull shit. It is abuse.

    Tess, I hope you friend can stay strong and know that there is lots of help out there for her.

    Love Renee xoxo

    No one has to stay in it.

  26. Ava Says:

    I agree with Angie and Renee. This is emotional abuse. Either he gets help or you get out. You deserve to be appreciated for who you are Tess, not put down. As Angie always says, you have only one life. LIVE it!

  27. Ava Says:

    I just noticed that you wrote regarding someone else. I apologize. Good luck to your friend. Hope she makes the choices that bring her happiness.

  28. Barbara Simmons Says:

    Very shocking for you. I think I would have acted exactly the way you did. What could you do? If you had been right there on the sidewalk it would have been different. May not have even happened with others around. Very sad, please don’t beat your self up about it. I hope and pray that the lady can get the strength to help herself.

  29. Ruth Says:

    I wonder if women who are abused by men ever ask “why do you do this to me?” I wonder if a simple direct question would break the emotional mood a man is in when he is hitting another woman. I have wondered, when I was younger and dating, if ever I was in that kind of situation, I would want to have some kind of control. Rather than be silent and take it, or become emotional and further instigate the abuse, if direct communication might get the man talking rather than hitting. I’ve seen physical abuse growing up, and I often wondered if a woman gets just as emotional as her husband during the abuse, it it only exacerbates the situation.

  30. angiem Says:

    It could be that these women are so worn down by the constant attack on their bodies or their minds, that their spirits cannot stand strong. Their reaction could be part of their solution, yet they may never know.

  31. rochambeau Says:

    I will yell out to a person hitting another person. I will call the police.
    Thankfully there are places where mentally and physically abused women to go, at least in large cities. I worked in a special kind of way for woman’s shelter. Violence spans ALL economic and racial backgrounds and every age! Woman need to realize in there own heart that they deserve a non violent life. That they don’t have to put up with violence!!!!!!!!!

    Thank you for this post!
    xox
    Constance

  32. Dana Says:

    I’m in NO WAY condoning domestic violence, as I grew up in a violent home myself - and was actually endangered further when I reported it to my counselor and teacher, who just tattled on me right back to my abuser (he was a school teacher).

    HOWEVER - it could also be possible that the situation might not be what it seemed. My first thought was actually not domestic violence, but mental illness. Angie describes the couple as elderly…what if the man is suffering from Alzheimer’s? I can imagine the situation if my beloved husband’s mind deteriorated. Someone I have loved so fiercely and felt so wildly protective of…if he occasionally turned violent, as Alzheimer’s and dementia patients certainly can and do, could I bear to separate myself from him, or would I shrug it off and continue to love him as best I could?

    It’s an ugly choice to make, and is yet another example of the great gaps we now have in our society, that we might not have other care options, such as family or aides that could assist and protect an older spousal caregiver.

  33. angiem Says:

    Thank you for that comment Dana. The possibility of that never entered my mind. I have been around elderly suffering from dementia/ Alzheimer’s, and know the changes that occur. You brought up a valid point.

  34. Ani Says:

    You know my personality Angie… :-)… sometimes it’s not always the right thing to do, but I would’ve definitely walked outside and asked the lady if she was ok and see if I could do anything to help.

    Before I got married, my friends and I were at Sandy River and there was a couple in the water just going at it… “f” this and “f” that and on and on and on… and their adorable little blond boy started walking into the water towards them… They could care less that their little angel boy is crying hysterically walking toward them in the water as it was getting deeper and deeper…”mom!…mom!” he was only about 2 years old.

    Everyone just sat around the bank of the water looking at this situation in shock… If there’s anything that triggers my reaction, it’s definitely children! I ran and picked up the crying boy and held him close in my arms comforting him away from his “crazy” parents that could care less… it didn’t even phase them what was happening to their little boy.

    I’m crying as I write this just remembering the situation again… If that couple had the audacity to act like that in a very public place and abuse their little boy in such a way… What would they do in a private situation? It just breaks my heart.

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