Christmas, as one wag so eloquently put it, is at our throat once again. Is it Christmas Eve already? Are we that close to another year ending? Time surely flies when you're having fun.
This seems like a perfect time - since my body is at this computer terminal while my mind is elsewhere - to catch up on some reader mail.
Judge James Dudley of Howard County's Circuit Court might be happy to know that my mail, at least, is running pretty much in his favor. But one woman who cared neither for Dudley's courtroom remarks chiding a victim in a rape case nor my column on it had some words for both of us. Dani Rice of Bradshaw wrote:
"First off, let me say that I generally agree wholeheartedly with your columns, and even when I don't I can accept your reasoning, if not your conclusions. I However, I must take exception to your article about Judge Dudley and his remarks about the rape victim not having left her common-law husband after he had beaten her. I feel I can address this issue from a first-hand point of view, which you admit you cannot. My first husband was emotionally abusive, but I managed to find a way to leave him before he began to be physically abusive. ... As a result of my experience, I became an active volunteer in a group which provides transitional housing to women leaving abusive situations.
"Most of this you have probably heard before, but it didn't sink in. First, it has not been all that long since laws - still too often ignored by the people who are sworn to uphold them - were passed to protect victims of physical abuse. Actions which would have been considered assault and battery on the street were condoned within the confines of the home.
"Second, men who are abusive are very manipulative. They will gradually cut off the victim from outside contact, keeping her from comparing notes or complaining to someone who might take some action. They will also make outlandish accusations, keeping her off-balance. They can also play 'good cop, bad cop' all by themselves. 'I'm dreadfully sorry. Don't leave me, honey, I'll never do it again.' Until next time you forget to pick up cigarettes or fold his underwear the wrong way. I
"Some people honestly feel that their marriage vows preclude leaving, although this would not be a factor for people living in what used to be called sin. Many times, finances play an important part. No matter how bad things are, it's a roof over your head and food for the children. Where does a woman with children go to start over, especially if she has not been able to work outside the home for a while, and she has rusty skills and no nest egg?
"Also, please bear in mind that statistically, women are in the greatest danger when they leave an abuser. I It is very hard to find the courage to rock the boat when you are certain you will be the one to drown."
Thanks for the letter, Dani. I have heard this before. It's not that this stuff didn't sink in. It's just that I haven't bought it. It comes off sounding not like an explanation for why women stay with an abuser, but an excuse for why they stay.
I guess my problem is that I know too many women who have successfully resisted abusers. Those women who are in the greatest danger when they leave an abuser failed to put the heel on notice after the first incident of abuse that he would be in danger. I don't buy the notion that women are incapable of resisting male violence.
During my technical training at Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas, our barracks sergeant gathered us around one night to go over some rules and regulations. Most prominent in his admonitions was his advice about how to treat women personnel, know as WAFs.
"Never put your hands on a WAF," sarge advised. Then he told us why.
"You might get your ass kicked."
Rice's letter is just one of scores of interesting ones I've received this year. I appreciate them all, especially those writers who expressed sympathy for the loss of my siblings. In case you were wondering if such expressions of sympathy do any good, let me assure you they do.
Pub Date: 12/24/97