It’s been four days since I documented my own domestic violence, in almost real-time, between me and the Farmer. The most common response I’ve heard is some variation of: “Zero tolerance for domestic abuse!”
And you know what? I have zero tolerance for things I am not prone to tolerate as well. That's easy, isn't it?
It's much harder to see the issue from the person's perspective who has the issue.
I’ve spent days reading the 500 comments on my blog and the comments about my situation on other blogs, and I’m absolutely shocked by the collective hatred and disdain for women who are in violent relationships.
Here's what someone said on my blog: “Victims of domestic abuse suck at pressing charges.”
Yes. It's true. Women don't like to press charges. Because they love the guy. You, maybe, are unable to fall in love with a guy who is violent. Good for you. But do you have to hate women who aren't like you?
For some reason, people feel it is honorable to rip a woman to shreds if she is living with domestic violence. Here's an example from the comments section on James Altucher's blog:
“[Penelope Trunk is] out of her mind to think that her children are not being abused. She, in fact, is as guilty of that abuse as the farmer that beats her.”
The high-and-mightiness that emanates from the public discussion of domestic violence is breathtaking. Everyone is an expert. Everyone knows what's right.
Here's an example from the comments section on Jezebel, a supposedly feminist community that is full of anger towards women who live in violent households.
“No one gets another chance to hit me. I don’t care that I have the training to fight back.
“One incident, and YOU LEAVE. Violent people don’t get better without a lot of work, and it’s not *your* problem. Once someone raises a hand to you, you owe that person *nothing.* It’s likely that the violent behavior will escalate. Sometimes it is deliberate. Either way, YOU LEAVE.”
This person sees everything very clearly. If there's abuse, you leave. Even if it's small. Because all small abuse gets huge.
I don't think anyone is suggesting that if the guy hits you twice, the kids are better off living in a single-parent home and hearing their dad called an abuser. What people do say is that the odds are it won't stop. The odds are it will get worse. The odds are, the kids will be worse off, in the end, having lived with the dad.
But the truth is that we do not believe that men who leave two, visible marks on their wife should lose their kids.
You know how I know we don't believe this? Because if Child Protective Services sees two bruises on a kid at two different times, the kid is not removed from the home. Think about it: Is that kid better off with parents who might be able to stop, or in the Foster Care System for the rest of their life?
So we are making bets, right? Is it better to leave, because it is likely to get worse? Or is it better to stay because the benefits from things improving, although unlikely, are huge?
I'm in the startup community. It's the world of high risk. You bet big on yourself, you kill your family's credit, you put your house on the line, and maybe, just maybe, your company will make it.
I can improve my own half and see what happens. Have you been to couple's therapy? There's a saying that a marriage is a gear system. If one gear changes, all the gears change.
Blog commenters will argue against this idea by telling me not to change because It’s not my fault.
But really, how do they know? We know that I grew up in a home where there was lots of violence. So it’s likely that I will be in that kind of house when I’m an adult. And surely it’s possible that I am contributing to the mix since I am statistically likely to create a violent household. Here’s another thing: You don’t know what I did leading up to the bruise in the photo.
I’ll tell you what my mom used to do leading up to my dad hitting her:
One night they were wallpapering. They had been wallpapering the living room after work for a week. My mom got mad at my dad and threw red paint all over the wallpaper. Ruined all their work. He didn’t respond. He was stunned. Then she knocked over the table with the wallpaper and the glue. It ruined the newly varnished floors. He held her arms so she couldn’t do anything else. He held tighter and tighter. She kicked him to get loose. She left no mark. He hit her in the face.
If she blogged about it, and showed the hand print on her face, she might get 500 commenters telling her it’s not her fault.
Should she leave with me and my brother because our dad is violent and we should not live with him? Or should she work on her own behavior to see if she can single-handedly stop the violence?
I think the most grown-up, good parenting thing for her to do would be to understand her own behavior and stop it so that me and my brother could grow up in a home with both our parents. She didn’t do that, of course. She had little insight into her own behavior and she and my dad ended up taking most of their anger out on me.
My mom had good choices she could have made because, in fact, part of the domestic violence was her fault.
“It’s not your fault” completely limits a woman’s choices, because you are saying that she is powerless to control the situation. And if you tell every woman “it’s not your fault” then they can’t improve. How do women get better at not creating a violent household? Probably by changing their behavior. This doesn’t mean “always tiptoe around your spouse and become a mouse”. But it can mean a wide range of positive changes.
We are all growing personally. It’s not your fault is almost always a path to no growth. It’s what Oprah founded her show on, right? Personal responsibility. Why don’t we go there, first, before we go to “it’s not your fault”. The truth is that if we take responsibility for the problems in our lives, we can solve the problem. If we blame other people, we are always running. People who blame other people can’t get along with siblings, can’t get along at work, lose friends quickly. People who facilitate that behavior say, “It’s not your fault.”
Most of the success of my blog comes from my reliance on the idea of personal responsibility. There are no bad bosses–it’s only you. If you can’t get a job it’s not because of the job market, it’s because you are unemployable. And you can fix that. Your heavy workload is not because someone gave it to you — you gave it to yourself. People like what I say because I show them how they can fix anything when they take responsibility for fixing it. That’s what I truly believe.
And that’s why I’m staying with the Farmer.