Patrick Stewart: the legacy of domestic violence
November 27, 2009 2:39 PM   Subscribe

 
if I felt I could have succeeded, I would have killed him. If my mother had attempted it, I would have held him down. For those who struggle to comprehend these feelings in a child, imagine living in an environment of emotional unpredictability, danger and humiliation week after week, year after year,

I've never seen this put so well in only a few paragraphs. Everything he said is something I have felt, and I greatly appreciate the work he's doing for Refuge. It's astounding to me how similarly children who have witnessed this type if abuse feel such similar emotions. I'm overwhelmed with the urge to give Patrick Stewart a hug.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 2:53 PM on November 27, 2009 [22 favorites]


Wow, that was a powerful piece of writing.
posted by grouse at 3:01 PM on November 27, 2009


Yes, very powerful; the neighbour Lizzie Dixon stood out as she reminded me of good women I knew growing up, and of course one of the few bright spots in a harrowing account.
posted by Abiezer at 3:05 PM on November 27, 2009


How brave of him to write the editorial. How very, very brave.
posted by Fraxas at 3:11 PM on November 27, 2009 [6 favorites]


No one came to help. No adult stepped in and took charge. I needed someone else to take over and tell me everything was going to be all right and that it wasn't my fault. I wanted the anger to go away and, while it stayed, I felt responsible.

This. When you need help and there is none, it is a difficult lesson to learn, but you do learn it.
posted by Scale 0 at 3:14 PM on November 27, 2009


Eponyst... no, wait. This is the exact opposite of that.
posted by mhoye at 3:16 PM on November 27, 2009


Soldiers never really come home... and this sucks immensely.
posted by Moistener at 3:22 PM on November 27, 2009 [4 favorites]


A man who beats his wife is a gutless coward, no matter how big a hero he was in the war.
posted by bwg at 3:25 PM on November 27, 2009 [15 favorites]


This is great and I totally applaud it. But it would be even greater if Refuge/most other facilities did not assume the abuser was the male. I don't mean that in the "I have a huge axe to grind" sense; I just mean it in the "sometimes the women are abusers and the men and kids need help, even if it's less often -- so please lose the 'sex' part and just help the abused" sense.
posted by pelham at 3:29 PM on November 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


But come Friday night, after the pubs closed, we awaited his return with trepidation. I would be in bed but not asleep. I could never sleep until he did; while he was awake we were all at risk. Instead, I would listen for his voice, singing, as he walked home. Certain songs were reassuring: I'll Take You Home Again, Kathleen; I'll Walk Beside You . . . But army songs were not a good sign. And worst of all was silence. When I could only hear footsteps it was the signal to be super-alert.

This bit broke my heart; it's so, so exhausting to be alert all the time, and I hate that kids have to learn how to do it.

What a powerful article, though. I didn't know that about Patrick Stewart and I admire him even more now.
posted by bewilderbeast at 3:31 PM on November 27, 2009 [6 favorites]


I heard police or ambulancemen, standing in our house, say, "She must have provoked him," or, "Mrs Stewart, it takes two to make a fight." They had no idea.

I disagree. They had no balls.
posted by Moistener at 3:34 PM on November 27, 2009 [11 favorites]


"A man who beats his wife is a gutless coward, no matter how big a hero he was in the war."

Part of me wants to agree with this, part of me wants to disagree.

The impact of PTSD is huge, I don't think it is fully understood. It certainly doesn't excuse the behavior, but it surely points to the responsibility we have to acknowledge its impact and help returning military deal with it.

This was a well written editorial..thanks for posting this.
posted by HuronBob at 3:39 PM on November 27, 2009 [13 favorites]


I didn't want to read this, but I did, and I'm glad I did. Thanks.
posted by No Robots at 3:39 PM on November 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's terrible to think of someone carrying that with him for decades and decades, and to have reached a high level of prestige in life and still hold onto that so tightly that he can recount it in vivid detail. My heart goes out, very sincerely. I realize the larger subject here really is how people from all walks of life deal with such childhoods as they grow to maturity, but I was moved by this detail that I think speaks specifically to creative people (it did me):

However, whenever the role called for anger, fury, or the expression of murderous impulses, I was always afraid of what I might unleash if I surrendered myself to those feelings. It was not until 1981, when the director Ronald Eyre asked me to play the psychotic Leontes in The Winter's Tale, that the breakthrough came.

He quietly told me that the play would only work if I gave myself over, completely and totally, to the delusions, madness and murderousness of this man. "If you do that," Ron said, "I will be at your side. I will be available to you 24 hours a day." From that time forward I was never again afraid of my feelings on stage.


I've never acted, but writing fiction means getting in touch with many of the same processes, I think, and one of those is contacting parts of yourself -- ugly memory being the big one -- that most people very happily bury and actively resist paying attention to. I wonder how much Stewart was able to work through because he played this role, and whether the director knew what exactly he was letting himself in for by making that deal. My guess is he had a pretty good idea (I doubt this was his first play), and I think that makes him about as awesome as Lizzie Dixon, personally. Thanks for this post.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 3:40 PM on November 27, 2009 [4 favorites]


I love his work as an actor many times over, but when reading this earlier today, I had no idea this had happened in his family. More importantly, how much he has worked for and given back in the form of charity work through Refuge, scholarships, and other related manners to help educate, combat, and help those who are survivors of domestic violence. Including through this essay. It's another layer of appreciation I now have for him.
posted by cmgonzalez at 3:41 PM on November 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


But it would be even greater if Refuge/most other facilities did not assume the abuser was the male. I don't mean that in the "I have a huge axe to grind" sense; I just mean it in the "sometimes the women are abusers and the men and kids need help, even if it's less often -- so please lose the 'sex' part and just help the abused" sense.

From the editorial:

Most people find the idea of violence against women – and sometimes, though rarely, against men - abhorrent, but do nothing to challenge it. More women and children, just like my mother and me, will continue to experience domestic violence unless we all speak out against it.
posted by cmgonzalez at 3:44 PM on November 27, 2009 [4 favorites]


One thing does sort of bother me. The photo on the homepage of http://www.fourwaystospeakout.com/. That woman is all made up and groomed (lipliner, gloss, eye liner, mascara, at least), hair neat, and this black eye. Maybe it's supposed to be jarring, but it stands out as fake due to all the preparation/makeup.
posted by cmgonzalez at 3:47 PM on November 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Patrick Stewart. There walks a man.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:47 PM on November 27, 2009 [24 favorites]


After the harrowing and eye-opening mefi and metatalk threads on sexism and sexual assault, I've been trying to put together a post on domestic violence. It's a hard topic to talk about, and so far I've not been able to put one together so I thought I'd put some of that research here.

Just as rape and sexual assault are too rarely successfully prosecuted and talked about in public, so too is domestic violence a widespread problem that affects far too many women, children (and yes, sometimes men too) that is not talked about anywhere near enough, nor is anywhere near enough being done to prevent it or punish it, despite campaigns to try and raise awareness - such as this graphic advert, or the Walk a Mile in Her Shoes campaign.

"The truth is that domestic violence touches many of us. It is very possible that someone you know – a friend, sister, daughter or colleague – is experiencing abuse. One in four women will experience domestic violence at some point in her lifetime. And every week two women are killed by a current or former partner in England and Wales, and 10 women take their own lives as the only way they know how to escape a violent partner."

The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) in the UK have proposed a domestic violence register of people, mainly men, who move from one relationship to another, serially abusing their partners, drawn up by request of the Home Office. While similar to the register of sexual offenders, this new register would also controversially include men who had not been successfully convicted of any crime, but did have a pattern of accusations of abuse. The register would be used by police to warn new partners of registered violent men of their history. ACPO is a private organisation that sets police policy nationally. ACPO are also pressing for domestic violence protection orders (also called "Go" orders) that will allow police to force men accused of domestic violence to leave the family home for up to two weeks, to give the battered partner time to decide if they wish to press for legal action.

Finally, the review has also called for a "course of conduct" offence, that would enable prosecutions to be brought against serial offenders even if the evidence was insufficient in each individual case, which has also proved controversial.

The estimate that there are 25,350 serial perpetrators of violence against their domestic partners is based on returns from 27 out of the 43 police forces in England and Wales. A separate study based on Northumbria police data found that 18% of those who re-offended did so against a different partner.

Patrict Stewart was highlighting Refuge's current campaign, Four ways to speak out. They are:

1. Speak out and save lives (donate and wear a necklace)
2. Speak to the government (sign the petition)
3. Speak to your community (display a poster)
4. Speak to your friends and family (ask them to join the campaign).

So here we are, speaking out. We can do, and should be doing more. Thank you for posting this article, it's a very powerful one.
posted by ArkhanJG at 3:48 PM on November 27, 2009 [11 favorites]


“Soldiers never really come home... and this sucks immensely.”

Occasionally true, and does suck, and indeed there were social holes allowing for this behavior then (the police, neighbors, et.al, Dixon aside, looking the other way), and problems with reconciliation of military and civilian life, still, I disagree generally. Bit too wide a net, some people have the support and are able to ‘come home’ and others who have trouble still don't beat their wives.

I think it’s more as Stewart says: “She did not provoke my father, and even if she had, violence is an unacceptable way of dealing with conflict. Violence is a choice a man makes and he alone is responsible for it.”

Can't remember the last really good night sleep I had. But I couldn’t imagine striking my wife. It’s not something that would occur to me as something to do in any situation. And I have gotten involved in preventing domestic violence firsthand.
I think, in part, because I’m acquainted with violence and I see nothing shameful in doing it (when necessary) and nothing shameful in being a victim of it. I think the latter, treating victimization as some sort of stigma, is part of the reason there’s so much silence.

That and reluctance to own responsibility for it. Folks seem to think if they take responsibility for something, they might pick up some of the blame. But violence is like fire. Under certain limited controlled circumstances it can be useful, but it’s horrifically dangerous if ignored.

I'd allow that there are social messages at odds there - on one hand violence is an acceptable method of dealing with conflict, on the other it is not, but again, there's a choice to be made. I'll grant though that many other folks chose to look the other way. But they make the mistake of associating the man with the fire within him and it branches into complexity.
You don't do that with burning houses, you just call the fire department and douse the fire.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:51 PM on November 27, 2009 [9 favorites]


cmgonzalez: There was a poster campaign for women's aid a couple of years ago of celebrities made-up to look beaten up. These look a lot less fake.
posted by ArkhanJG at 3:56 PM on November 27, 2009


Smedleyman... well said..thanks.
posted by HuronBob at 3:59 PM on November 27, 2009


We're gonna be seeing a lot more of that; we have a whole new generation of young men who've been sent off to war, many for longer than World War Two, and they feel even more disconnected than their parents and grandparents did, because this hasn't been a unified effort, and the wars aren't central in the national consciousness. While they went to battle, we went shopping. While we were picking through Christmas ribbon, they were picking through other soldiers' entrails, trying to patch them up for the medic. We don't, and really can't, understand what that's like, and some of them are really lost when they come back and can't relate to us anymore.

What Grandpa Stewart needed was help, not hate, as much as his actions prompt that response. As justifiable as Patrick Stewart's lasting fury is, his father was broken by that war, and nobody knew how to put him back together. He probably didn't know how to ask for assistance, or that he even should.

We could do a far better job of healing these men than our grandparents did, but given our complete lack of social empathy, and savage viciousness toward all things 'criminal', I have little doubt that many of these men will be demonized and tossed in jail to rot, their lives wasted in misery. It doesn't have to be that way, but I have great faith in America's ability to fuck up anything it touches.
posted by Malor at 4:00 PM on November 27, 2009 [9 favorites]


pelham: "9This is great and I totally applaud it. But it would be even greater if Refuge/most other facilities did not assume the abuser was the male. I don't mean that in the "I have a huge axe to grind" sense; I just mean it in the "sometimes the women are abusers and the men and kids need help, even if it's less often -- so please lose the 'sex' part and just help the abused" sense."

This sounds great in principle but practically speaking it would actively hinder their goals. Refuge provides support for women and their children who have experienced domestic violence, and helps them get back on their feet. An important component of that is making them feel safe. But because domestic violence is very gendered in nature -- the overwhelmingly male abusers don't pick on their partners of either gender just because it's convenient; they do so because they have some very warped notions of masculinity, femininity and power. Many of these women don't exactly feel safe around men. So put a man in a women's shelter, even if he's also a victim and not an abuser, and the women already there are going to feel unsafe when that's the last thing they need. (Nor would that be a healthy situation for the guy to be in!)

I actually agree with you 100% that men who've suffered from domestic violence need more recognition and support, but that should entail getting support in their own right, not getting shoe-horned into programs specifically tailored for women to everyone's detriment.
posted by bettafish at 4:03 PM on November 27, 2009 [12 favorites]


The situation was barely tolerable: I witnessed terrible things, which I knew were wrong, but there was nowhere to go for help. Worse, there were those who condoned the abuse. I heard police or ambulancemen, standing in our house, say, "She must have provoked him," or, "Mrs Stewart, it takes two to make a fight." They had no idea. The truth is my mother did nothing to deserve the violence she endured. She did not provoke my father, and even if she had, violence is an unacceptable way of dealing with conflict. Violence is a choice a man makes and he alone is responsible for it.

This, this, a thousand times.
posted by ShawnStruck at 4:08 PM on November 27, 2009 [4 favorites]


Yep, on the soldier thing, it made me think of my own grandad, who was actually taken prisoner of war in one of the campaigns Stewart mentions his father fought in (Crete), and from a similar working class background. He had a hellish time both in combat and as a POW and I know him and my dad had an odd relationship in part because of how that affected grandad and not least because dad was five or six before they met as he was not yet born when grandad went off to fight. But anyway, difficult as it was (those 'social holes' Smedleyman mentions were pretty much bottomless chasms of not mentioning the war again in a serious way, as opposed to a patriotic narrative, in the public discourse from what I can tell) he never raised a hand to my gran or his children.
posted by Abiezer at 4:17 PM on November 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


ArkhanJG: That link wasn't loading the photos for me, but I found them all here:

They are quite powerful images.


And thank you for that post full of information and links. I look forward to your FPP on the subject.
posted by cmgonzalez at 4:24 PM on November 27, 2009


I read the piece earlier today, and I agree that it's truly moving and some of it matches experience, sadly.

domestic violence a widespread problem that affects far too many women, children (and yes, sometimes men too) that is not talked about anywhere near enough, nor is anywhere near enough being done to prevent it or punish it, despite campaigns to try and raise awareness - such as this graphic advert ,

I remember going to watch Milk earlier this year, and everybody was busy chatting away while the trailers rolled by. Then this advert came on, and the whole auditorium fell stone silent, it was really quite an amazing experience. The audience was young university students, but I don't really know how that fits with their experience of domestic abuse. Whoever made that advert should be proud though. One women, obviously quite surprised by everybody's reaction, blurted out in response to the silence (approvingly though), "oh fuck, it's an advert!"
posted by Sova at 4:25 PM on November 27, 2009


pelham: Stewart does acknowledge that ("Most people find the idea of violence against women – and sometimes, though rarely, against men - abhorrent, but do nothing to challenge it.")

In the US, a five-year DOJ studied showed that 84% of spouse abuse victims were females, so it's about six times more likely that the victim is a woman.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 4:26 PM on November 27, 2009


if I felt I could have succeeded, I would have killed him. If my mother had attempted it, I would have held him down. For those who struggle to comprehend these feelings in a child, imagine living in an environment of emotional unpredictability, danger and humiliation week after week, year after year,

I was about twelve when I decided to kill my father. I can't remember the exact incident that led me to that decision. Maybe there wasn't a particular incident. He had terrorized me and my mother for years by then. Unlike Alf Stewart, my dear old Dad had no compunctions against hitting children. I never knew for sure what would set him off. Any normal(ish) evening could turn into a night of hell within minutes. I was fiercely protective of my five-and-a-half-years-younger brother, who was moving more and more into the danger with each passing day.

Looking back now, what's weird to me is I can't begin to guess how often the really bad nights came. At least monthly, I think. No more often than weekly. Somewhere in that range. Often enough that the cloud over our house never really lifted. I can't remember ever being happy as a child--everything was tinged with fear, with anger, with humiliation. As soon as I was old enough to realize that marriages didn't necessarily last forever, I would occasionally plead for my mother to divorce him. Plead as in beg and cry and cajole--but to no avail. She was convinced that she was in a life sentence.

My most vivid memories are of lying on the floor of my room after a particularly vicious incident, my arms completely numb from the fight-or-flight response, but too little to either fight or flee. And completely helpless. Calling the authorities was useless--he was a deputy sheriff in our rural Texas county. The combined strength of the thin blue line and the good ol' boys network was too much to punch through.

But I do remember the night that he left for some errand, and my mother was gone, too, with my brother. I had a rare moment of peace alone in the house, and time to formulate a plan. I knew where his gun was. He had threatened me with it on occasion. I took it out of the case, and knelt down behind a recliner within view of the front door, hand on the trigger.

I think if he had come back quickly, I would have done it. There were certainly occasions later when I wished that I had. But after a couple of hours, my resolve started to wain, and I began to imagine going to prison. I was afraid that a judge wouldn't believe me, or that even if he would, that my abuse wouldn't be enough to exonerate me. So I put the gun away, went back to my room, and passed the evening in impotent silence.

I did resolve, though, not to let my brother go through what I had gone through, so if I was around when our father raised his fist toward him, I would immediately jump in and take the beating instead. It was remarkably easy to get our father to switch victims. He always hated me more.

I don't know what the end of this story is. When I was sixteen, I hit him back for the first time. It seems now like we exchanged blows for an hour or more, and at the end if it, implicitly declared a tie. At our ages then, his vigor was starting to wane, while I was just coming into my adult power. As a high school gymnast, had remarkable upper body strength for my age. I resolved that I would win the next fight--put him on the floor and hurt him bad enough that he would never dare touch any of us again.

But the next fight never came. I think he realized that we were only weeks or months away from the time that I would take him, and he never gave me the chance. I cursed him as a coward for that, and it was years and year before I could let go of my disappointment that I never had my shot at the title.

I think I was initially attracted to ministry because I had an inkling that the dynamic of abuse tends to be repeated in succeeding generations, and I wanted to be sure that it stopped with me. The preachers I knew were good, gentle men, and I guess I figured that my best shot at becoming a good man was to join their ranks. It's a childish way of thinking, but it worked out pretty well. I gained lots of adopted fathers in my spiritual mentors, and was granted numerous chances to observe healthy families through my work. Any hard-wired scripts deep within me seem to have been rendered relatively powerless. For all my faults, I've never been remotely tempted to hit my wife or daughter.

I'm still trying to figure out how to relate to my father, but now, two decades after leaving home, my goal is his redemption rather than my revenge. We've taken some steps. I don't leave my kids around him unless my wife or I will be there, and both my parents are well aware that they aren't going to get unsupervised grandparent time. But he does seem like he's trying to do some penance for his past by treating my kids as well as he can, in spite of some old, bad, habits.

And probably he knows that in spite of the progress we've made, and in spite of his age, and in spite of the fact that I am doing my best to be as positive and healthy a presence in my family as I can, if he so much as lays a hand on my kid, I will knock him down hard, and maybe for good. That desire is no longer at the top of my consciousness, but I know myself well enough to know that I could surface in a flash. I don't think that's ever going to go away.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 4:29 PM on November 27, 2009 [280 favorites]


“Soldiers never really come home... and this sucks immensely.”

Occasionally true...


Poppycock. "Occassionally true?"

Are you actually claiming that "most" (the opposite of occasional) soldiers return from war and don't experience Really Awful Problems?

Whether the post-war mindfuck is expressed as domestic violence, alcoholism, drug addiction, depression or general whatthefuckness, I think I make a pretty safe generalization when I make a statement like this...

“Soldiers never really come home... and this sucks immensely.”

Yes. When I wrote that, I actually contemplated adding disclaimers, take-aways, asterisks and other dutiful nods to the corner cases, but for crying in a foxhole, one of the prices of war is what happens when those who make it return home.

Should I have said this?...

There are a percentage of cases where this isn't true, but generally speaking, it's useful to perceive the costs of war in terms of the behaviors of soldiers when they return from years of committing violence on our behalf.
posted by Moistener at 4:35 PM on November 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


wow, Patrick Stewart is an incredible human being.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 4:43 PM on November 27, 2009


George Carlin's "Euphemisms" monologue addressed the evolution from "shell shock" (WWI) to "battle fatigue" (WWII) to "PTSD" (Vietnam). And I disagree with him on one point: that the lengthening of the terminology goes along with dehumanization. We understand so much better in the era of PTSD about what can "break a man". But after WWII, when shell shock was softened to battle fatigue, we were really sweeping it under the rug, because there were so many traumas, suffered by so many soldiers that what Tom Brokaw calls "the Greatest Generation" was filled with undiagnosed PTSD victims who defined America for the second half of the 20th Century... in a bad way.

My father fought in "The Good War". He has always been much more comfortable talking about the planes he flew in than his own experience (he was not a pilot, maybe a bombardier or a tail-gunner, he's never clear), and his one experience with being shot down (over open water; rescued by our guys ?? hours later) he has made into an anecdote briefer than the one where my mother vetoed his suggestion to name me Wendell. When I was growing up, he resembled Mr. Foreman, the Angry Dad on "That 70's Show" (including the baldness and nickname 'Red'), but totally not funny. Although he never committed any physical act (and didn't even make threats using the word 'ass'), he was an expert at making me scared (almost spelled that 'scarred', well, that too). When forced by fate to re-connect with him rather recently, he, in his 80s and widowed for 20 years, had not mellowed but was finally unintimidating, which didn't keep him from trying. But I sure wish he'd gotten some kind of help in the several years between getting out of The Marines and marrying The Wife and having The Kid (me).

Of course, seeing what Patrick Stewart (and on preview Pater Aletheias) achieved in spite of a worse childhood than mine makes me want to take my father's often-yelled advice and "Shut up and stop whining".
posted by oneswellfoop at 5:06 PM on November 27, 2009 [3 favorites]


Very occasionally one person would come to our aid – Mrs Dixon, our next-door neighbour, the only person who would stand up to my father. She would throw open the door and stand before him, bosom bursting and her mighty weaver's forearm raised in his face. "Come on, Alf Stewart," she would say, "have a go at me." He never did. He calmed down and went to bed. Now I wish I could take Lizzie Dixon's big hand in mine and thank her.

There is no higher calling in this world than to be a Mrs Dixon to another being.

Bless all the Mrs Dixon's of the world.
posted by humannaire at 5:09 PM on November 27, 2009 [44 favorites]


Thanks for sharing, Pater.

As for being a veteran...I have no doubt that most people who go to war come back damaged. And I hope that every veteran is able to get the help they deserve and need.

But there's no excuse for domestic violence.

I think about it this way: If Patrick Stewart's father was lashing out and beating up everyone he came across (ex-army friends, people in the pub he visited, people he encountered on the street while walking home from getting drunk and angry), then maybe you could make a case for PTSD or whatever.

But if he reserved his violence exclusively for his wife, then that's completely on him, and no one (or no situation) else.
posted by Gorgik at 5:35 PM on November 27, 2009 [5 favorites]


And just last week, re-watching Playing Shakespeare, I raised my eyebrows when Stewart made a point of his rather unorthodox decision to have his Shylock strike Jessica across the face, "quite hard."
posted by e.e. coli at 5:45 PM on November 27, 2009


If anyone wanted the necklace in the US here's the link.

I agree that anyone who abuses people (or things) that are weaker than they are is a coward. Period. Pick on someone your own size.
posted by TooFewShoes at 5:47 PM on November 27, 2009


Y'know, I never even considered killing my stepfather. I suppose the combination of our particular "non-denominational born-again" Protestantism's "Spare the rod and spoil the child" doctrine and the fact that I was the only recipient of abuse in our house led me to internalize the experience. I just assumed that I must be doing something wrong all the time. I would have turned to friends for help, but, since both this and my religious indoctrination had begun when I was 5, I was so socially maladjusted that I certainly didn't have friends. I would have run away, but that would have resulted in more abuse. I would have called the police, but I was afraid of what would happen to my mother -- I didn't want her to get blamed for my stepfather's acts. I did eventually speak with people at my church, but they insisted that I must have been to blame: again, spare the rod, etc. I spent most of my childhood, from the ages of 5 to 15 or so, doing little more than pacing around my bedroom talking to myself, constantly going over all the awful things I must have done. My first suicide attempt was at 10 years old.

The last contact I had with him before my mother divorced him involved him choking me to the point that I lost consciousness. I was so disappointed he hadn't killed me.

I still feel socially maladjusted.

I have only seen him a couple times since my mother divorced him. I'm in therapy -- though, this time, I've been able to stick with it for more than a couple months -- and I've forgiven him. But, still, every time I've seen him, the urge to flee is just as strong as it was when I was a child.

Actually, now that I've typed all this out, I'm not sure where I'm going with it ... I'll just stop there.
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 5:57 PM on November 27, 2009 [28 favorites]


Oh! Right! That's where ...

It's encouraging to read this from Patrick Stewart. It helps me feel that there's no shame in my still being affected by my experiences.
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 5:59 PM on November 27, 2009 [7 favorites]


some points, from above:

"A man who beats his wife is a gutless coward, no matter how big a hero he was in the war."

and

The impact of PTSD is huge, I don't think it is fully understood. It certainly doesn't excuse the behavior, but it surely points to the responsibility we have to acknowledge its impact and help returning military deal with it.

and

I think it’s more as Stewart says: “She did not provoke my father, and even if she had, violence is an unacceptable way of dealing with conflict. Violence is a choice a man makes and he alone is responsible for it.”

First of all, I want to add my name to those commenting on what a well-written and heartfelt piece this was . . . and something that cannot be easy for Patrick Stewart or any other victim to deal with publicly.

But I want to make some comments on PTSD. As many people here know, I survived the siege of Sarajevo, the death by bombing of my parents (in front of my eyes), injuries so severe I was put in the morgue to die, cold, hunger, starvation, being shot at and hit by snipers, and a lot more . . . but most important, the disturbing amount of stress that went along with it all and the worry and stress that it would never end.

Consequently, even before I got out of the war zone, I was suffering from PTSD. How I "reacted" (the word's in quotes because "reacted" implies a conscious choice that certainly was not there) was simply to disconnect from practical reality. For example, I recall hanging clothes in my courtyard - an area exposed to the Serbs only slightly higher than me on the hill where I lived - and sort of vaguely becoming aware that shots and small shells were careening by my head . . . a fact made more apparent when a sheet I was hanging suddenly developed a hole, about a foot across in size, in its middle, followed by a small explosion as the shell that caused it exploded into the ground. Little zings and pings popped in my ear as bullets when by. It was obvious that at that moment I was being targeted, and why not? I was an obvious and easy target, as targets go. Did I panic and run inside or dive to the ground? No. I was just a little annoyed that these bastards were fucking up my laundry time . . . laundry's a pain in the ass to do in war, when you don't have running water, or soap or a washing machine.

How I survived that sort of thing comes down to dumb luck, really. I'm a lot better, but it's been fifteen years since I've been in America and - unlike a lot of people - I've consciously dealt with a lot of 'war trauma' and I've had beneficial opportunities to do so, as well. And I suppose my PTSD is a relatively benign form, for which I'm grateful. But I certainly had no control over that or any aspect of PTSD, except slowly eliminating its effects, over many years.

Hands off to people like Abiezer's grandfather, who managed to survive horrible events without a discernible trace of PTSD. But such commentary implies a choice that doesn't exist. In essence, he was one lucky guy. Did I "choose" to continue hanging laundry while under sniper fire? I don't think so . . . it was just the result of the specific and individualized way I broke down under massive pain and stress.

Commentary that domestic violence is nothing more than "gutless" cowardice doesn't help either. (I mean, even if you believe that's all it is, does it merit a comment?) That's the sort of macho claptrap (talking about "guts" - sheesh!) that prevents men from seeking help when they have psychological difficulties that intermesh with activities defined in terms of masculinity - like war heroism. Domestic violence is, in its way, an intimate act. Patrick Stewart's father beat up his mother - presumably the person closest to him, but not Patrick himself, or the neighbor. Fists come out to express turmoil when one lacks the mindset to express turmoil through acceptable means. Unfortunately, those closest to and most loved by the perpetrator often bear the brunt of it. It's abhorrent, it's not acceptable, it'll never be entirely excusable. Such perpetrators desperately need help and appropriate punishment and even the possibility of losing forever the people they love.

But it's not a "choice" in the same way that choosing a candy bar is. The sole part of Stewart's piece that I disagree with is the way he characterizes violence as a matter of personal choice. It's much more complex than that.

Naturally, my sympathy is for the victims of acts of domestic abuse. You can't imagine how acutely I feel for 'victims' in general - I've been there. I'd like this sort of thing to end! Framing abusers as wholly self-created monsters who simply lack guts isn't going to work. Their story needs to be told too. We don't hear much about it, do we? The military has always been a wonderful breeding ground for problems for future domestic problems. (Anyone who's against domestic violence but supports the sort of "hell, why not?" military actions that America's engaged in lately (for instance) is suffering from their own reality disconnect.)

One last thing: Gorgik's dead wrong about PTSD. Irresponsibly so. Its unpredictability is part of the problem. Some people suffer its effects only when in situations of emotional closeness and vulnerability and domesticity. To the rest of the world, they seem fine - you'd never know there was a problem. "Survivor" PTSD, which affects soldiers as well as those (like me) who came out okay from tragedies in which those close were killed, often has the effect of making "comfortable" situations - like being with family in a "normal" domestic situation - particularly stressful and hard to manage. It can be nearly intolerable. I'm not violent (so no one need worry!), but I have a tough time doing normal everyday things I enjoyed before the war for any length of time. It often causes me anguish. It makes me think that something bad is going to happen to be too set in things. I work - an absurd amount. I travel - an absurd amount. I do a lot of things. But mostly, keeping my personal life somewhat off-kilter (in a pleasant way, mind you) does wonders for me. A life where each day is like the last (no matter how joyous that day is) isn't in the cards for me - that's the effect of my own experiences.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 6:01 PM on November 27, 2009 [73 favorites]


I identify with that too much. All I remember of childhood was measuring time from fight to fight and cherishing that time just after a big fight because I knew there would peace for a while. Oddly, I remember particular non-physical actions as the most painful - the hatred and cruel humiliation. I also remember thinking that everyone's family was that way, and I'd look at the happy kids on the bus and wonder how they could be so strong when I wasn't.
posted by mattholomew at 6:27 PM on November 27, 2009 [9 favorites]


This essay scratches the surface of what Patrick Stewart has done to speak for this issue. Once in a while the topic surfaces in an interview, or he's quoted on some entertainment things but it's mentioned that he was at an anti-violence event of some sort.

He spoke about what sparked the FPP piece, and more, at a recent Amestry International event.

And another video from 2007.

Would that we were all so brave.
posted by zennie at 6:38 PM on November 27, 2009


Just want to say thank you to the people sharing their stories, hard as it might be. I've always felt that direct experience was the greatest teacher, but some things are better left unexperienced.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:38 PM on November 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


As excellent as this piece was, he should really get back to making that movie where all the ladies' clothes fall off.
posted by dr_dank at 6:41 PM on November 27, 2009 [4 favorites]


Patrick Stewart really wrote a good article on this one...wow.

I can identify with the sense of his quote...
"Very recently, during a falling-out with my girlfriend, I felt again as though I were shut out and alone, not heard or understood. "

I grew up in a household where my father would almost constantly verbally/emotionally abuse my mother, and although he may have never hit my brother or me more than once...we also got the occasional amount of verbal/emotional abuse. I could always tell when it would switch from verbal/emotional to quick physical when his tone of voice changed from raging to a different form of raging especially in terms of my mother even as rare as it was I believe.

Frankly, the constant emotional abuse that my mother received as well as the occasional amount that we received, I have realized now in my early 20s has affected me more than I thought.

The inability to handle situations that should be comfortable that is mentioned earlier. The inability to understand how to handle certain situations. I now realize how much I do not have the necessary tools to deal with them well. I tend to have picked up some of my father's habits of loudness, intimidation, etc. given that they are the only way I know of "resolving" any conflict with a significant other.

This article struck a very strong chord inside me. I can recognize it and still I can't even fathom about how to deal with whatever has been left over that I can't even recognize.

I am currently starting the process of getting help and it is good.

I must say I agree that we all should speak out as often and as much as possible.
posted by lizarrd at 6:44 PM on November 27, 2009 [5 favorites]


“Poppycock. "Occassionally true?" Are you actually claiming that "most" (the opposite of occasional) soldiers return from war and don't experience Really Awful Problems?”

My disagreement was with the broadly stated “soldiers” and the modifier “never.” But ‘home’ works too.

Some guys have problems, some don’t. Not everyone is a combat veteran. The vast majority of military folks don’t see any action. So, yeah your generalization is wrong based mostly on pop culture references and general perception not the equivalent of, say, my direct experience with the DAV, the VFW, or volunteering at the VA or my own struggles with PTSD.

But not merely many but the vast majority of veterans remain law abiding and go on to lead stable and productive lives – this is not to say they aren’t having issues, and indeed this may be in spite of a great many things - veterans, especially wartime veterans, face significant stresses that should not be minimized and are only just being widely recognized, much less treated.
Still, even granting the catch all mental health issues like being "very afraid of being killed" from the Journal of the American Medical Association - and granting that PTSD was higher among troops returning from Iraq, and granting "seeking mental health services" as the bar - one third of veterans (from April 2001 to April 2008) were diagnosed with a mental health problem.
Now that's a hell of a lot, and is a major problem, but as far as I remember from fractions, one third is not 'most.'
Of the people that do have problems, many cope by whatever means. I have a big family full of veterans and so I did better than most but then my circumstances were different. As is anyone’s really.
My disagreement is not with the perception of returning veterans as needing help and/or social services to reconnect but rather that these problems are insurmountable or result in a disorder of some sort. That conceptualization can create a distance between civilians and veterans that can inhibit reconnecting to civilian life. I know I had some trouble connecting with some of my friends who weren't vets. But most of them treated me like I had just come out and said I was homosexual or something. Like it was a huge deal, all the time, but wanted to make clear they were totally ok with me. Every. Single. Time. They saw me.
(Actually helped me relate to some acquaintances who came out later: "Oh, you're gay? Cool. Want a beer? What's up with the f'ing Blackhawks this year?")
Furthermore, whether this particular individuals acts of domestic violence are a result of his being in combat or not I think is fairly immaterial in terms of addressing domestic violence in general.
As I said, if the house is on fire, doesn’t much matter if it was arson or smoking in bed, you call the fire department.
As far as the social costs of war, I couldn’t agree more. Veterans are one group routinely not only reviled by some elements in society but routinely abandoned by society in general, including those elements in society that otherwise vociferously support them.
But in any event, having seen my share of combat, and having dealt with more than my share of general whatthefuckness, I can pretty safely cast a stone saying that hey, I went through some serious shit and not only ‘came home’ ultimately, but didn’t y’know beat the hell out of my wife while dealing with it.

And I know plenty of other guys who are happy, healthy and successful who did have problems and didn’t get thing one from the government or society or anyone outside of veteran support groups. So let’s not be so quick to trot out the crazy vet thing when talking about domestic violence because as well meaning as it seems, it’s one more stereotype that actually reinforces problems in adjusting to civilian life.

Returning to civilian life, especially with PTSD, is very complex and involves much more than exposure to violence and being prone to violence, there are moral quandaries that no one but another vet can really understand and there is the weight of guilt which is a very multifaceted thing, if it’s not guilt for having survived or guilt over something done in the field or over leaving home in the first place or leaving a girl or family behind or leaving your unit to continue to fight while you’re safe at home.

None of that excuses a man’s choice to deal with it by beating his wife.
There is nothing she could have done to help him 'come home' or to stop him from hitting her because that’s the choice he made. Whatever he brought home with him – how he chose to express it was his choice and his alone and he bears responsibility for it.

Again – fully granting the social costs and the complete failure of our society to allow people to decompress and give them time, space, etc. to adjust - there are plenty of people who have never seen combat or been anywhere near military service who beat their partners.
And, importantly, again, not that it's not a problem, but there are plenty of service members and veterans who choose not to, whatever challenges they might be facing.
posted by Smedleyman at 7:05 PM on November 27, 2009 [5 favorites]


I symphatize deeply with Patrick Stewart as I experienced something very similar, minus the actual phyisical violence.

Basically, he probably experienced authoritarian behaviors in which the victims are subject to a combination of:

- threats ,sometimes thinly veiled ones, like showing the gun or menacing to do physical harm, menacing to leave the family (which is quite a threat to a kid, a threat of abandonement);
- more or less veiled debasement with statements such as "you are good at nothing" or "you fail at this" creating a more or less constant and more or less sophisticated stream
of criticism constantly pointing out the failures, minimizing the achievements, contrasting any objection by shouting over the victim's attempt to start a reasonable discussion;
- menacing theatrical behaviors such door slamming, shouting;
- actual physical violence.

I have experienced myself that pattern, even if I was never beaten. Some friends from other families reported to me the same pattern with different degrees of severity,
but I suspect others just didn't talk or wanted to admit fearing consequences.

As I grew up I taught myself to counter my father' shouting objections by pointing out the fallacies of his "infallible shouting logic" (which unsurprisingly turned out not to be that infallible), but this important step required taking the major first step of not feeling physically threatened by him, which indeed occourred when he become too old and too slow to face a fistfight. Additionally, it took some solid determination to overcome the underlying fear of disappointing your father "by not learning perfectly" and to learn to learn on your own, which was necessary in order to find the abysmal irrationality in some of his reasoning and preparing to face his "yelling logic" and shouting tactics, without turning myself into a "shouter".

I deeply, deeply simpathize with all the childrens who fear or feared this, which in turn is of course sympathizing for myself as a little child who had no recourse,
no help, and feels threanted by his own very father, while seeing his own mother being threatened and weeping. That can be very deeply unsettling and can lead to all
kind of warped insecurities, expecially when the kid, as it often happens, models his own behavior by learning that "males do as males do", so they start acting like
the father, being the most available male to imitate. Unsurprisingly, as I took my father as a model, I experienced difficulties in social life, but somehow managed
to re-adjust myself from appearing like an "arrogant troubled asshole" to being a more self confident and asserting man.

I wouldn't consider my infancy as a misery, but certainly I grew up with very strongly contrasting feelings for my father, which were solved over time by the realization
that I no longer neither revered not feared him, but that rather I first deeply despised and pitied him and then felt compassion for him for what his (what I now consider)
deep seat insecurities, acting of learned behaviors and possibily a state of depression. Nonetheless, the emotive memories can't be just erased, even by rational tought,
so that I feel I certainly could have had a slightly less troubled infancy and teenage years. In contrast, when considering other aspects of my father's personality,
I can't deny that he was always often a caring, generally wise and providing father, that taught me a lot and that who never lifted a finger on me and that probably
wished to do more than the best for me.

Nonetheless, let me stress that some emotive scars are possibily eased only by time, and that forgiving is made even more difficult by the fact that forgetting these memories is impossible.

Incidentally, I joined the military for one year because of conscription laws, so I experienced firsthand what it means to live under something close to authoritarian rule.
I think that some people involved in the law enforcement and military can pick up some of the officier "strong man" macho traits and reneact them verbatim during their life,
also within the family. That's probably how my father learned to deal with his own insecurities, by acting like a "strong man" because he was provided with a model of strong man
by his very own father, who in turn was an even less self confident man and possibly a brutal man. So a chain was formed, as my father fled his own father, but unfortunately
was too young to have enough self confidence and his evolution stopped at repeating part of his father behaviors, while he manage to drop others. As my grandpa leaved in a time
in which the patriarcal, male centric, no emotions should be shown model was widely adopted in the region in which he was born, I suspect that culture plays a deep influence
in human behavior, down to shaping every day behavior.


On a tangent, consider that these kind of authoritation behaviors don't necessarily affect only males, as I have seen females enact similar patterns (expecially using sense of guilt and debasement) minus the shouting and other mostly male behaviors.
posted by elpapacito at 7:23 PM on November 27, 2009 [5 favorites]


Fists come out to express turmoil when one lacks the mindset to express turmoil [...]

Maybe... I tried to talk to my father about the violence that I experienced as a child (not some simple slaps, my mom had to have 1/2 of her face rebuilt) and the self pitying bullshit that came out that "badass" marine made me sad to be his daughter. I would love to have sympathy for the soldier who comes home with memories that he/she can't express - but when they take it out on those closest to them, the ones on their side, I have -100% pity. There isn't enough room in Hell for the person who terrorizes their loved ones to purge their own demons. This isn't a situation where everyone is a victim - there's a choice made, and the innocent suffer. FUCK THAT SHIT.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 8:03 PM on November 27, 2009 [7 favorites]


I’ll add – not a damn thing wrong with want to kill someone that abuses you or someone you love - and there’s not a damn thing wrong with *not * wanting to kill someone that abuses you or someone you love.

While I agree with Dee Xtrovert in terms of ‘choice’ as being sort of distanced from your own life, and the uselessness of castigating anyone as simply a monster (thus the ‘call the fire department’ whether it’s arson or not thing) – there was nothing Stewart’s mother or Stewart could have done to change the course Stewart’s father was on.
Perhaps choice is a poor word. As I said it’s dangerous to throw blame about. But I’m sure Stewart and his mom would have ended the situation if they could have or if they had any real choice in the matter. The only one who could have ended the situation was Stewart’s father (or, obviously, society at large had they taken responsibility for the situation). Indeed – have we established that his father had PTSD or is this an assumption? I don’t see anything about it in the piece.
I saw psychiatrists, had counseling, sought out veterans groups, etc. Again, lot of support from my family, so I do count myself lucky. But the 1940 Dunkirk Veterans Association was one of the first ex-service organizations formed from English soldiers who fought in WWII.
Veteran’s Aid was formed in ’32, the British Legion was founded in 1921, it’s not like people weren’t aware returning vets had problems. They had WWI under their belt, the Ex-Services Mental Welfare Society was formed in 1919 as a direct response to “shell shock.” (granted British society wrote it off as a ‘real’ problem).
In many ways it can be invisible and I understand that. Perhaps I’m less forgiving of high level performers. Perhaps I find it hard to reconcile self-discipline and introspection with uncontrolled violence in one’s personal life. Perhaps it’s because I can relate that I find it so unacceptable.

There was another side to Alf, however, in that he was able to use his authoritative manner in a kindly way for the good of others. Several years after Alf left the army he worked as a commissionaire at Firth's Carpets, Heckmondwike, where my wife Barbara also worked. Now Barbara has had difficulty walking since she caught polio at the age of 4 (it was known as Infantile Paralysis in those days) and likes to do things discreetly because of her pronounced limp. She would park her car in Firth's carpark, which was across a busy road from the mill, and would peep out of the entrance waiting for a gap in the traffic so that she could cross. Today there is a pedestrian crossing but at that time the workers had to fend for themselves. However, Alf had the trained soldier's eye and would invariably spot her trying to be invisible just inside the carpark, whereupon he would march out into the road, resplendent in his smart uniform, hold up his hands to stop the traffic, and would wave her across. Now she was the centre of attention which was just what she hadn't wanted, but at least she was able to cross safely.”

Also – it strikes me as an odd coincidence that there was a “Dixon Hill” in STNG.
posted by Smedleyman at 8:03 PM on November 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


The two notions, that Patrick Stewart's father is guilty of an unforgivable crime against an innocent woman and his whole family, and that Sgt. Stewart the war hero was in need of understanding, help and treatment, are most emphatically not contrary to each other.

To bring up a comic book reference, there is an issue of the Specter, where the Joker, as punishment for his crimes, is given sanity by the Specter. The horror of everything he's done wracks the man worse than any physical torture the hero could have devised.

Abusers need to be made to pay for their crimes, this is justice. They need to be tried and sent to prison. This is absolutely, unequivocally true. Yet, all to often, in the Anglo-Saxon justice system, this is the end of it. Let 'em rot.

Well, this solves nothing, and is not actually justice. Treating these men (and very, very, very infrequently women) for the psychological disorders that drove them to evil in the first place must be a part of the process. Punishment is not enough. The guilty must be rehabilitated, made to understand and regret the wrong they have done, and set on a path where repeating the offense is not even a conceivable option... or prison is a farce that's not all that funny.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:10 PM on November 27, 2009 [4 favorites]


The Great Big Mulp: My first suicide attempt was at 10 years old.

That's absolutely the saddest thing that I've ever heard in my life. I can't stop bawling about a child, full of possibilities and potentials, trying to end his life at age 10.

I am no stranger to flirting with self-harm, starting in my very late teens (three suicide attempts, 1991, 1994 and 2004) but at 10 years old....that is just impossibly sad. My heart goes out to you and anyone else in such a terrible situation.
posted by porn in the woods at 9:02 PM on November 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Thank you all for sharing your personal stories.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:20 PM on November 27, 2009 [4 favorites]


Mulp - Flee. It's a good instinct. He doesn't deserve your company, and you have certainly done nothing to deserve his. You're not obligated to forgive him, and to be blunt, you shouldn't be around him. Your absence should be a mark of shame in his life... you live, you love, you drink beer in fine company, a man of keen intellect and fine taste. You don't have to around a murderous shit-heel to live life to its utmost.

The hell, the absolute hell of these situations, is that the human instinct for family overrides the instinct for self-preservation. This is good, when you're a parent sacrificing for a child or elder. This is bad, when you feel you need to stay to work it out with a violent dick, when you internalize the blame when you are blameless, when the only real answer is to leave, and you feel you shouldn't.
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:00 PM on November 27, 2009


My disagreement was with the broadly stated “soldiers” and the modifier “never.” But ‘home’ works too.

Yeah, that much was crystal clear.

... veterans, especially wartime veterans, face significant stresses that should not be minimized

My glurgy, misty-eyed, statistically impossible sentence is exactly that "non minimization" in action, from a heart-felt moment with imperfect logic, after reading a very moving article.

Permit me at least that.

But switching gears, I stand by my casual, non-scientific and vague claim that more than 50% of soldiers -- I should've said "combat veterans" -- experience Really Awful Problems... including sub-clinical misery.

To me the counter-claim is laughable: "A combat veteran is statistically unlikely to experience major negative effects."
posted by Moistener at 10:05 PM on November 27, 2009


> This is great and I totally applaud it. But it would be even greater if Refuge/most other facilities did not assume the abuser was the male... sometimes the women are abusers and the men and kids need help, even if it's less often -- so please lose the 'sex' part and just help the abused.

Yes, any time ANYTHING is created to help women, we REALLY TRULY MUST include teh menz. I cannot believe this comment exists after what so many people here just spent a gut-wrenching month on. Oh, wait, yes I can.

(Ask me sometime about how "Take Your Daughter To Work Day" became "Take Your Children To Work Day." Actually, don't, because I might set things on fire.)

I exhausted all of the energy I had about what it is like to live in this world as a woman in The Post. So there's no way I can write as eloquently and with as much clarity and power as the MeFites above have about spending my entire childhood and adolescence with my father (neither a soldier nor a drinker) beating me and my mother--with his hand, his belt (buckle-side, always), golf clubs, fireplace tools, anything he could find lying around (one time with the dome cover of a Weber grill-that was neat)--yet never once raising a hand to my younger brother.

I don't have it in me right now to work up enough mental and emotional strength to have another go at the "but men men men these organizations should think about men sometimes women hit men it happens to men sometimes to MEN!" fucking assholes once more. It's likely some of you are glad of that.

After that whole unbelievable thread about how, no, it's NOT THE SAME, the fact anyone here still doesn't get it literally makes me feel like throwing up.
posted by tzikeh at 10:31 PM on November 27, 2009 [28 favorites]


A friend of mine grew up in a household very much like Patrick's. Of the friend and their several siblings I would say that at least two are unable to talk through any emotional family conflict, yet thrive in their jobs.

What Patrick went through is like a bell, struck by a hammer, ringing for generations.
posted by zippy at 10:46 PM on November 27, 2009 [5 favorites]


We need to better understand and treat PTSD - how many culprits of Domestic Violence are veterans, either incapable of finding peace after their battles or stigmatized against doing so?

Still, though. Alf Stewart wouldn't strike his children, and wouldn't raise a hand to Lizzie Dixon, who begged to go round and round with him. This means, to me, that he saw his wife as his entitled punching bag - this was the person who was his to hit as he saw fit - which makes me have, bizarrely, a lot less sympathy for him than if he were violent to all comers.
posted by Navelgazer at 12:22 AM on November 28, 2009 [5 favorites]


Note, how many - perhaps most - of these abusers stop when they fear that they may not prevail in a physical confrontation because the child has grown too strong. Or how they don't take on some members of the family. That folks, indicates to me that the violence is not "uncontrollable" - at least not to these abusers.

There really must be better ways to intervene early into the abuse process. I like the initiatives the Brits are contemplating - keeping a registry of abusers similar to sexual offenders. We should have the tools to absolutely lock up these abusers, and with stiff terms too - 10, 20 years, whatever it takes. Sure, they should get therapy, but in a prison setting. They must be separated from their victims.

I strongly suspect, that if these abusers were well aware that instances of serious abuse will be dealt with ruthlessly, with multi-year prison terms, they'd react exactly as when the react to those who are or become stronger than they are - by backing down. They already show this behavior. The law should be a strong reminder to them "control yourself, or off you go to prison". And then followup on that.

Certainly that's not the entirety of the solution - there will be the psychos, and there will be the ones who manage to hide the abuse or cow their victims absolutely. But it will help with vast numbers of other abusers. And any way in which the society can cut down on such abuse is a net positive.

We need strong laws, and we need good ways to find out and prosecute these crimes.
posted by VikingSword at 12:54 AM on November 28, 2009


Thanks again to everyone sharing their story here. I've got one too, but I'm not up to sharing it today. But ever so grateful to those who can, and to Patrick Stewart for being so eloquent about something that is so difficult to convey.
posted by harriet vane at 1:45 AM on November 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


Slap*Happy: The hell, the absolute hell of these situations, is that the human instinct for family overrides the instinct for self-preservation.

Yeah, it's frightening how commonplace it is, to place absolute primacy on keeping up appearances and sweeping things under mental rugs, while ignoring or actively denying how twisted and destructive the "family" dynamics really are on the inside. The frequently intergenerational destructiveness kills me, how parents' toxic behaviours can fuck up kids' ability to make and maintain healthy emotional connections, and the Sisyphean effort it can take for many kids, as adults, to even begin to unravel that damage. Thank God for the internet. A space where it's ok to share what was once unspeakable and still is often stigmatized, and to know that, hey, you're not alone. Far from it.

I'm reminded that hilzoy at ObsidianWings had an excellent post a while back, explaining some complexities re why many abused partners stay (some moving stories in the comment thread too):
(last time I checked) the two most common times for violence to start were the honeymoon and the first pregnancy. By the time you reach either point, you're already in a pretty serious relationship, and leaving is not something that anyone would do lightly.

Moreover, the violence often comes as a real surprise. . . . There are things that are comprehensible parts of the world, even if they're rare, like having your car stolen; and then there are things that are unexpected in a completely different sense, like having your car turn into an elephant before your eyes: things that make you wonder whether you're completely crazy. Being beaten up by someone who apparently loves you is one of those things. . . . Trusting your judgment at that moment is like trusting your sense of balance when someone has just poured a fifth of vodka down your throat.

Besides that, there's also the Jekyll/Hyde phenomenon. . . .

The longer you stay, the more your confidence and your self-respect are undermined. . . . it's corrosive. The longer you stay, the worse it gets. And since, as before, the capacity that is under attack is the very one you need in order to get out, this makes it harder and harder to leave.
Part II.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 2:25 AM on November 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


Still, though. Alf Stewart wouldn't strike his children, and wouldn't raise a hand to Lizzie Dixon, who begged to go round and round with him. This means, to me, that he saw his wife as his entitled punching bag - this was the person who was his to hit as he saw fit - which makes me have, bizarrely, a lot less sympathy for him than if he were violent to all comers.

and

Note, how many - perhaps most - of these abusers stop when they fear that they may not prevail in a physical confrontation because the child has grown too strong. Or how they don't take on some members of the family. That folks, indicates to me that the violence is not "uncontrollable" - at least not to these abusers.

Well, again, I don't want to defend these types of guys. (And I'm only talking about people who are suffering from PTSD, not simple sadists and bullies. Patrick Stewart's description of his father all but states that he was a PTSD sufferer . . . this is what I'm talking about.) I do want the effects of PTSD to be better understood. PTSD does not work according to logic. That's why it's a disorder.

And that's also why, when discussing PTSD, "explanations" based on logic are pretty much guaranteed to do one thing, and that is to get it mostly wrong.

Alf Stewart's abuse of his wife possibly occurred because of their closeness, not because he saw her as "his entitled punching bag," but because his traumatic experiences were such that he could not relieve himself of them with just anyone, and when he did, he did so in a terrible, terrible way with the person closest to him. That's why I said before that there is some intimacy (which is a terrible word to use, but I don't know a better one in English) is domestic violence. The idea that everyone who abuses a love one does so because he / she sees that person as "property" or something is just . . . stupid. It's a black-and-white response to a problem that does have some complexity, although that tends to squelch moralizing high-mindedness to admit. (This seems to be an American affliction, I suppose it's also this thinking that allows for a higher percentage of citizens to be put in non-rehabilitative prisons than in just about every other country on Earth.) I'm sure there are sound scientific reasons why most humans take out frustrations on those closest to them as opposed to random strangers, but it's a fact that most of us do just that. The majority of us stay within the limits of acceptable behavior, but still, there's truth to the adage that "We always hurt the ones we love." I add, we really don't do this very consciously, do we? (Answer: we usually don't.) So I find it bewildering that we expect those suffering from severe psychological trauma to keep it in check. Some of the time, it's just not going to happen. Nonetheless, abuse isn't acceptable. That's why there needs to be more awareness of the complexities of the reasons why abuse occurs (not just limited to PTSD) and more effort put into rehabilitation, creating a culture of openness and so on.

My own PTSD-related disconnectedness from reality is relatable to the story Patrick Stewart tells of his father. Sometimes I was perfectly fine. Other times, I wasn't. I dealt with a lot of non-family members during the war. I can guarantee you that they never saw me "shell-shocked" in any way. Around my aunts and uncles and cousins and my temporary "home" is where it came out, often in simple daily activities like hanging laundry. It sure as fuck wasn't controllable. (And I really had no memory of most of these incidents even moments after they occurred. The laundry incident, for instance, ended when my aunt came out and screamed at me to get inside because they were shooting at me. Apparently, I froze for a minute, then collapsed in hysterical fear. Only the last bit do I actually recall as "reality." The rest is kind of dream-like, like a childhood memory you don't know if you actually have, or you just stole from a photo.) Could I have been in such a state of mind and, were I orientated towards violence, abused a loved one? I don't see why not; it's no less theoretically "doable" to me now as hanging laundry on what was essentially the frontline of a war, as bullets zoomed by. If you can explain how it's different, give it a go.

Possibly I'd see Alf Stewart and other violent PTSD sufferers as simply "cowardly" or "gutless" if I never had lived through disconnects of my own, but having done so, I don't have a problem seeing how PTSD can cause behavior entirely unconnected to conscious control. This doesn't make them likeable, nor their actions acceptable . . . but perhaps it sheds light on to the "how" of it, and from that understanding some solutions will arise.

And if you can't see this, then you should offer some thanks for your untainted mental health!
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 2:27 AM on November 28, 2009 [11 favorites]


PTSD is valid and I have no wish to take anything away from those who suffer from it, but I stand by my original comment.

There are many forms of cowardice; spousal abuse is but one of them. As Stewart points out: "In my adult life I have struggled to overcome the bad lessons of my father's behaviour, this corrosive example of male irresponsibility."

It's irresponsible because this form of abuse is often passed on to children who grow up to become abusers themselves.

It's irresponsible because taking out one's unhappiness out on others is easy, especially after a snootful of judgement inhibitor; much easier than having the courage to seek help (although I do recognise that back then men were expected to keep a stiff upper lip, and almost certainly help was not as easy to ask for -- but there were avenues. Stewart's father did not take them, he used his fists instead).

And since when does combat teach you to inflict physical violence on your spouse? Even if he was having trouble transitioning back to civilian life, you'd think the horror of hurting his wife the first time would have been enough to make him get help. Was PTSD really to blame (I suppose you could blame the war, but what of the other men who returned from battle and never laid a hand on anyone?), or was this behavior already ingrained? Stewart does not say, but I suspect the latter rather than the former.

But no matter how it comes about, it's cowardly, it is the precise opposite of what most people vow during their wedding (something along the lines of loving, honoring, cherishing, and protecting); it's cowardly to harm someone so obviously defenseless.

If he was in the mood for a scrap after getting plastered, why didn't he take on some other guy at the pub, someone that could fight back?

As I said: coming home to beat on your wife is gutless.
posted by bwg at 2:33 AM on November 28, 2009


The part that stood out for me was
No one came, but everyone knew.
And that's one of the things that's stood out for me in the recent threads, too: there is no credit in not being a perpetrator yourself. Doing something or saying something at the appropriate time is required to avoid complicity.

What Stewart doesn't append to "everybody knew" is that they knew, but didn't admit it (perhaps not even to themselves). Public recognition of violence against women starts to move the shame from the victims to the bystanders.
posted by hawthorne at 5:35 AM on November 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


I would be interested in seeing a study that tries to assess whether PTSD sufferers are more or less likely to be the perpetrators of domestic abuse than non-PTSD sufferers. I don't know whether that part of the discussion is even relevant. Even Patrick Stewart--who I've been a fan of since the fall of 1987--can't say for sure that the war had anything to do with it. He was born five weeks after the last men were evacuated from Dunkirk. He never knew a pre-war Dad, and for all we know, Alf Stewart was exactly the kind of unsympathetic, hard-charging guy who would thrive on the battlefield, and also beat his wife, with or without PTSD. The idea that "Dad would have been gentler if it hadn't been for the war" might just be the last illusion that he is holding on to.

Or maybe Alf would have been a wonderful guy without the emotional scars of battle. We can't say--that's my point.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 6:08 AM on November 28, 2009


Very powerful. It's about time those in Hollywood or "famous" speak of their own experiences. It makes us who dealt with it as a child feel less alone. When I went through therapy speaking about my own experiences as a child and how I was experiencing PTSD at 28 from it, I made the therapist cry. Those three years were worth all of the pain, tears, and reliving of the experience so for once I could say none of it was my fault. Now I have a wonderful son and my only goal is to make sure he has a life 100% the opposite. I never, ever want him to feel low self esteem, depression, suicidal thoughts at a young age. No one, young or old, should ever feel that way because of someone else's inability to be a decent human being and control their violent behavior.
posted by stormpooper at 7:05 AM on November 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


I would be interested in seeing a study that tries to assess whether PTSD sufferers are more or less likely to be the perpetrators of domestic abuse than non-PTSD sufferers. I don't know whether that part of the discussion is even relevant.

Well, they're certainly more likely to have survived traumatic childhoods themselves.

There may well also be a higher prevalence of domestic violence among veterans these days, but it would be hard to account for any potential selection problems in trying to determine what is "caused" by combat experience.

I'm a little surprised by the notion, expressed here and there in this thread, that society is too punitive toward abusers. We are a long, long way from treating domestic violence the way we do other, similarly severe assaults. It doesn't help to put scare quotes around "criminal" when talking about assaults on family members. Sure, jail helps -- it keeps the rest of the family physically safe. That's a plus, right?
posted by palliser at 8:03 AM on November 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


I would be interested in seeing a study that tries to assess whether PTSD sufferers are more or less likely to be the perpetrators of domestic abuse than non-PTSD sufferers. I don't know whether that part of the discussion is even relevant. Even Patrick Stewart--who I've been a fan of since the fall of 1987--can't say for sure that the war had anything to do with it. He was born five weeks after the last men were evacuated from Dunkirk. He never knew a pre-war Dad, and for all we know, Alf Stewart was exactly the kind of unsympathetic, hard-charging guy who would thrive on the battlefield, and also beat his wife, with or without PTSD. The idea that "Dad would have been gentler if it hadn't been for the war" might just be the last illusion that he is holding on to.

Or maybe Alf would have been a wonderful guy without the emotional scars of battle. We can't say--that's my point.


Obviously, you can't say for sure, so Alf Stewart's PTSD is just an assumption. (Although, there obviously would have been many people in young Patrick's life who knew his father before and after.) I'm still stunned that people can't perceive PTSD as something that goes beyond control and causes "logical" results. For instance:

And since when does combat teach you to inflict physical violence on your spouse? Even if he was having trouble transitioning back to civilian life, you'd think the horror of hurting his wife the first time would have been enough to make him get help. Was PTSD really to blame (I suppose you could blame the war, but what of the other men who returned from battle and never laid a hand on anyone?), or was this behavior already ingrained? Stewart does not say, but I suspect the latter rather than the former.

Oh boy. First of all, who's saying that combat teaches anyone to inflict physical violence on one's spouse? Precisely no one. And again, as I've posted, PTSD is not predictable, nor does it affect one person the same as another. That's part of the problems it causes. And get help? btw, are you joking? The US military is woefully neglectful of mental health issues even today. Many former and active members of the military have trouble receiving the mental health assistance they need, both from a lack of resources and the often intentional downplaying of the problems of PTSD and other issues. Here's a quote:

A recent study at Walter Reed Army Medical Center involving over 6,100 army personnel and marines indicates that of those troops returning from duty in Iraq or Afghanistan that are positive for mental health disorders, only between 23-40 percent actually seek help.

Alf Stewart? It was nearly seventy years ago! What "help" do you think there was? PTSD wasn't remotely understood. Help wasn't really available, and the culture was such that few would have sought it out, or even considered themselves to have a problem in the first place. Again, *even today* fewer than half of veterans already diagnosed with mental health disorders seek help.

Do some reading on PTSD and combat before offering opinions that only further the spread of ignorance. btw, here's a statement which pretty succinctly refutes what you "suspect":

The connection between post-war trauma and veteran domestic violence has been extensively documented in earlier wars. Veterans with PTSD are two-to-three times more likely to commit intimate partner violence than veterans without the disorder, according to the Veterans Administration. What remains unspoken is that spouses and girlfriends of male veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder are two-to-three times more likely to be victims of domestic violence than women involved with male veterans who do not have the disorder.

It's from here.

One could see the issue of domestic abuse among veterans as complex and frequently related to unpredictable or poorly-understood mental health issues, such as PTSD, which need to be better understood, discussed and treated in order to help fix the problems it causes. Or can one ignore the evidence - there's mounds of it out there - and blather on about gutlessness and cowardice and make high-standing black-and-white judgements about the "decisions" of people from the misconception that all actions are somehow "conscious."

But it's the latter train of thought that will allow more wives to be beaten in the future, and more children to be scarred.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 10:53 AM on November 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


Wow. Extremely powerful and beautifully written. My snarking facilities have been overwhelmed and shut down.
posted by tehloki at 12:32 PM on November 28, 2009


Veterans with PTSD are two-to-three times more likely to commit intimate partner violence than veterans without the disorder, according to the Veterans Administration.

Thank you, Dee Extrovert.

To tidy up the brutal complexities of domestic violence -- especially WRT veterans -- with, "You're a gutless coward." strikes me as an utterly useless act of self-indulgence, arrogance and mental cowardice.
posted by Moistener at 12:39 PM on November 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Excellent article. I know it's corny to say so, but this lends a new level to the TNG episode where he mindmelds with the Vulcan leader and is overwhelmed by the powerful Vulcan emotions. Seriously, if you've seen it, you know how much Stewart lets go, and knowing now that he was likely channeling real grief and anger makes me respect him even more as an actor.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 1:05 PM on November 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Thanks for finding that link, Dee.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 1:20 PM on November 28, 2009


To tidy up the brutal complexities of domestic violence -- especially WRT veterans -- with, "You're a gutless coward." strikes me as an utterly useless act of self-indulgence, arrogance and mental cowardice.

When you've been a 9 year old trying to prevent your father from shooting your mother in the back as she runs down the driveway, I will give more credence to your statement. Otherwise, I suggest you stick to topics you know something about.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 1:56 PM on November 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


The unbelievable outpouring of difficult experiences and true emotion in this thread is staggering. It represents everything I love about MeFi. This is one time I'm happy to have no stories to share.
posted by HumanComplex at 2:20 PM on November 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Sullivan [Paul Sullivan, an analyst in the VA’s Veterans Benefits Administration[] was working as an analyst at the Veterans Benefits Administration in Washington in early 2005 when he was called to a meeting with a top political appointee at the VA, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy Michael McLendon. McLendon, an intensely focused man in a neatly pressed suit, kept a Bible on his desk at the office. Sullivan explained to McLendon and the other attendees that the rise in benefits claims the VA was noticing was caused partly by Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who were suffering from PTSD. “That’s too many,” McLendon said, then hit his hand on the table. “They are too young” to be filing claims, and they are doing it “too soon.” He hit the table again. The claims, he said, are “costing us too much money,” and if the veterans “believed in God and country . . . they would not come home with PTSD.” At that point, he slammed his palm against the table a final time, making a loud smack. Everyone in the room fell silent.

“I was a little bit surprised,” Sullivan said, recalling the incident. “In that one comment, he appeared to be a religious fundamentalist.” For Sullivan, McLendon’s remarks reflected the views of many political appointees in the VA and revealed what was behind their efforts to reduce costs by restricting claims. The backlog of claims was immense, and veterans, often suffering extreme psychological stress, had to wait an average of five months for decisions on their requests.


source.
posted by Rumple at 2:22 PM on November 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


To all those speaking of empathy, I think that yes, we to some extent can put ourselves in the shoes of those abusers suffering from PTSD and other mental illnesses sparked by traumatic events. Abuse tends to create abusers. However, our understanding that abuse is prompted by a range of factors does not require us to think of wife beaters and husband beaters and child beaters as anything less than douchebags. We can say "This, this, and this caused Mr. X to do Y," but that doesn't absolve Mr. X of having to face justice (or even just plain revulsion) for what he has done. The recognition of mental illness should only lessen the repercussions of heinous acts to a certain extent. After all, somehow Patrick Stewart lived through abuse and managed not to become an abusive man himself.

To sum up, I can recognize that mental illness had a hand in creating an abuser, yet I can still think that abuser is a big stupid dickhead for perpetrating abuses. Dig? If locking him or her up is just too old school harsh for ya, put them in one of those high security mental hospitals that's basically jail for the unbalanced and hook them up with some sooopreme therapy.
posted by Never teh Bride at 2:29 PM on November 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


When you've been a 9 year old trying to prevent your father from shooting your mother in the back as she runs down the driveway, I will give more credence to your statement. Otherwise, I suggest you stick to topics you know something about.

If that's something you had to experience, I'm really sorry for you. That would be absolutely awful. Like you say, I couldn't nearly comprehend the kind of emotional havoc that would ensue, and I don't think I'd wish it on anyone.

That said, even if Moistener has never experienced something like that, there's a valid point to what (s)he said. And that point is, I think, reconcilable with your story. The point is that war is horrible, and it does horrible, horrible things to people, and we don't do enough to help them. And when they come back afflicted with a disorder like PTSD, statistics show they're more likely to, as Dee Extrovert put it, commit intimate partner violence. Sure, some people are lousy. Some people are just gutless cowards who get a high off of the power of controlling another person, of roughing them up - of killing them, even. But some people are also sick, and desperately need help - and while that doesn't excuse absolutely despicable behavior, behavior of the worst kind - I think it can help explain it and help us all as a society understand it, and treat it, and hopefully prevent it. We lose that when we just say, well, hell, they're just gutless cowards, all of them, and that's that.

Acknowledging it's a more complicated issue, that PTSD is real and serious and working to help fight it and end it will, among other things, help make it so there are less stories like the ones in this thread. They were heartbreaking to read.
posted by kbanas at 2:35 PM on November 28, 2009


To tidy up the brutal complexities of domestic violence -- especially WRT veterans -- with, "You're a gutless coward." strikes me as an utterly useless act of self-indulgence, arrogance and mental cowardice.

When you've been a 9 year old trying to prevent your father from shooting your mother in the back as she runs down the driveway, I will give more credence to your statement.

I should've qualified my statement and limited it to non-participant observers who resort to simplistic condemnation.

I do not condemn victims -- including those who become perpetrators -- for finding strength and stability in a particular attitude.
posted by Moistener at 2:45 PM on November 28, 2009


... After that whole unbelievable thread about how, no, it's NOT THE SAME, the fact anyone here still doesn't get it literally makes me feel like throwing up.

I agree with you in general, but not everyone reads the whole site all the time.
posted by milarepa at 7:11 PM on November 28, 2009


Great thread.
I also appreciate everyone sharing their experiences - - especially Mr. Stewart - who did so in the most public of ways..

When someone experiences this kind of thing as a child it changes something in them (obviously). Children are not meant to think about protecting their parents at such an early age, especially from another parent. The feeling of isolation can sometimes be overwhelming, and last way into adulthood.
I was a very strange child as a result, with few friends and preferring to play alone most days. And, to echo another poster's comment, sometimes there is a vestigial feeling of not wanting to have children of your own for various reasons.

In my case, years of watching physical abuse directed toward my mother and I from my father culminated one night with the police at the door imploring me to let them in and my mother locked in a bedroom with my father threatening to kill her whoever came into the house. It ended with him coming to his senses (a bit) coming out of the room and handing me the machete he intended to use instructing me to hide it "before he killed someone".

I don't think he ever found that machete.

I was maybe 8 or 9.

Children should not be put in the position where such a decision has to be made. Something breaks inside and, I think, I ceased being a child that night.

I never opened the door for the police that night. But I was too scared to try to enter the room and do anything to stop it. I remember sitting where I could see the bedroom door vibrating against the frame with the violence within, and the police through the glass in the front door. Unable to summon the courage to act, all I could do was sit halfway between both situations and do nothing. It was all my young mind could come up with.
To this day I still feel like I disappointed my mother that night, and I've never forgiven myself. I've spent the rest of my life trying to make it up to her - refusing to accept or ask for even the smallest gift or assistance from her and doing what I could to help her whenever I could. From housework to sneaking my allowance back into her purse.
I would go to friends' houses and be extremely uncomfortable when I saw that their parents were living together and have to leave.
I also wanted to kill my father for a long time and fantasized about it from that night to early adulthood. He was (and still is) a liar and abuser. I told him to his face at 18 that I never wanted to have anything to do with him again and this is his punishment - knowing that his only son has disowned him forever.
But something happened along the way, through travel and deep meditation; the feelings went from hatred, to disgust to just pity.
I ran into him a few months ago (while with my mother) and though she had no words for him I was surprised that I was able to speak to him as a normal human being and recognize him for what he was - simply another flawed human being.
I've never confronted him directly about the treatment we suffered at his hands and I longer have the overwhelming urge to hurt or kill him that festered in my insides for most of my life laving me with ulcers and anger management issues (now resolved), but I know that if the situation occurs where he is on his deathbed and I'm still alive to be there I'll have a captive audience..

I think he knows this...
posted by tbonicus at 10:38 PM on November 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


In the US, a five-year DOJ studied showed that 84% of spouse abuse victims were females, so it's about six times more likely that the victim is a woman.

Oh, well if the DOJ says so.
posted by Law Talkin' Guy at 7:54 AM on November 29, 2009


And that's also why, when discussing PTSD, "explanations" based on logic are pretty much guaranteed to do one thing, and that is to get it mostly wrong.

As is trying to suss out the reason why someone who doesn't suffer from PTSD does something awful to another. Like, having your head held under a sink full of dirty dish water until you can't hold your breath any longer because he's angry. You've done nothing to make him angry, not that it would justify his actions, what he does to you comes out of the blue in his drunken state. Where is the "logic" in that?

I think pointing to PTSD in Alf's case is a canard, it's not something you can turn it off and on at will. Where are the stories of Alf coming home bruised and, bloodied having lashed out at people other than his wife? Why is it that he only used his wife as a punching bag on weekends, after coming home drunk from the pub? Why does Patrick say was his father was on his best behaviour at other times of the week?
posted by squeak at 10:50 AM on November 29, 2009


But it would be even greater if Refuge/most other facilities did not assume the abuser was the male.

Yeah, insisting that these programs specifically address the needs of male victims thwarts the overall purpose, which is to support most victims, which would be women and children. Introduce men into the mix, and suddenly you don't have a safe haven where male energy isn't around.

There have been plenty of times when I have felt a bit hurt and excluded because I wasn't welcome to participate in a female-only gathering. But, to pardon the expression, I took it like a man. I'm a guy, I'm not a woman, and even if I'm not the most macho person out there, I still am male and that means that sometimes women just want a break from me where they can experience their own thing and share themselves with people in a different way.

Insisting that men be given the same services will make it difficult to provide services to the vast majority of its clients, which are battered women.

pelham, if you feel strongly about this, you might want to become involved with Stop Abuse For Everyone (SAFE). I don't know anything about them, you'll have to do your own research, but they claim to make their priority calling attention to the less known victims of domestic abuse: straight men, GLBT individuals, teens, and the elderly. Unlike some of the other groups, they sound somewhat less purposefully anti-feminist, but again, I haven't looked through their site all that carefully.
posted by Deathalicious at 12:26 PM on November 29, 2009


Thank you porn in the woods. Thank you Patrick Stewart. I, too, grew up in an abusive home, not as horribly violent. If domestic violence to women and children weren't recognized, publicized, and truly criminalized, I have no idea whether I would have gotten past it, but I did. That is all.
posted by nj_subgenius at 1:46 PM on November 29, 2009


I worked closely with Patrick Stewart on a low-budget movie several years ago, and he verbally abused me and publicly humiliated me for an event that even he acknowledged was not my responsibility and beyond my capacity to fix. The problem was only a minor irritant to him, but he made sure that I suffered for it in a huge way, that had a far-reaching impact on my career at the time. And though we were face to face after that event several times, he never apologized for acting like a tempestuous child and fucking me over with my employer. In fact he generally acted like asshole on set to just about all those subordinate to him. Some people say that's how movie stars are, that's what film sets are like, but none of the other actors on that production, some also quite famous, acted as poorly as he did.

So fuck Patrick Stewart. Seems he picked up some his father's habits.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 6:00 PM on November 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


But come Friday night, after the pubs closed, we awaited his return with trepidation. I would be in bed but not asleep. I could never sleep until he did; while he was awake we were all at risk. Instead, I would listen for his voice, singing, as he walked home. Certain songs were reassuring: I'll Take You Home Again, Kathleen; I'll Walk Beside You . . . But army songs were not a good sign. And worst of all was silence. When I could only hear footsteps it was the signal to be super-alert.

This rings so true to me. When you are in an abusive relationship or abusive home (even if not directly the target of abuse), you learn to be ever-alert for signs or signals -- a change in tone of voice, a change in pace or posture, certain words -- that indicate Now, it's coming now, I need to do something! ... What? Hide? Run? Tidy up? Make sure my fear doesn't show because that will feed it ...

That sense of impending doom because you hear dear old da' coming and he's not singing a happy song, or because you realize, too late, as your husband's key is in the lock, that you still have laundry on the couch, or because you've just overheard your mother yelling at your brother and you know she'll find you next and won't stop at yelling because you're not as big or as strong (or worse, because you believe the lie that he is the good child, and you are not) ... that is a powerful feeling that you never completely forget, no matter how long ago the threat might have been.
posted by notashroom at 10:15 AM on November 30, 2009


“ ‘My disagreement was with the broadly stated “soldiers” and the modifier “never.” But ‘home’ works too.’
‘Yeah, that much was crystal clear.’”
You’d think so, but here we are.
… "combat veterans" -- experience Really Awful Problems... including sub-clinical misery.
To me the counter-claim is laughable: "A combat veteran is statistically unlikely to experience major negative effects." posted by Moistener
The counter-claim to “Soldiers never really come home” is that some soldiers do really come home, not that combat veterans don’t have major negative effects.
I take issue with the idea implicit in that statement that combat veterans can’t live normal productive lives and recover from their issues. That they somehow explode like this guy did.
Furthermore, while there are veterans who do have problems who do have domestic violence in their lives, do we know this is the case with Stewart’s father?
Is there any proof that his beating his wife stems from his service? Is it not possible that he was prone to it? As I’ve said, there are people who do beat their partners who were never in the military at all.
Again, I get what you mean, and I’ve made exception for it. What I take issue with is – while understanding that yes, there are issues with PTSD – that this is necessarily a case of it. Quite possibly it is.
But pardon me if I point out the stereotype that affects me. Plenty of transgender, gay, lesbian, and other folks on here putting their two cents in. This happens to be a group I’m part of who get stereotyped in this manner. Dee Xtrovert does a fine job of delineating the disorder, so I’m not touching on that (although I disagree in that help existed, but yes, the culture was beyond tight). Just on the ‘crazy vet’ stereotype. It’s as insulting to say something like - black people never really learn in school. Well gee, it’s an indictment of the educational system.
Did Alf Stewart have PTSD? I really don’t know. But it doesn’t ultimately matter because the culture then overwhelmingly ignored domestic violence as well as PTSD. And there’s still a lot of that. It’s important to understand why an abuser does what he does, but triage comes first, otherwise the cycle never gets broken. This is why I say stop the behavior regardless of the cause and why I’m not thrilled with the left handed pity veterans seem to get. All other points, anyone’s feelings, ceded.
Maybe I’m a bit more sensitive to it because it’s in my face lately. There’s plenty of vets right now who would be happy to come home if they had one to go to.
posted by Smedleyman at 4:01 PM on November 30, 2009


All other points, anyone’s feelings, ceded.
Maybe I’m a bit more sensitive to it because it’s in my face lately.


Nah, I had that feeling too. I wasn't sure if it was just me because after reading that piece I had an electron microscope aimed squarely at my (lint free) navel for a few days. It really opened a bunch of old wounds I much prefer to shove down and, push out of the way.

To forget.
posted by squeak at 11:21 PM on December 1, 2009


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