Monday, April 13, 2009

You So Crazy

I don't do this often, but I read an article on Slate this afternoon. Linda Hirshman reviewed a book called Crazy Love, a semi-autobiographical novel that chronicles the abuse the author, Leslie Morgan Steiner, suffered at the hands of her blond husband. That's right; he's blond. What else do we really need to know, right?

In light of the Rianna-Chris Brown abuse/publicity stunt thing, the age old (since the dawn of feminism at least) question has been brought to the public's attention once again: Why do women stay in abusive relationships?

So I start to read this article hoping to get some granule of insight into this most baffling of phenomena. By the end of the second paragraph, you can tell that Hirshman is not a fan of the book, and for good reason. The book never answers any questions. It's just a story about a woman who gets beat up by her husband for four years until he gets bored and leaves her. Now I'm all for having unanswered questions floating around at the end of a story, but this is one of a million identical stories, and if you're not offering up any insight on the intricacies of the female brain and why the abused stays with the abuser then what's the friggin' point? In fact, she becomes almost an enabler when she recounts seeing her husband at a party four months later with his new girlfriend, and instead of pulling her aside, grabbing the girl by the ears, and screaming into her face, "He may seem nice now, but he's an abusive, demoralizing jerk and he will hurt you any way he can, and leave you broken and wasted!!", she turns away silently thinking, "It's okay; endure it for a few years and you'll get your own book deal."

But the larger question still remains: Why do they stay?

I've known a couple of girls who were in abusive relationships and they've told me some really, really frakked up stuff about what went on during those darker of times. Still, I couldn't get a completely strait answer as to why they stayed as long as they did, or why they didn't leave. However, this being a blog and all, I have my own opinion and theory.

I think most humans, and I don't exclude myself from the human race, have difficulties with acceptance. It takes a massive, life changing event or religious catharsis for someone to make the claim, "I don't care what people think," and actually mean it. That goes for our personal and intimate relationships as well. And I'm positive that at one point or another you were pretty comfortable in a relationship and thought, I will never find another person that will want to be with me so I've got to hold on to this one forever, no matter what. This may turn out to be a good thing or it could kill you, but either way you hold on.

Of course this doesn't account for everything, and I'm being slightly vague because I want to hear your arguments. And guys, don't be afraid to pipe up. There are plenty of males out there getting just as much abuse. Maybe not physically, but I'm sure Rianna is quite the egotistical, diva bitch and was just nagging Chris Brown to death.


Herr Zrbo said...

I think I pretty much agree with you. I think the 'trouble' of having to break up with the abusive boyfriend, and the fear of the reaction he might have, plus the prospect of having to find a new support base (home, circle of friends, etc.) seems like too much.

The women don't realize that there's a better guy out there, it's very easy to just 'stay the course'.

Little Earl said...

Hey Ninquelote, nice you see you posting again (and not about politics - just kidding). I read the same Slate article and thought the book seemed bizarre was well.

Unfortunately I have no opinion on/experience with this topic. If anything I may have the opposite problem.

yoggoth said...

This is a topic of constant discussion in the criminal justice world. It seems surprising at first that one of the major impediments to prosecuting domestic violence cases is getting the victim to cooperate with law enforcement. But it's not completely counterintuitive if you think about it. The victims love the victimizers. To paraphrase your analysis, people hate to be alone. Isolation even drives us insane when pushed to extremes.

Not to belittle the abuse, but I'm reminded of the "codependent" self-help craze that was popular in the 90's. I remember hearing the critique of codependence and thinking, "that sounds like every relationship I know about!" This is the extreme end of that scale.

Now the cynical part - some of these people don't exactly have amazing alternatives. They often are surrounded by poor role models and witness abuse of loved ones from a young age. There may be a better guy out there for some, but then again, maybe there isn't. Maybe the alternative really is to be alone, at least for a while. Alone and possibly without economic support. We, as slaves to biology, react strongly against that possibility.

Sarah said...

There is the element of isolation IN the relationship as well. Most abusive partners don't beat you up on the first date, and during the period where everything is fine, they find myriad ways to make a life that excludes everyone else. When it's happening, it feels great - not only is this someone who wants to be with you, but someone that loves you so much they want to spend every minute with you and you alone. And then, when the abuse starts there is no obvious place to turn since you've removed yourself from your closest contacts.

One last observance: abuse usually escalates. When you've had a good six months and your boyfriend punches a wall about a petty jealousy, there may be some screaming but at this point you may not be thinking of it as abuse. It takes something really drastic for people to recognize aggression and controlling behavior is deeply connected to physical violence. If you've already been putting up with the screaming and verbal abuse for awhile though, you are conditioned to take whatever else may come.