Monday, June 09, 2008

I called the police yesterday.
The family living next door to us gets into fights occasionally--not "you put the dishes in the dishwasher without rinsing first" fights, but knock-down, drag-out, domestic violence someone's-gonna-get-cut fights. So yesterday morning, around 8:30 (as I was fortuitously up and getting ready to go down the street for Quaker Meeting--no, I'm not kidding) I heard the wife screaming, then heard her running down the driveway and around the neighborhood, screaming and shouting for help. I didn't see what was going on, but I called 911 anyway--and when I got outside to see what was going on, the husband had already driven away in his truck. It turns out (I didn't find this out for about half an hour, when I asked one of the neighbors who actually let the woman onto her front porch and called the ambulance for her) that they'd both been stinking drunk and had ended up stabbing the hell out of each other. There was a trail of blood all down the driveway, onto the sidewalk and into the street. No life-threatening injuries, thank God, but damn.
What bothered me was the way everyone was automatically passing judgement on both of them--actually, it seemed like they were placing more blame on the wife than the husband. "She's being manipulative," someone said. "Crazy. Alcoholic," someone else replied. I just find it interesting that the last time the police came out, she was the one who was injured. It seems like if she's the one who gets hurt most often and most severely, perhaps she has some tenuous claim to the 'victim' status. Although, in a situation like that, it's difficult to tell who's the victim and who's the aggressor--it changes from moment to moment, and there are all sorts of power dynamics (not to mention the inherent power differential that comes from being female--strictly in a physical sense). Why are we so ready to believe that if a woman gets brutalized, it's her own fault? Even Dr. Phil (and you know how I feel about him) pulls this shit-- Why stay in an abusive relationship? If a woman is getting the crap kicked out of her, it must be because she has some deep psychological need for it, some inherent masochism. She's getting something out of it. It's somehow her fault. WTF? How about the fact that she's probably financially (and to some extent emotionally) dependent on him? What about the fact that it's hard to get a bunch of kids, all your stuff, and enough money to live on for a while rounded up in short order? What about the fact that even if you do get out, assholes like DR. Phil are still going to assume that the time you spent in a hell of domestic violence was somehow your fault, something you subconsciously wanted or invited? Sorry, but for a lot of reasons (including some personal experience that I'm not going to get into) my tolerance for domestic violence--and especially excuses for that kind of asshole behavior--is less than zero. Eat it, Phil McGraw.
There have been studies on this--a psychologist presented a bunch of research subjects with different scenarios in which both men and women had negative experiences (ranging from the mundane--getting a flat tire--to the extreme, like rape). The subjects were more likely to attribute a man's "bad luck" to just that: either bad luck or environmental circumstances. His tire went flat because there was a nail in the road; he was assaulted in prison because the perpetrator was a sociopath, etc. On the other hand, they attributed the woman's poor outcomes in the scenarios to failings on her part, either moral or intellectual. She must not have taken care of her tires. She must have put herself in a situation where assault was likely to happen. This is 2008 (although admittedly the study was done several years ago). What the hell kind of bullshit is this?

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

The psychological study you mentioned sounds interesting! You wouldn't happen to have the citation on hand, would you?

keepbreathing said...

I am not proud of this but in the ICU I tend to assign blame to patients who can't speak up for themselves. It's so much easier to understand a patients illness when you can speak with them, communicate with them; but when they are unconscious, sedated, intubated, paralyzed, and deeply entangled in our life-extending machinery...it's much easier to deal with them if you perceive them either as inhuman or somehow at fault. Since I am bad at dehumanizing, I assign blame.

If I saw all of my patients as full-functioning human beings as opposed to seeing them mostly as lifeless sacks, I could not function in my job. It is a cruel irony that working in a place where we truly do save lives, I must "forget" that my patients are not bad people but merely unfortunate human beings in order to cope.

Maybe it's just me.

keepbreathing said...

By the way, Dr. Phil does suck. I just want to grab him by his stupid moustache and slam his pretentious head into a brick wall repeatedly. The answer to all of the world problems is not for everybody to be more like Dr. Phil, dammit!

Lisa said...

You brought back memories of Kansas City. For a second I thought that I saw a helicopter searchlight...