Domestic violence is not a “family matter”

We published a few stories recently about Baltimore Ravens football player Ray Rice knocking his wife unconscious, and the NFL’s refusal to take serious action until the situation grew so embarrassing, with the release of a video of the assault, that they had no choice but to act.

In response, AMERICAblog reader Judy Brown wrote a comment that I thought merited posting on the home page. Here’s Judy’s comment:

I remember when it wasn’t considered polite to speak about “wife beating,” except as a joke.

It’s was considered a private “family matter” — something a woman should be ashamed to admit, and something the police wouldn’t be bothered with, until or after someone — say the wife — was murdered.

Photo via Shutterstock

Photo via Shutterstock

I broke up with a boyfriend in the early ’70s — who seemed to be one of the nicest guys in the world, for the first year — before he escalated arguments about getting married. He escalated to ordering me to marry him: from screaming arguments to shoving, to the physical, once, but that was enough.

He choked me! It was an uneven contest: I was 4’11” — he was 6’3″, and had gone to college on a football scholarship.

I’d asked him to leave weeks before, he’d refused — even smugly said my father couldn’t force him out. I’d never encountered anything like it before, didn’t understand what was going on, but I ran away from my own apartment.

The police wouldn’t help — asked if he was my pimp. He was an engineer in computer programming, I worked at a magazine — but nope, I was a woman, so police still wouldn’t help me get him out of my place, or charge him.

The apartment was in my name, so I changed the locks while he was at work (I’d warned him he had three days to leave.) I piled his stuff in the hall, and locked myself in, trembling, while he and his three brothers pounded on the door. (The police also refused to be at my apartment when he was scheduled to pick up his things.)

Later, his mother called to ask why I wouldn’t marry him — and whether ashamed, or reluctant to mention the choking – I summed up my fears for the future, “I was afraid he was going to start hitting me.”

A deep quiet on the other end of the phone, and she admitted something she may not have told anyone else, “His father beats me, and it’s ruined my life.”

His father had also seemed to be one of those nice guys — to an outsider — and their family life appeared to be happy. No arguments whenever we’d visited.

They were Catholic, had four children, divorce was a mortal sin, she’d been told that the abuse was her fault — and would have had no help from law enforcement, either.

This all before the term “domestic abuse” had been coined by feminists, who brought “wife-beating” out of the “private, family” closet so they could fight for legal sanctions, and things like women’s shelters and public understanding.

And that’s the point: if you’re polite about it, hold back the details, you can’t activate against abuse.


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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