Women And Children “First?” No, Not Really

donald-reilly-women-and-children-first-i-mean-come-on-new-yorker-cartoonI was involved in an abusive relationship.  Two, actually.

Possibly more if you think about the emotional abuse I’ve endured being in a relationship with a person who is not so secure within themselves that they take it out on someone they allegedly “love” by using their words which can hurt just as much as open fists at times.

For arguments sake, let’s just say I can contribute a thing or two about the #WhyIStayed hashtag.  When it happened, though, there is a bit of Stockholm Syndrome, and defense mechanisms coming into play.  When I really think about #WhyIStayed, I think the defense mechanisms go back to possibly prehistoric caveman times.  Any moment of weakness would make you prey, would make you a target.  Telling people to mind their own business or push people away who truly care happen because you do start to believe the hype.  You start to believe the things you are told, that you are worthless, a pathetic little shit, ugly, fat, no one will believe you/want you/love you as much as I do.

Though you may see me on Twitter or social media forums making fun of my teams and taking out frustrations by using expletives; in general, I am a pretty happy person.  I have my moments, but a lot of it has to do a lot with limiting beliefs that we are conditioned to believe by our loved ones.  For better or for worse, we are taught to believe stuff for our “own good.”

Though I think every single person I know can add something of value to this discussion, the statistics show it is overwhelmingly women who are taught this.  Perhaps it’s because we are associated with more “emotion” in our rationale, our thinking with our hearts rather than our heads (which, by the way, is complete bullshit, there is something to be said about using your “female intuition.”  Which by the way, has only failed me because my survival defense mechanisms talk me out of what is normally always the right thing for myself).

Statistics also show that in an abusive relationship, it takes women especially seven attempts to either leave or ask for help before doing it for good.

Studies show that when women “recant,” it’s not because they’ve “lied” or are “looking for attention,” but rather they are sweet talked out of it by their significant others, because they do not want to see their loved one or children’s father or whomever to be in trouble.  How many times do we hear “He’ll never do it again,” or “it was just this once,” when it rarely ever is?

I suggest we give up this ignorant and arrogant thinking that all she has to do is leave.

It’s more complicated than that.

I’m sure by now, you’ve seen the articles, many opinions and the video of former Baltimore Raven Ray Rice punching his then-fiancee/now-wife Janay in an elevator, knocking her unconscious.  We’ll hear the apologists who saw the video of the entire incident ask, “Well, she pushed him.” Or, “She might have **said** something to provoke him?”  “What did she DO to provoke him?”

The victim who was knocked unconscious and APOLOGIZED for “her role” in it has to also play defense for her very visible, beloved by many, public figure of a husband.  Who by all accounts is this super/wonderful/straight up good guy who would never ever do something like this, ever.

Well, guess what? He did.  And while we do not know what goes on behind closed doors, I can give you the story right here.  And it may or may not describe the tenure of their relationship, since I do not pretend to know what goes on behind their specific closed doors, but I can assure you of this.

(Mostly) Women (I do know that men can be abused too) involved in physically abusive relationships have nowhere to turn.  If you look at a public figure who seems to have everything going for then — fortune, fame, name recognition, respect for their contributions to society — you also have to believe that there are other factors involved.

I stayed in a seven year emotionally abusive and exhausting relationship because it was bigger than myself.  There were many other factors than myself.  I figured, if I could just “get through this one thing, then we can move on with our lives and be happy again,” seems misinformed and bullshit right now.  But I can tell you at the time, it made perfect sense.  It wasn’t about me.  There were other factors involved.  Luckily, I didn’t have children.  Oh and the second he was unhappy with how I looked or with how I was spending my time socially, he was the one who left.

But that was emotional.  And I found someone who adores me and doesn’t keep me isolated from my friends who bring out the best in me.  Believe me, no one appreciates having a healthy relationship that we actually enjoy each others company.

In situations like this, I can presume — and I could be very wrong — that Janay Rice probably is scared to leave, or fears her husband might do something to her or keep her away from her child.  Since he has the money and means to do so.  This is how abusers draw people in.  They control their money, they control their friends, but have an impact of being charming and drawing people in as well.  This is why we have a culture of abuse.  We are not supposed to talk about it, and people think that if they work with someone or see someone in a public setting or have an image they project, that this is the person they are being presented with.

It’s time to start talking about it.  And it’s time to start having a real discourse about it, and realize it’s not as simple as, “Well, it can’t be *that* bad if she hasn’t left him yet.”

Trust me.  Like life, it is hell of a lot more complicated than that.

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I grew up in an era where it was okay to spank your children.

I’m not sure if it was “okay,” per se.  Ask any child who grew up with one Italian parent, or an Italian grandparent, and they’ll talk about the “wooden spoon.”  Most of us chuckle and nod in agreement.  I was about 10 years old though, when my mother literally chased me into my bedroom to spank me for doing something, I told her to count to ten before laying a finger on me.  She never spanked me again.

I’m not gonna say, “Well I grew up just fine, and I was beaten.  There’s a sense of entitlement in this generatio and damned you whipper snappers and blah blah blah.”   But I’m gonna ask, with the news of Adrian Peterson using a switch to beat his two year old child…

On what planet does a child, at any age, let alone a TODDLER, deserves to get their pants taken down, and beaten on bare skin his private parts, backside and mostly his entire body?  None.  Absolutely not.

In fact, short of gutting an animal alive (which in that case, the child is a sociopath and needs to be institutionalized, immediately), no child deserves that.   Not only physical wounds but emotional trust issues to deal with his entire life.  The people who are supposed to be protecting him are doing this for his “own good.”

Yes, I grew up in an era where spanking your child for discipline was considered okay.  Adrian Peterson is nine years younger than I am.  How, exactly, was he raised that he has so much anger…towards a two year old?

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For years and years, the general public has turned a blind eye to child abuse and domestic violence either accusations or flat-out proof that it has occurred.  This is not a sports and entertainment specific thing.  It’s a cultural thing.  We are conditioned to never talk about it.  The victims are afraid to speak.  One writer I know through social media channels, Julie DiCaro, has written some definitive posts on domestic violence, in response to arrests and suspensions and public outcry when it happens with beloved and respected sports figures.  A few days ago, as a former lawyer dealing with domestic violence victims, she wrote a post targeting the NFL Commissioner and what she wanted him to know about domestic violence.  It’s an important topic to discuss.  But also to listen to.

I was in an abusive relationship.  And even after my high school sweetheart, who beat me with his hands and his words regularly, I could only extricate myself from when he decided to find a new girlfriend.  And even when I tried to move on from all that pain and anguish, he STILL managed to call me a slut and a whore and damage my reputation when I wanted to see other people.

Thank goodness I was able to go away to college and get out of that fishbowl of high school.

Amplify those feelings by about a million when you are dealing with being in a relationship with a person adored by millions.  A person, by the way, who has control over finances, has lawyers and agents and more backup than his significant other could even imagine.  Try getting out of that.  Especially if there is a money control factor.  Who is going to feed my child?  How am I going to make a living?

DiCaro’s post detailed what five things that one needs to consider in cases like this.  The most important part to consider in the post is that once abuse happens in a public setting, IT HAS ALREADY OCCURRED MULTIPLE TIMES BEHIND CLOSED DOORS.

Amplify that by the fact that probably she is protecting her child, and protecting herself.  How do we know he hasn’t told her that if she leaves, he’ll kill her or find her and take away her kids?  Again, I don’t know the intimate details of their relationship.

All we know is that in domestic violence cases, the victim is typically isolated, and charmed into making the situation go away with law enforcement officials.

It’s arrogant of us to think it’s just as simple as “just leaving.”  It’s not.

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My friend Rebecca has brought up an interesting talking point about what correlation is there between being in a “violent” sport and abuse situations.  This past week, we have had two incredibly public figures involved in legal situations where a woman or child has been abused with proof to back up the allegations.  This is not just a talking point in American sports, like football or baseball (Mets fans may remember when former Phillies pitcher Brett Myers punched his wife with a closed fist on the street in Boston).  This is a pervasive element of American culture that needs to be discussed.  We are no longer in caveman culture or prehistoric times that any sign of weakness meant a predator was going to take your food or shelter or eat your young.  We live in a civilized society that still brushes it away.

Perhaps figures like Ray Rice or Adrian Peterson or Brett Myers may cause us to point and laugh, say they are nothing but a piece of shit for beating a woman or child.  But what exactly is being done about the millions of other women and children or anyone being abused on a regular basis?  These incidences may bring up the discussion, but until we realize that domestic violence or child abuse is just NOT OKAY and it is NOT NORMAL AT ALL, this is still going on behind closed doors.

It is not as simple as “just leaving.” There is years of mind control, and just control in general over human interactions, financial.

Women like Janay Rice need our support.  I had a friend ask me, “How do YOU know she doesn’t have any one to turn to?”  Well, she has me there, I don’t know.  But based on what Julie DiCaro as a lawyer who represented domestic violence victims, and repeated behaviors, I’m going to guess that she’s trying to keep things together for the sake of other things.  Or perhaps, she has been conditioned to fear what she doesn’t know, that staying in what she DOES know is easier.

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I am not beating a feminist drum.  Yet, I am just so shocked that we live in a day and age where still women are portrayed to be stupid and dependent on men and treated with arrogance by other women.

This week, a story hit the wires (that I had talked about extensively on my podcast) about the Senior Vice President of Ticket Sales for the New York Mets, Leigh Castergine, has sued the Mets and most specifically Jeff Wilpon (part of the Sterling Equities group that owns the Mets, along with his father, Fred, and Uncle Saul Katz).  Why?  Well, it wasn’t for underperformance.  I can tell you right off that her team was almost literally selling ice to eskimos.  Mostly in part because the inept ownership built the team on false profits and lack of understanding Ponzi schemes.

The lawsuit alleges she was discriminated against because she was unmarried and pregnant.  Complete with Mr. Wilpon making comments about her not being married, and telling her with witnesses in the room that she could make more money if she was only married.

Someone told me, “Nobody is that dumb.”  Yet, people who have met Jeff Wilpon do say, he’s fucking clueless.

I guess I don’t want to reinvent the wheel here, but goddamn it, when will it just be okay to live your fucking personal life and not have your superiors at work use it as an excuse to get rid of you?  No matter what Castergine did (and I can tell you – I never felt more valued as a season ticket holder than under her leadership, so thank you for that, Leigh), she was pissing in the wind.  Season ticket holders were being bled, people were downgrading their ticket plans, and in general weren’t going to Mets games.  Why?  BECAUSE THE OWNERS HAVE DONE SHIT TO IMPROVE THE TEAM.

So the fallguy is now a single mom who was targeted as such.  Give me a break.  What fucking year is this?

I worked in banking.  Women who have taken time off to attend to themselves and their children after giving birth, one of the most traumatic things a woman can do, are unfairly targeted and find that their jobs are divvied up and changed when they return in 90 days or so.

Legend had it at one bank I worked at, a woman was promoted to a senior facing role in a leadership team.  She apparently knew she was pregnant but hid it while she built a team.  It was evident though after a few months, and she was literally going into a C-Section surgery, while on a conference call, telling her team, “Okay, I will call back in a few hours.”

This is what women have to do.  Sacrifice one thing for another.  And before you tell me, “Well, isn’t it dedication to her craft? Maybe more women should be like her.”  Remember that if a dude was getting hernia surgery or ball surgery or a colonsocopy, I’m sure he’d milk that shit for what it’s worth.

The good news is that perhaps this law suit will force the Wilpons to sell the team.  All I want is for Leigh Castergine to have her job back.  Nothing but class acts under her leadership.  More than I can say for our fucking owners.

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When Titanic hit the fateful iceberg, the mantra was “Women and children first.”  John Jacob Astor, the richest man on the voyage, went down with the ship but his wife and unborn child were spared.  He offered to pay the hand to go with her.  He was denied.  Instead, he sacrificed himself for his wife and child to survive.

We’ve gone from men holding doors open for women, offering their seats on the train to being “good manners” and a proper way to handle themselves, to women declaring that they “don’t need feminism.”  Which is ironic because I realize that without feminism, I would not be able to share my views in an open forum.

Perhaps the first step in having this discussion is HAVING the discussion.  To have abuse and domestic violence not be taboo but ugly parts of real life.  To realize that life for victims is not as simple as “taking your shit and leaving,” but rather multiple layers that have to do with protecting themselves and their loved ones.

Yes we’ve gone from knowing domestic violence and abuse is wrong, but we still have women apologizing for their part in it.

That’s not “conditioning” to fear your attacker?

Give me a break.

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One comment

  1. Very powerful and elequently written blog post. So much going on with these sports figures nowadays that it’s sickening. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out with the NFL considering almost half it’s fan base is female and another big part are children.

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