Violence in the home

I have known three women assaulted by the men in their lives. One fought back, divorced him, and despises him, but two were broken by the experience.

I have certainly known others, silent about it, ashamed of it.

My uncle beat my grandmother. They lived in a council flat. She would not throw him out. His mental instability meant he needed care, himself: he would see wild animals appear to leap through the wall at him, as he read his Bible. The last time my father saw her alive, he told us “She would not stop screaming”. Dostoevsky describes a similar phenomenon among Russian peasant women.

J’s son beat her. She got more and more withdrawn and unconfident. Eventually the manager of the office rescued her from him.

I don’t know. I think it would damage my confidence too. “Did she hit him back?” asked a female friend, but I am not sure I would, not sure it would occur to me, I might just cower away. I might just hope he wouldn’t, again, or not often. I might make excuses for him. I would certainly look on the bright side- he’s lovely when he’s sober. You need to see how you can make your life better. If you can’t see, you just make the best of it.

I see women I admire, and think, but that could never happen to her and she would deal with it if it did and maybe she wouldn’t. How could you know, expect, blame?

The word “violence” in “domestic violence” rips the heart out of the word “domestic” with all its cosy connotations, yet those connotations remain for me, so I change the phrase to violence in the home, in the home, in the Home!, where there should be a refuge, where we should be safe and warm and comfortable and with people we love who love us. The safe space giving us strength to venture out into unknown and risky spaces, but there is no safety. There should be control and understanding, loving friendship, enjoyment peace refreshment at least respite, but this thing violence makes the world turn upside down it should not be like that and it is.

I think of my uncle sitting down too fast on that wooden settee and breaking it, or losing control of his bowels and having to leave suddenly when he visited for Christmas dinner long after Granny died. Pathetic, also needing looked after. So what to do? Appeal to his better nature? Break his spirit in terror so he would be terrified of doing it again because of the stronger person’s retribution? He does it because he can. He could control himself if he felt the need.

Titian the flaying of Marsyas

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