Thursday, January 27, 2011

It's Only Abuse If He Hits You...

...or so says the law.  We are at a turning point in legislature, people.  Back in the 60s and 70s, they were at a similar place.  Let me show you:

Pre-1950s: Beat your wife.  Beat your kids.  Do it in public.  We don't mind.  It's how you keep them in line, after all.

     RESULT:  A trickle of people begin to think that this isn't right.

Aren't they just the happy family?

1950s:  Beat your wife and kids but do it MOSTLY behind closed doors.  It's alarming to see but totally necessary to keep them in line.

     RESULT:  People are beginning to step in when they see abuse in public.

You could get beaten for stale coffee.  It's in ADVERTISING.

1960s and 70s:  Beat your wife and kids but don't let us see you doing it in public.  Cuz then we have to fill out all kinds of paperwork...    
RESULT:  Women are beginning to stand up for themselves.  Teachers are reporting bruises and injuries on children.  Laws are passed to begin the prevention of abuse.  Most of the abuse definitions are for show and are easily argued away in court.  Programs are begun to offer assistance to victims.  Legal recourse to abuse is in its infancy.
Wait.  I don't have to cook your damn breakfast? TO THE STREETS!!

1980s:  Beat your wife and kids but don't do it in public, don't let them make sounds your neighbors can hear and don't leave any marks because now people are reporting it to the police and family services.  Keep them in line but pretend you don't.   
RESULT:  It is generally accepted that abuse is not okay.  Abuse prevention begins to be a pet project for some big names.  Family law now has to deal with abuse as a defense or grounds for divorce.  Neighbors report arguments, kids are talking to guidance counselors, authors are telling their survival stories. 

Or writing songs about it.

1990s:  Okay, your wife and kids still need to be kept in line but now beating them is just too risky.  Can you, oh I don't know, mess with their heads maybe?  Read up on CIA brainwashing tactics.  That'll get you started.  Then, just think outside the box.    
RESULT:  It is now law that abuse is illegal.  Courts are very much on the side of victims of physical abuse.  Proven physical abuse can get one's children taken from them, hospitals report it, teachers report it, reported numbers rise.  Abusers now have to get creative.
Damn phones.  They're EVERYWHERE.

2000s: Control the finances.  Control their self-esteem.  Take their innocence.  Trap them.  Cause confusion and uncertainty.  Isolate them from people who might empower them.  Make them dependent on you in every way.  But just don't touch 'em.  There, now THAT'LL keep 'em in line.
Verbal face-grabbing.  Now THAT's creative.   
RESULT:  Physical abuse is very illegal.  Emotional, psychological, economic/financial, verbal and mental abuse is now the preferred method.  Courts usually won't recognize these forms of abuse as ABUSE.  They are hard to prove and easy to weaponize.  Legal definitions of abuse may include verbiage about these non-physical types of abuse but it is more for show.  Just like in the 1960s and 70s.
"But he didn't actually hit you?  .........Overruled."

Victims of abuse today are finding more and more often that the system is failing them.  Legal definitions of abuse are generally interpreted as pertains to physical or sexual abuse only.  It is hard to get a judge to rule on any form of non-physical abuse.  No judge wants to rule that the children go with a parent claiming to be a victim of emotional abuse only to later find out that parent made it up to get custody of the children.  There must be some way to legally define non-physical types of abuse that can be provable, enforceable and difficult to weaponize.

Yeah, it's a cat picture.  Sue me.

I admit I don't have an answer to this except that the courts need to make those early mistakes and get some rulings on the books about non-physical abuse.  The courts need to set some precedents, even if they are shaky, for future cases to build on.  We're going to have to make some mistakes as casualties in the long-run of protecting people who are abused in ANY way.

Preach it, B.

I have watched so many lives and families crumble into a gray muck of bleakness because of abuse where no fist was ever swung, no private parts ever violated.  I would even go so far to say that non-physical abuse makes up the VAST MAJORITY of abuse cases.  But you couldn't find a chart or graph showing that because no one cares to count them.

Insert graphic of
imaginary pie chart showing
non-physical abuse majority

A devil's advocate might say, "Prove it."

Pictured:  Smug male privilege.

I would respond, "Give me a judge who will listen and advocate."

                             Justice Sotomayor:  Hey dudes.  I'm a judge now.  Heh, heh.
                             Men Everywhere:    But...but...she's BIASED!!! 
                                                             She might rule in favor of what's right!!!  *GASP*
                             Justice Sotomayor:  /facepalm

What kind of solutions do you have to the problem of non-physical abuse and the prosecution thereof? 
I'd love to hear your ideas. 
Let's begin a conversation. 
Perhaps someone who pulls strings might hear us.

Barry?  Michelle?  Anybody home?


Anonymous said...

How on earth do you even begin to prove that someone is truly emotionally abusive, and that the 'victim' wasn't abused by someone in their past? Even if you could prove it beyond a shadow of a doubt, what sort of punishment would you be looking to extract from the guilty?

Anonymous said...

There's a reason my ex is my ex.

And to be honest? It would have been SO MUCH EASIER to leave him had he hit me. Instead of using his mouth to wound me. No one cares when a man tears you apart with words, only fists.

Christina Boykin said...

@ Anonymous: You pose just the questions I was thinking of when I wrote this post.

How DOES one prove emotional abuse?

If someone is abused in their past, but the current significant other exacerbates that previous abuse, does that count as emotional abuse?

Would we need to have everyone take a standardized psychological test on a regular basis...kind of like testing your driving skills at the DMV?

Would psychologists be required to enter diagnoses into some kind of registry to have proof of when a particular person experienced old abuse vs. new abuse?

How would we define emotional abuse? Whenever a person isn't content and satisfied with life? Whenever another person violates their baseline state of being and causes depression, for example?

These are all good questions. If you were ruler of the world and could make everyone do what you decree, how would you solve this problem?

Christina Boykin said...

@ Anonymous: I can understand your position entirely. I have had some exes that I wished had hit least then I would have been taken seriously when I called his behavior 'abuse.' Instead, half believed me and the other half gave me suspicious sidelong glances wondering if I was making it up because I was mad at him.

I wish wish wish people didn't maliciously use the word 'abuse' as a weapon when it isn't true. It makes it so much harder on people who actually have been abused and need help.

I think malicious exes rank right up there with actual abusers in the "special-circle-of-hell" group.

Electric Burrito said...

The "Smug male privelage" photo cracked me up, and I heart Sotomayer so hard.

That being said, @Anonymous-

The standard of emotional abuse is measured in the same way it is for physical abuse, which isn't always right- if there is evidence that an attitude or that words are harming a family or harming the wellbeing of another person, the person responsible (USUALLY a man but not always) usually will have an injunction filed against them and will be ordered to complete a court ordered batterer's intervention program. Those programs are not ONLY for physical abuse- as a matter of fact, they're more so geared towards teaching people about power and control imbalances in relationships. Anger management is usually the answer to a strictly physical anger problem, but the issue with abusers (ESPECIALLY emotional abusers) is that all it does is teach them how NOT to get caught. Now you've got a smarter, more manipulative abuser.

The batterer's intervention programs are nothing to be scoffed at. They don't always make a difference, but if it helps ONE person to realize that what they're doing is wrong, then it's changed at least one person's world.

Shayshayni said...

And yet, abuse perpetrated against men by women is still a taboo subject hardly anyone talks about.

Just being the devil's advocate, here but not ALL men are assholes/violent/abusive and not ALL women are saints and/or victims. And this is coming from a woman who HAS been abused in many ways by several people.

"In 1998 there were 2,335,000 reported cases of spousal abuse. 1,500,00 women were abused by their husbands or boyfriends. However, many that haven't been around or heard the stories over the years were shocked to see that 835,000 men were battered by their wives or girlfriends which represent over 1/3 of all domestic violence cases. Other reports by the U. S. Justice Department showed that "out of 8,000 men surveyed, 9.7% of male domestic violence victims took out restraining orders. Out of 8,000 women surveyed, 68% violated restraining orders. And, each year, approximately 1 in 1,000 men report violent victimization by an intimate." This doesn't count emotional or verbal abuse."

Source -