23 May 2007

Battering

It looks like I cannot avoid the subject for much longer. I watched a program two weeks ago about abuse and battering. It was so powerful that I found myself revulsed, horrified, frightened and enraged.

Oprah had obtained an interview, including a video from a woman who had been verbally and emotionally abused for 11 years-- beginning shortly after her wedding. She had three children for whom she endured the abuse. The final straw came when her husband had her eldest son, videotaped him beating her while humiliating her and calling her names. That he (her son videotaping or her husband battering) could do that is incredible. The abuse went on for about an hour, most of it on tape and moved from their living room to the bedroom. It was torture to watch. I can't even imagine in doing it, her fear was palpable.
Her escape mercifully came, when her sympathetic employer, assisted her to develop a plan, including code words; that would help her escape, and have her abusive husband arrested.
The woman's initial appearance was heartrending, because although it occurred three years after her escape, and her husband's sentencing to 36years in prison, she still gave the appearance of being submissive, frightened and tentative. She could hardly answer the questions.

Today, Oprah had her return for an update, including an interview with two of her sons, that was just as riveting and painful. In the intervening two weeks. There were hundreds of women, who wrote and e-mailed their personal stories and how this particular event had affected them. Several had escaped their own personal hell, and we're grateful for the information they had received. The woman herself was actually sitting up straight, and seemed to have regained a small sense of her self-worth. She acknowledged, the growth that her sons had made and seemed to be genuinely surprised that her story had made a difference.
Many years ago, I volunteered for the Women's Center, near my home. I heard a few stories and spent my time fund-raising, but I never realized-I never wanted to-the absolute horror of being afraid for your life. I have had relatives who have lived through that nightmare, and I didn't understand. And today, I am sick with the knowledge that I have. And I am saddened that I was unable or unwilling to do anything.

2 comments:

Moi said...

A terrible, terrible issue whose cause I can't even begin to imagine. Nor it's cure. It would be nice if it were as simple as figuring out how to teach our young children self esteem as readily as we teach them math, wouldn't it?

bnmom said...

Shortly after I graduated from college, I drove across the country with my new husband to Green Bay, Wisconsin. My first job was as at a shelter for battered women. In the event that a woman would call 911 for help, she and her children were transported by the police to the shelter for basic needs and counseling. After a short time I was promoted to an office position, where I coordinated the intervention services for the abuser when he got out of jail. It was too much for my very young sheltered conservative military mainstream middle class mind. The women and men I met were enmeshed in a culture of abuse that had endured generations. How do you grow self esteem when there are no seeds? At that time, I thought I had no right to teach because I had no knowledge or background of what surviving abuse really meant.

At this point in my life, 20 years later, I understand that you teach with your life story.

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