But He’s Not Usually Like This…

I am a forum junkie. I am a member of more forums than I can remember to post on, and I go through phases where I will spend lots of time posting on a couple of boards all the time, then move on and forget about them for months or, sometimes, years.  In my current condition I am partial to pregnancy/parenting forums, and I post on a good number of them.  One thing that pregnancy forums are rife with is woman complaining about their OH’s or DH’s (Other Halves or Dear Husbands), as they tend to call them.  In between the complaints about men going out with their friends for a few drinks or not doing enough around the house, there are women (usually very young ones) posting about flat-out abuse, and the replies they are getting from other women are shocking.

Take, for example, a 19 year old who is 38 weeks pregnant. Her boyfriend is angry because she forgot to lend him money that he’d asked to borrow.  When she gets teary, he tells her that she should die, and if the baby dies along with her, he’s holding her responsible. Predictably, he comes back later and begs her to stay. When she refuses, he tells her he will never take her back if she goes. Her own mother convinces her to come stay with her for a couple of weeks but to leave the baby’s things at his place, since she knows her daughter will end up moving back in with him.  All the posters tell her she’s doing the right thing by taking a short break.  Wait, WHAT?!

Then, there was the young woman with the history of sexual abuse (her husband is aware of this) who finds sex uncomfortable and sometimes even painful during the second half of her pregnancy.  Her husband ignores her protests and has sex with her anyway.  She says she’s afraid to be alone with him, then says she knows she should be more open to trying ways to make it hurt less and asks for advice.  He’s a very supportive and great guy otherwise!  The overwhelming majority of posters tell her she needs to have a talk with him.  Maybe you can fool around without penetrative sex?  Maybe you should try it from behind!  Or hey, maybe you should explain to him that he is RAPING you.  Novel idea, I know, but true!

While I’m disturbed by the amount of these stories I read, I am not surprised.  I was a 19 year old once, with lots of 19 year old friends, and we were all idiots when it came to men.  You love so deeply and they say they love you, so all the screwed up things they do to you must be your fault!  It stands to reason.  These girls say all the things you’d expect to hear from someone who is being abused. “He’s not usually like this, he’s under a lot of stress”, “I know I should_________more.”  “He’s only like this when he smokes weed/drinks/has a bad day at work”.  These girls clearly don’t know any better, which is an entire post in itself.  WHAT are we teaching our daughters?!

They are clearly reaching out for help, so why are grown woman replying to them with milquetoast expressions and idiotic platitudes?  All the “that’s not rights” and “you should have a talk with him” tempered with parroting of the victims own excuses for her abuser.  They always start off apologizing as if what they are saying is offensive.  As if their (admittedly bad) advice is somehow more offensive than calling a woman ugly and vile and wishing she would die?  Even when she is told to leave, the advice is tempered with “sorry” and “maybe you should”.

I just don’t get it.  Is it because they’re young and pregnant?  Do people really think these girls (and their soon to be born children) will be better off with rapists and emotionally and verbally abusive men living with them?  I mean, we’re talking about young women with no concept of what respect and love should be, raising daughters and sons with their abusers.  I can’t possibly be the only one horrified by the implications of this.  If we’re not in a position to teach our daughters self-respect, or our sons how to respect women, then we are setting them up to replay these mistakes over and over again.  To teach them anything, we first have to learn to do it ourselves.  Aside from  being the angry feminist reply in the sea of enabling responders (yes, I always make sure to be that person, especially if no one else is), and raising our own children to be different, to be better, what can we do?  I’m afraid I do not have the answer.

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Comments

  1. Brighid says:

    Also pregnant, also on pregnancy boards. On of the ones that really struck me today was a woman whose husband left her 2 weeks ago, called at 2 am for a “meeting”, and then asked for a divorce. Following the fight he apologized and said he’d reconsider. He asked her to walk him out to his car and after he got in it, he HIT HER WITH HIS CAR. She called the police and they charged him with assault and set a restraining order. She wanted to know what to do because she still thinks that he should be at the child’s birth. Even 40 DMFA (Dump the MF’er Already) posts later, she was still fishing for someone to tell her it was all ok and she should forgive him so the child wouldn’t grow up without a father. It was sad to watch the mental gymnastics she was going through to try to justify her co-dependence, and to even consider reuniting with a partner who tried to kill her and her child. The bright side, if there is one, is that not a single poster on the board said anything other than, “it’s not your fault. get counseling. you did the right thing. you need to protect yourself and your child. you can do it alone, it really isn’t that bad, and much better than staying in a life threatening situation.”

    • shannonhumphreys says:

      I’m glad that everyone was at least trying to talk sense into her. There are days when I really need to stay away from those forums for my own mental health, and today was definitely one of them.

  2. I was that young soon-to-be-mother with an abusive man. Why did I leave him? I was broke, pregnant, had nothing and no where to go. But one day it sunk in that if I had a little girl and stayed with him she would grow up to think it was normal to be manipulated, pushed around, threatened. Her life would be nothing but fear and instability with him around. So I left for my baby’s sake, convinced that any child was better off with no father than with a “father” who (on his better days) was childish and cruel. Today I am in a healthy, happy relationship with my younger child’s father and my children have a kind, caring Dad who works hard to help me model what it means to be respectful and responsible. There is hope for those girls, but they will have to find the strength to reach for it themselves.

    • I glad you left and that you and your children are safe.

      Someone shared this list with me of the reasons people stay with their abusers. http://pervocracy.blogspot.com/2011/07/why-does-she-stay-with-that-jerk.html I really loved the author’s statement at the bottom: “The one thing that isn’t on the list, anywhere, is the victim is just weak and stupid.” Can I get an amen?

      Like Shannon, I find it disturbing that other women on the boards aren’t identifying what’s happening as abuse and encouraging them to find and get help.

    • shannonhumphreys says:

      That’s fantastic. It really is. I managed to get out of my one truly horrendous relationship without procreating, but it took me years. I’m so glad you managed to get yourself out, and into a good, stable relationship.

      • Reproductive coercion is also a form of domestic violence– tampering with birth control, forcing unprotected sex, etc. I suspect there may be a good deal of this in play in these situations as well.

  3. I haven’t read the list, yet. I, too, was abused physically, emotionally, and sexually at 18. I was an A student heading to college with an amazingly loving family. I was taught to respect myself and others. So, when I found myself being abused, I felt like I had done something to deserve it. I also felt like I needed to help him with his anger issues. I wanted desperately to help him and try to “fix” him. It wasn’t until he put a gun to my head one night that I realized I could do nothing to help him. Thankfully, I wasn’t pregnant. I left him. Ended the relationship. But I never told anyone what I experienced due to shame and guilt at what I thought was my MY PART in the abuse. None of these women are stupid. If anything, they are desperate to fix their situations. Women are nurturers by nature. We seek to nurture even our abusers. What we need to learn and be taught is that there is evil in the world, pure evil that deserves no respect or care. Evil that has no trace of good. It’s a difficult lesson to learn when we wish, desperately wish, that all humans have some good in them. That’s the fallacy that locks women into abuse and makes it hard to escape. Thanks for posting.

    • I’m glad you got out of that situation! It’s definitely not stupidity that gets and keeps these girls in these situations. Emotional naivete at worst. It’s hard to see the manipulation going on when you’re so deep in it. I’ve been that girl to. Thanks you so much for reading and sharing your story.

  4. This is particularly disheartening when taken in conjunction with the fact that a woman is more likely to be murdered by her partner when she’s pregnant than at any other time.

    We as a society need to do a better job of teaching people that violence has NO place in any relationship, especially romantic ones. The abusers are not getting this message, and sadly the victims are not either. I know I didn’t.

    • So damn true, and even more disturbing when almost every woman I know has had an abusive partner at one point or another. In my case, I didn’t recognize it until the relationship was over. At least now I can IDENTIFY it, at least.

    • shannonhumphreys says:

      YES. So much yes to this.

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