Trigger Warning: Violence (physical, emotional and verbal abuse discussed)
Disclaimer: Not everyone is a victim or perpetrator. However, there are still too many wounded women and children, in particular. 1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men experience severe intimate partner physical violence link here. Nearly, 15% of women (14.8%) and 4% of men have been injured as a result of [violence] that included rape, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime. link here. It is impossible not to notice that men are the predominant abusers but the statistics do not imply – nor do I – that all men are abusive or that all women are innocent bystanders in an abusive relationship.
This post is written several hours after seeing the most explosive part of Gayle King’s interview with R. Kelly here: https://www.cnn.com/2019/03/06/opinions/gayle-king-r-kelly-roxanne-jones/index.html
Like many of you, I have watched the news over the last year – with as much detached interest as I could muster – as violent men insisted they were not being violent, while being violent, verbally or otherwise. I certainly don’t need to list them all here.
R. Kelly is simply the latest in a long line of men who feel unjustly held to accountability. Gayle King is simply the latest in a long line of women trying to de-escalate and remain calm in the face of it.
Something about this particular interview, however, tipped the scales for me. And it wasn’t R. Kelly. It was King, who sat across from a flailing, screaming, angry man, with composure. Some laud her as the picture of grace and professionalism. I don’t disagree. But what bothered me most about the situation is that she HAD to do that – as so many women do – to stay safe. Not that it always works.
I know it and you know it too, if you’re a woman who has sat across from, next to, or in bed with, a violent man.
My story with abusive men is long and varied.
My dad was not abusive. He was (and is) a kind and gentle soul. As a little girl, I wanted to find a man just like him. In truth, some of the boys and men I dated resembled him in certain ways, and some were even kind and gentle, but those guys didn’t last long in my world. The “why?” of it is, of course, a story for another time.
For some reason, so many of them started out okay, but later, when they decided I was “too much trouble” or “not good enough” (for reasons known and unknown) they felt the need to punish me.
(Or more likely, were angry at themselves for wanting me anyway. At least, that’s the way it seems all these years later, through the looking-glass of time.)
One of my earliest unpleasant memories is light, in the realm of abuse. His name was Dave, and he hid me in his closet when someone knocked on the door. We’d been making out just minutes before but he said to me when he came to fetch me, “You’re okay as a friend, but I wouldn’t want anyone to think you’re my girlfriend.”
Then there was Randy, a guy who stopped the car at a busy intersection and got out, dodged traffic and then stood on the sidewalk screaming that he wouldn’t get back in the car until I agreed to shut the eff up. The best part? We were on a double date at the time and the other couple was in the back seat, scrambling to get out before we got hit. I begged him to come back and I’d be quiet. He did and I was.
Tim reached across his kitchen table and slapped my face. My crime? I’d used a curse word. I can still see his face, twisted in disapproval as he said, “You disgust me!”
Most likely because I was with him for the longest time, my (late) ex-husband’s laundry list is lengthy. He left me on the side of the freeway (more than once) because he didn’t want me in the car with him, chased me through our apartment complex for all the world to see and when he caught me, held my arm so tight it bruised as he dragged me home. He ripped doors I’d locked off hinges, punched holes in the walls, pulled me by my hair in front of our children and continually jumped out of the car to fight people who cut us off in traffic. Did he hit me? No. But the threat of violence was always there.
(Years later, he and I were able to make amends, thankfully. I always feel the need to share that, as it took great courage and heart on both our parts.)
And don’t even ask me about strangers…
Like the guy I tried to reason with in the parking lot of a mall. It was a sweltering July afternoon and he’d left a dog in his truck. That tiny little cab with a window cracked. I was working for the humane society at the time and was wearing a t-shirt that said so. I was nervous but I tried to reason with him, kindly. “I’m not sure if you realize how hot it gets in the car,” I said. He was not kind in return. He ripped me a new one and scared the living shit out of me. I pity the dog and his girlfriend, who slunk behind him.
I was cleaning my car in our driveway last summer, sitting in the driver’s seat with a chamois cleaning the console, when a guy walked behind my car. I looked at him in my rear view mirror. He stopped and yelled, “What are you looking at?” I said, “Nothing,” as I rolled up my windows and locked the doors. He stood for a moment and then continued walking.
I could go on and on and on. Most women could! And that’s what makes me so angry.
For all the progress we’ve made to be ourselves, speak our truth, shout in agony and anger for being unjustly attacked…
Watching that interview made me feel like we haven’t made progress at all.
I wonder what would have happened if Gail King had stood up and said, “You know, this is NOT OKAY!”
We can guess, can’t we?
What surprised me more were the comments on her Instagram after she held herself to that higher standard we discussed. She was called every vile name you can think of. I won’t repeat one word of the vomit that splattered her post. It was vile.
So, King didn’t win by being calm and she wouldn’t have won being assertive and she certainly would not have won being combative.
Lose/ lose/ lose.
I’m not even sure why this interview felt more violent or worthy of a blog post than others. Perhaps it’s the juxtaposition of King, standing down, and Kelly, standing up. So many are applauding her for de-escalating the situation. Just once, I’d like to see a man realize he’s losing it and catch himself before it’s too late. Is that too much to ask?
I’m tired of violent men continuing to be being violent and their victims having to rise above to save themselves. It hurts my heart and soul.
The answers are not obvious or easy. Choosing to stand up for yourself may put you further into harm’s way.
Is it ever worth it? You tell me.
At this point, I’m willing to talk about it here, which seems like one small step forward. So small. But forward, ever forward.