By such insignificant things is progress measured.
Here’s a letter to that everlasting doyenne of taste, manners and everything that is right and proper in middle-America, Dear Abby (Sun Journal, 10/19/11). The Dear Abby column, along with that of sister Ann Landers, has been around since before most of us were born. It’s taken on every imaginable topic in the realm of the mundane from the accepted way to install a roll of toilet paper (I’m not making that up), to significant issues about marriage, divorce and children.
But the linked-to letter is perhaps a first in the annals of the column that was first penned by Abigail Van Buren. It’s about domestic violence and it was written by a male victim.
DEAR ABBY: I have been dating “Carmen” for a few years, but in the last year she has started becoming violent when we are having an argument. I think this is domestic abuse, but she claims it isn’t because I’m a man.Now, anyone who’s reasonably aware of the facts about domestic violence knows that the point ”Bruised and Abused” raises is an important one. Beyond the facts that (a) it’s a man writing to Dear Abby, (b) he’s the victim of DV and (c) Abby doesn’t question his status as victim, all of which are important, “B and A” describes his emotional reaction to “Carmen’s” physical violence. It’s clear that, as was established in a study done for the Centers for Disease Control, it’s Carmen who hits first, and it’s Carmen who’s in danger of serious injury.
I’m not someone who can take abuse without repercussions. I’m like a mirror. If someone brings violence into my life, I reflect it back on them. So far, I have restrained my instincts — but eventually I know Carmen will cross the line and I’m going to snap. I have the potential to hurt her badly.
I have tried everything to make Carmen understand how I feel, but she continues to insist it doesn’t matter because I’m so much bigger and stronger than she is. When she hits me, it doesn’t hurt physically, but the anger I feel is indescribable. I’m at the end of my rope and considering breaking up with her before I hurt her.
I don’t want to end the relationship, but I think it’s the only way to make her see things from my perspective. Or should I call the cops the next time she hits me? — BRUISED AND ABUSED BOYFRIEND
I’ve cited that study time and again for the proposition that, if the DV establishment were really serious about protecting women from injury, it would never stop publicizing the study’s findings. The DV establishment should be telling women and girls “don’t hit first.” My guess is that and that alone could save more injury to women than all of the Duluth Model Aggression Wheels ever printed. But of course, in the minds of DV advocates, doing a simple, obvious thing that would protect women, constitutes “blaming the victim.” No, actually it gives her information she can use to avoid becoming one. Apparently they don’t want to do that.
Anyway, Abby’s advice to Bruised and Abused is acceptable, albeit not long on information. It says nothing about how common female-on-male violence is; it offers no sympathy of the “you are not alone” type. The response is more concerned with the welfare of children who “B and A” and “Carmen” don’t even have than it is with the man writing. Maybe that’s because he says she doesn’t really hurt him.
On the plus side, the response correctly points out that he’s the one who’ll land in jail if the violence escalates. He describes himself as larger and stronger than his girlfriend, so, even though she starts it, if he responds in kind, he’ll be the one in jail with the restraining order lodged against him.
“Abby’s” last word is “Run!” and I hope he takes the advice.
But readers didn’t let that advice stand, and “Abby,” to her credit, published their responses both to her and to “B and A.” Here’s the follow-up (SAVE Services, 12/22/11).
The letters responding to” Bruised and Abused” aren’t as knowledgeable as I’d like, but many make good points. They say that much abuse is committed by women; they say that men are raised to never hit a woman and are therefore likely to suffer abuse; they emphasize that what he’s experiencing is domestic abuse, something Abby neglected to mention. The talk about TROs and the need for him to get out while he can.
My point is that this is now part of mainstream public discourse. Dear Abby is read by millions of people. Indeed, it’s about as mainstream as it gets in American life. I’m here to tell everyone that ten years ago or even less, the type of information provided by Abby and her readers would never have appeared. I’ve tracked public perceptions of DV since about 1998 and I can’t overstate how much has changed in public awareness of the reality of DV. Slowly, but inexorably, the nonsense peddled by the DV establishment is being supplanted by both solid science and the type of personal stories that “B and A” and Abby’s readers tell.
As is so often the case, the great mass of people are ahead of policy-making elites. Those elites are the ones who lobby Congress and state legislatures and the ones in office who hear what they have to say. They’re the elected officials who budget money, the bureaucrats who spend it and the countless organizations that live off of federal largess. They’re the foundations like the Verizon Foundation and the Liz Claiborne Institute. Those elites have been wrong and in power for so long that they’re not about to let go of either their precious false notions about DV or their funding. Don’t look for Vice President Biden to call a press conference and say “I got it wrong on DV.”
But the far broader base of people generally, standing on the shoulders of the scientific community are coming to know the truth about DV. And that means, in the not too distant future, the worm will turn.
Thanks to Teri for the heads-up.