20/20 Segment on Abuse
It is collossally disturbing.
To me, though, the most disturbing part is the 45 or so minutes that precede the physical violence. The segment focuses on the slaps, the tears, the palpable evidence of abuse. Then it asks, "Why does she stay?" The answer lies in the verbal beating she takes in the first place. This man twists everything she says and I know from experience that she's trying to make sense of a world in which she is told everything she says is wrong. The only way to make sense of that is to say, "He must be right."
That is what paves the way for the physical abuse. And these verbal tirades are entirely legal. If he had not hit her at the end of the tape, this would have done her no good. Hell, even the slaps he gives her are nothing but a misdemeanor. She had to back up this evidence with documented proof that he bruised her on many other occasions before they would up his charges to assault.
My point is: the verbal abuse on this tape is MUCH worse than the physical violence, and yet it's legal. And yet it doesn't inspire people to tears. And yet it continues. When women try to leave because of verbal and emotional abuse, they feel unworthy because "it's just words," and "I say crappy things too," and "everyone argues." There is NO way to explain to someone how bad it is, how scary it is.
We often WISH for physical abuse because we think it will give us something to cling to, some way to propel ourselves out. But the sad and frightening truth is that by the time the physical abuse comes, the abuse has paved the way with so much emotional abuse that we think, again, this is our fault, and we can do nothing. By the time the physical abuse comes, we are too destroyed to fight back. That is the crime and I don't know how to begin to punish it.
But this woman is seriously awesome. She was with this monster from the time she was 18 and spent more than 20 years under his thumb, yet she is so clear and wise and well-spoken about her ordeal. How? Is she Superwoman? In some ways, yes; in other ways, we all have the same strength if we would only use it.
But how. But HOW?