Tag Archives: domestic violence

It’s Okay to Kill Men

The jokes were seemingly endless.  “No hard evidence.”  “Won’t stand up in court.”  This was part of the chaos surrounding the infamous John and Lorena Bobbitt fiasco from two decades ago.  In June of 1993, Lorena Bobbitt was an Ecuadorian immigrant living in Arlington, Virginia and married to a former U.S. Marine, John Bobbitt.  Lorena claimed John returned home in a drunken rage one night and raped her.  In retaliation, she grabbed a kitchen knife and severed his penis.  Then, she fled their apartment with the organ in her hand, dropping it into a field.

The story quickly made international headlines, and Lorena Bobbitt became an instant feminist heroine.  And then, the jokes started – about John Bobbitt.  Everyone, it seemed, especially television and radio talk show hosts, had a good time with it.  Women in my own workplace laughed out loud about it, carrying on as if they were discussing the antics at a family dinner.  But, I noticed no one made fun of Lorena Bobbitt.

Exactly one year after the Bobbitt incident domestic violence took a deadlier turn when O.J. Simpson was charged with murdering his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and a friend of hers, Ron Goldman.  Shortly after Simpson’s arrest, a group of women’s rights activists, led by Los Angeles-based feminist attorney Gloria Allred, demanded that Simpson be put to death, if he was found guilty.  Legal semantics did not concern them in that Simpson qualified for the death penalty under California law because supposedly he’d murdered two people at the same time.  Too many men, they declared, had murdered their female partners and gotten away with it.  They wanted an example made of Simpson.  Keep in mind that they called for Simpson’s life even before he was arraigned in court and long before the actual trial began.  But, amidst all the talk about the volatile relationship between Simpson and his ex-wife, one person was consistently left out of the picture: Ron Goldman.  He was hardly mentioned.  In fact, he was almost always referred to as “her friend,” meaning Nicole Simpson’s.  It took a lawsuit by Goldman’s father to bring Ron’s name to the forefront.  But, even now, Ron is still often referred to as “Nicole’s friend.”

Four months after the Simpson case erupted family violence took yet another tragic turn.  In York, South Carolina, Susan Smith placed her two young sons in her car and rolled the vehicle into a local lake whereupon the boys drowned.  Smith claimed that a man had carjacked her.  As with the Simpson case, race played a significant role because Smith had specifically stated a Black man had committed the crime.  As officials scoured the local area for the missing car, they also descended on every Black man in the county.  Not just those with a criminal record, of which there were few.  Virtually every Black make who passed through York, South Carolina found himself with a target on his back.  Finally, after intense scrutiny, Smith confessed to the unthinkable: she had fabricated the entire story, from the kidnapping to the pleas for her boys’ return, and led police to her car.  She had driven it into a local lake – her toddlers strapped into their car seats.  The boys’ bodies were still entombed in the submerged vehicle.

The media did a good job of showing many women lovingly holding onto their children, as if to emphasize that most women wouldn’t dream of behaving like Susan Smith.  In the Simpson case, however, the media didn’t make any effort to note that most men don’t abuse, much less murder, their wives or ex-wives.

Then, during her trial, Smith made a stunning accusation.  She claimed her stepfather, Beverly Russell, had molested her as a teenager.  And, after Smith was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison, the focus suddenly shifted away from her and her dead young sons and onto Russell.  And the same band of feminists who had been so quiet throughout the trial suddenly rose up in anger, demanding that Russell be investigated.  And, just like Ron Goldman, Smith’s two sons were lost in the heated discussion about domestic violence.

I thought of these cases Both the Bobbitt and Simpson cases brought the ugly specter of domestic violence into a new light.  Virtually every analysis of this subject, however, has focused on males as the aggressors.  If anyone mentions the term battered husbands, they are met with incredulity.  But, in a 1974 study of couples in which violence had occurred, researcher Richard Gelles found that while 47% of the men initiated the violence on a wife or girlfriend, 33% of the women did the same to a husband or boyfriend.  In 1980, Gelles joined with fellow researchers Murray Straus, a pioneer in family violence research, and Suzanne Steinmetz, another prominent sociologist, to analyze an even greater number of similar situations and found that the percentages had increased exponentially – for women.  In 1999, University of Wisconsin psychology professor Terrie Moffitt confirmed those findings and added that, contrary to feminist proclamations, women don’t often initiate violence as a measure of self-defense.  They are often the aggressors.

Admittedly, roughly 75% of arrestees in domestic violence cases are male.  But, does that mean men simply are more violent?  Or, that police are more likely to arrest men?  Still, the idea of women being violent is somewhat foreign.  It contradicts the stereotype of the helpless, passive female.

So, just how many battered men are there in this country?  No one knows.  Despite years of analysis – even of that particular subject – researchers still can’t present an accurate count.  To feminists, this proves that domestic violence is strictly male-on-female and nothing else.  But, to those studying this issue from an analytical perspective, it points to a cultural definition of manhood.  Men who are abused emotionally or physically by women are considered weak; the objects of ridicule; less than human.

To me, it points to a long-held assumption that violence against men is perfectly acceptable; that the male life is expendable.  It starts in infancy, when many newborn males in the United States are routinely circumcised without any type of anesthetic relief and for no established medical purpose.  The procedure became common in the early 1950s in the U.S. and soon reached a peak of roughly 90% within a few years.  That figure remained relatively steady for the next 30 years, when it began to decline.  By 2010, the rate of newborn male circumcisions had dropped to an astonishingly low 40%.  But that’s been a difficult battle to fight.  It’s still perfectly legal to sever part of an infant male’s penis for the ridiculously mere purposes of religious means or aesthetic sensibilities.  Any efforts to ban the procedure – even at a local level – have always been met with hostility and ultimately abandoned.

Yet, in the 1990’s, the issue of so-called female circumcision became prominent, and women’s rights activists pushed for laws to ban the procedure in this country.  They achieved that in 1996 with the passage of the Female Genital Mutilation Act, which received 100% support from all members of the U.S. Congress and took effect immediately.  Opponents of FGM declared that female circumcision is worst because it removes all of the genitalia, while male circumcision only removes part of the penis.  That’s like saying, if you’re going to hurt somebody, stab them.  But, for God’s sake, don’t shoot them.  Still, FGM never has been practiced in the U.S. or most other developed nations.  Personally, I’d never heard of it until the early 1990s.

On the issue of child abuse, male children are six times as likely to endure physical abuse and ten times as likely to suffer injury than their female counterparts.  Some school districts, even at the elementary level, maintain policies that forbid corporal punishment from being administered to girls, but not boys.

And then, there’s Selective Service.  Mandatory military service for men in the U.S. ended nearly half a century ago, but Selective Service was reinstated in 1980.  All males in this country are required to register for Selective Service within thirty days of turning 18.  While there’s no penalty for late registration, there are some severe penalties for failing to register; such as an inability to obtain financial assistance for college, find employment, or get a driver’s license.  Non-registrants can be fined several thousands of dollars and be imprisoned.  Even men who are only children or only sons and those who are physically disabled (but can leave their residence under their own power) are required to register.  Selective Service means young men can be drafted into the military in times of national crisis; meaning they can be forced into a war; meaning they could get killed.  It turns young men into cannon fodder.  Yet, all of that is perfectly acceptable.

Not until 2013 did the United States finally allow women already enlisted in the military to serve in combat roles.  But they still can’t be conscripted.  And Americans remain squeamish about the thought of women coming home in body bags, or with missing limbs.  Apparently, though, we’ve made peace with seeing men return like that.

In the realm of capital punishment, men comprise 98.5% of death row inmates.  Death penalty opponents often point out the racial disparities in meting out capital punishment, which are valid.  But, in reality, the death penalty is more sexist than racist.  And, when women are sentenced to die, the objections are especially boisterous.  In 1984, Velma Barfield of North Carolina became the first woman executed in the United States since the Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment eight years earlier.  At the time, she was only the tenth woman executed in the U.S. since 1900.  Barfield poisoned a number of people to death, including her own mother.  But, when she was sentenced to death, a tidal wave of protests, including some by religious leaders, ensued.  And, the same cacophony of protests surrounded the execution of Karla Faye Tucker here in Texas in 1998.  No one actually has declared that it’s immoral to execute a woman, even if she is a proven killer.  But, it seems to be implied.

I’m not trying to defend the likes of John Bobbitt or O.J. Simpson.  Neither has been an upstanding citizen.  And, no one really knows what happened those two different nights so many years ago, except the parties involved.  The police had been called to the Bobbitt home several times in the months preceding the knife incident.  As one observer put it, to say that John and Lorena Bobbitt had marital problems is like saying Jeffery Dahmer had an eating disorder.  It somewhat trivializes the entire matter.

Violence is violence, regardless of gender, race, age, or any other attribute.  It’s morally wrong and it serves no purpose.  We need to stop putting prices on people’s lives and categorizing violence according to how much injury the victim incurs.  Despite decades of progress regarding basic human rights, most societies – even those with high standards of living and educational rates like the U.S. – seem to believe it’s okay to kill men.  Except in rare cases of self-defense, it is not okay to kill anybody.

 

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV)

Image: J.L.A. De La Garza

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An Ensler Prayer

broken-heart

As part of her “One Billion Rising” movement – which brings much-needed global attention to the issue of domestic violence – feminist activist, author and film documentarian Eve Ensler wants everyone to think about Valentine’s Day more in terms of vicious behavior than love and romanticism.  In fact, she apparently feels Valentine’s Day should focus exclusively on domestic violence, a serious and ongoing dilemma that affects countless numbers of people.  Notice I said ‘people.’  Ensler says ‘women.’  Like most liberal extremists, Ensler perpetuates the myth that domestic violence impacts only those of the female persuasion and – more importantly – declares that, by mere virtue of our gender, males are inclined to inflict it upon those females; as if it’s some instinctive behavior that must be removed like tonsils.  I’ve heard that claim for years, and it still pisses me off.

Ensler is perhaps best known for her play “The Vagina Monologues,” which she first presented in 1996 in an off-Broadway theatre.  The plot is simple: women openly and unabashedly discuss their genitalia.  Everything from childbirth to rape is mentioned, as the characters hope to remove the stigma surrounding the female physique.  It was bold and innovative and it won her a slew of awards, including an Obie.

The success and popularity of “The Vagina Monologues” led Ensler to create “V Day,” a global activist movement to halt violence against women and girls that Ensler launched on Valentine’s Day 1998.  It addresses such matters as honor killings, female circumcision and sex slavery; issues that some small-brained people wish would just go away.

I understand the severity and complexity of domestic violence.  I know millions of women every year, around the world, suffer through it.  Ensler tries to give a voice to them.  But, domestic violence isn’t so clear-cut; it doesn’t follow conveniently prescribed lines – racial, cultural, religious and not even gender.  As shocking – and politically incorrect – as it may be, men are victims of domestic violence.  So, are infants and children.  But, there are really no special laws to protect those of us who aren’t adult females.  Now, Ensler is trying to hijack Valentine’s Day and morph it into a fashionable avenue towards violent relationships.  Again, the focus is on women as victims.

As part of V Day 2013, Ensler – the daughter of a Jewish father and a Christian mother – has composed a “Man’s Prayer,” in which she invites men “whose confidence comes from the depth of my giving/who understands that vulnerability is my greatest strength/who creates space rather than dominates it/who appreciates listening more than knowing/who seeks kindness over control/who cries when the grief is too much/who refuses the slap, the gun, the choke, the insult, the punch.”  It concludes, “May I cherish, respect, and love my mother.  May the resonance of that love translate into loving all women and all living things.”

‘All living things’?

I guess that means infants, children and maybe even us men.  For the record, I’m not a ‘thing.’  Yes, I have a penis, but I’m still not a ‘thing.’  Neither is anyone else.

I’ve known more than a few victims of domestic violence.  I have a cousin on my mother’s side whose first husband broke both sides of her jaw with a heavy-duty flashlight, while she held their baby in her arms.  On my father’s side, another cousin only survived her violent first husband when her father and brother beat the crap out of him and shoved a gun in his mouth.  One of my father’s sisters-in-law used to beat her three kids with whatever instrument in the house was available – until her husband (my father’s oldest brother) stopped her.  Ah!  But, would this latter incident constitute domestic violence?  Or, just child abuse?  Who makes these definitions?

Just after one in the morning on a cold Monday in January 1999, I heard a man yelling at some females in a neighboring unit of my North Dallas apartment complex.  I could tell a young girl was among them.  Moments later, the entire group was in the parking lot just outside my bedroom window.  Initially, I mistook a popping sound for gunshots.  But, when I peered through the blinds, I realized the man had one of the women on the ground, smacking her hard.  My call to 911 wouldn’t go through.  Shirtless and barefoot, I tore out of my apartment in a pair of sweat pants and kicked the man in the face.  I think my actions startled him more than they hurt him.  I looked at the woman, as she lay contorted on the cold, wet asphalt; her face swollen and blood-smeared.  I grabbed her and forced her to her feet.  Another woman had stood just outside my door with the young girl who could have been no more than 10.  I caught a glimpse of that girl’s face; the look of absolute terror burned into my mind.  The other woman rushed forward and grabbed the first one; both stumbling back beneath the breezeway.  The man looked as if he was about to kill me.  But, just as the sound of sirens whirled in the distance, another young man arrived beside me, a pistol in his hand, pointed squarely at the thug.  But, my thoughts were about that little girl and the horrified look on her face.  Was that brute her father?  What was going through her mind?  I never saw her or the others again.  But, I wanted to tell the girl that we’re not all like the guy who bloodied that woman’s face.  Most of us men aren’t anywhere near like that.  I wanted to tell her that so badly, but I never got the chance.

Domestic violence against adult males is another one of those dirty little family secrets.  Yet, if the subject is broached, it’s met with scorn; almost mockery.  People seem to think if men are victims of violence at the hands of their female partners, then they must have done something to deserve it – the way violence against women used to be viewed.

Ensler’s sense of what’s appropriate and inappropriate bears a hypocritical twist.  An original version of “The Vagina Monologues” included a section entitled “The Little Coochie Snorcher that Could” where a 24-year-old woman imbues a 13-year-old girl with alcohol and then has sex with her.  At the section’s conclusion, the girl – now an adult – reminisces, “If it was rape, it was good rape.”  ‘Good rape’?  You’d think Ensler was a Republican.  Protests forced Ensler to remove that particular passage.

My concern is to stop violence altogether – against everyone, not just adult females.  Whenever I’ve mentioned this, people give me that ‘what-the-fuck’ dazed and confused look; as if I’d just said, ‘I’m flying to Mars next week; want to come with me?’  In other words, it’s apparently not possible – or practical – to stop all violence.  Therefore, if we must have violence, it should be against males.  For example, Ensler rants about so-called female circumcision in remote parts of the uncivilized world, but of course, ignores the reality of male circumcision in the U.S. and other developed nations.  It doesn’t seem to matter that every year in this country, between 100 and 200 infant and toddler boys die from the effects of circumcision, or from botched procedures.  It also doesn’t seem to matter that, of the estimated 3 million – 4 million children physically abused in this country every year, approximately 65% are boys.  No, such details are of no concern to Ensler; she only wants to end that violence which affects the females of the species.  So, does much of the rest of the ‘enlightened’ world.  Since I advocate stopping all forms of violence against humanity, I guess Ensler and her minions would consider me a Neanderthal.  I’ve been called worst.

Here’s another cold fact: domestic violence will never be eradicated.  Humans are imperfect and someone somewhere will feel the ungodly need to beat the person they supposedly love.  We can, however, stop hiding it like a secret lover; we can prosecute perpetrators and make victims realize it’s not their fault.  We can also stop making rash accusations against entire groups of people and – more importantly – stop categorizing violence by saying ‘x’ is worst than ‘y’ because ‘z’ is the end result.

Valentine’s Day is one thing, and domestic violence is another.  They’re not interchangeable elements.  People who inflict physical or emotional harm on others aren’t filled with romanticism or love.  They’re filled with hate – and perhaps insecurity.  Personally, I won’t be celebrating Valentine’s Day because I have no romantic interest.  But, I know plenty of men who do – married and unmarried.  And, they don’t need a self-righteous playwright to tell them violence is wrong.  Contrary to feminist theology, we men just sort of know that – instinctively.

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Involved

“I want to speak to your son,” the woman told my father when he opened the front door last Sunday, the 1st.  It was late in the afternoon, close to 5:00, and I had just spent the day vacuuming and dusting my parents’ home.  One of their neighbors, Lisa*, came over with her mother and youngest son in tow.  They seemed okay at first, so we didn’t know why Lisa wanted to speak with me.

But, within minutes, I understood she was terrified.  She’s either the type not to show such emotion, or manages to control herself well in public.  Through her heavy Vietnamese accent, though, she managed to relay what had just happened moments earlier.  Her ex-husband, Tran*, had arrived to pick up their 12-eyar-old daughter for a weekend visit.  The couple had been divorced for about a year.  The Roman Catholic Church had brought them over from Vietnam in the late 1980’s.  Here, they established a comfortable life and had 3 kids.  They’d lived next door to my parents for about 20 years.  I’d met them each once, but didn’t know them as well as my parents do.

Something, however, apparently went awry in that nice suburban existence.  You never know what happens behind closed doors.  Just like things always look great on paper, things can seem perfect for a family when the front lawn is nicely manicured.

There were a few times, when I first moved back here in 2007, however, that I suspected trouble brewed in that brown-brick house.  Standing in my parents’ back yard, watching my dog, I could hear a man’s voice blaring out from a closed window next door.  I only heard his voice, never anyone else’s.  I didn’t know what was going on and I didn’t want to know.  I don’t like to get involved in other people’s business.  No one really does, except the editorial boards of People and Vanity Fair magazines.

At some point, Tran moved out of the house.  She told my parents one day a couple of years ago that Tran wanted a divorce.  But, she refused to grant one, citing her Catholic faith.  My parents didn’t ask questions.  That was Lisa’s and Tran’s business; my folks didn’t want to get involved.

My dog, Wolfgang, alerted us to Lisa’s presence last Sunday.  He’d been lounging by the front door, peering out through the clear glass of the storm door, as he often likes to do.  I didn’t recognize Lisa.  I hadn’t seen her in a while.  I didn’t know the other woman was her mother and I had never seen Lisa’s youngest son.

Lisa’s daughter didn’t want to go with her father, she explained.  She retreated into her room and refused to come out.  When Lisa tried to close the front door on Tran, he damaged it and then left.  Lisa wanted me to come over and sit with her in case Tran returned.

I could just see Tran’s reaction if he did come back to the house he still owned and saw me sitting there with his ex-wife.  If he was that enraged and emotional to threaten Lisa and damage the front door, what would he do if was there?  Once, Lisa and Tran’s son told my parents that the family had gone out and, upon returning to the house, realized that they’d locked themselves out.  One of Tran’s brothers merely retrieved a gun from his vehicle and shot off the door knob.

I didn’t want to get involved.  But, I didn’t want to leave Lisa to fend for herself.  No, she’s not a child, or an animal, or a disabled person – someone truly defenseless.  But, she was obviously scared.  “No,” I told her, “you need to call the police.”

But, she was afraid even to do that; in part because of her heavy accent.  So, I stepped back into the house and called 911 myself.  I hurriedly escorted Wolfgang into my bedroom – since he’s not good with strangers – and brought Lisa, her mother and the boy inside.  Lisa’s daughter had left the house with her older brother.

The first of two police officers arrived almost immediately.  My father and I explained the situation as best we understood it.

“She was concerned the 911 operator wouldn’t understand her,” I told the fair-skinned policeman, a tall figure with a shaved head and bright blue eyes.  “They’re Vietnamese, and she –” I gestured to Lisa – “has a heavy accent.  But, their kids were born here,” I added, “here in the U.S.; in Texas.”

I felt the need to emphasize this latter fact, mainly because I don’t trust the police and don’t know how they’ll react to such circumstances.  They might think this was just an argument between a bunch of dumb gooks and leave it at that.  So, I guess if I pointed out that at least the kids were American-born, then the officer might take it somewhat seriously.

Another officer arrived soon afterwards, and thankfully, they took the case very seriously.  Tran had kicked the front inner door hard enough to impair the lock and – worst – had shoved Lisa.  When my father mentioned the gun incident to the first police officer, his expression proved he wasn’t just going to let this go.

The police remained at that house for a while.  Afterwards, Lisa returned to our house to thank us for calling the police.  “You come over here anytime you’re in trouble,” my mother told her.  “We’ll figure something out.”

As my attack schnauzer went into convulsive barking fits, I stepped outside and told Lisa, “You don’t have to put up with that.  You’re a human being and you deserve respect.  That may be Tran’s house, too, but he doesn’t have the right to terrorize you and the kids.”  I shook her tiny hand.  I didn’t want to try to embrace her.  In my culture, Hispanics consider hugs under such circumstances as a sign of respect and humanity.

I wasn’t afraid of Tran.  I just didn’t want to become mired in his family’s personal affairs.  But, the look of fear I saw deep within Lisa’s eyes told me I couldn’t just stand outside and let it go.  There seems to be a fine line between being nosy and watching out for your community.  Getting involved is sometimes necessary.

*Names have been changed.

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