In the Nineties, I dated a man whose hands frightened me. He didn’t raise them in anger to hit me, but he had battered me so thoroughly emotionally and psychologically that I always kept an eye on his hands, suspecting that the next blows might not be verbal but physical. It was not a long relationship — under a year — and the question that always gets asked of any woman in any kind of abusive relationship — why didn’t you leave — can be answered like this: I was too broken. Maybe he was right, I thought. Maybe I am  a screw-up, a loser who gets everything wrong; maybe no one else would have the patience for me, and maybe he can correct what’s wrong with me, make me better. I finally left him when I thought I might be pregnant and I decided I wouldn’t let him anywhere near our child. I was mentally planning on going to an attorney, legally preventing him from coming near us, when it turned out I wasn’t pregnant. But I had gotten an adrenaline shot of courage, and I have to admit, a healthy dose of hatred toward him.

A few years ago, I saw a news story that he was arrested for domestic abuse. So I was right about those hands. Men who beat women do it first with their words, their attitude, their belittling and their humiliation (this man was particularly good at humiliation.) Their fists are just a natural extension of the abuse they’ve already leveed against a woman. Friends of mine know what my name is now for this man: ‘the spawn of Satan.’

Women who are abused in any way find themselves weighed down by loneliness. You need someone to talk to but you’re scared. What if they judge you? What if they don’t understand? What if all this is actually your fault? One person in my life at that time who, logically, would have been someone to go to for comfort and counsel, had a habit of saying, whenever the subject of domestic abuse came up, “Well, she must like it or she wouldn’t stay.” That kind of response is almost more frightening than the man who has dragged you down. So you stay silent, and you stay.

What has happened now with Rob Porter and the response from both John Kelly and Donald Trump, shows glaringly how willing some are to enable domestic abusers. According to Donald Trump (hardly a good advocate for women in any sense) Rob Porter was good at his job, so Trump is sad to lose him and wishes him well. Not a word about the women he beat. He followed that with a tweet about false allegations, which essentially called Porter’s ex-wives liars. John Kelly didn’t act on what he surely knew many months ago, and when the story broke, he urged Porter to stay on at the White House, to not resign. Because, you know, a good man is hard to find, so who cares if he beats his wife when he gets home.

We will never have moral leadership from this White House. But can we please understand that these attitudes don’t just exist inside those walls? Woman stay silent because they’re frightened not just of the man who is abusing them, but of other people. They’re scared someone will say what a great guy he is, or that he has such integrity, or is so charming. They’re scared someone will say you must like it or you wouldn’t stay.

We leave when we get the courage to do so. We speak out after we’ve reached deep inside ourselves and pulled up more courage. The men who tear women down, who beat them with words and fists, are cowards. And so are the men who enable them and make excuses for them. John Kelly might have been a great military man, but he’s pathetic as a human being.


6 Responses to MEN WHO BEAT WOMEN

  1. Rodney Wilson says:

    Donald Trump is a corrosive force. Those who are not morally deficient when they come to him are soon thereafter corrupted.

  2. David Marks says:

    Remarkably courageous and intimate column, Patti, and one which I read so carefully, that I became lost in your experience, as if an unwilling partner to your pain, to your survival. The Porter situation, which gives it too much credit, because his were a series of criminal acts, have left me questioning an ever present pathology all over again, but with greater heartache. I am increasingly ashamed of my brethren, those who boast love and respect for women, but who, behind the safety of their guarded nests, brutalize their spouses and girlfriends. I find myself making every effort to understand just what would possess any man to terrorize a woman, whether physically or emotionally, and I end up with the same conclusion being drawn: at this point, the why is of lesser concern than the actions of the abuser. There can be no excuse, no rationalization for such behavior. No man can place blame on his father or mother for his own dastardly evils. Men don’t brag about beating their spouses, they boast and inflate their sexual conquests, and those who do abuse women, are cowards. To be clear, men like Kelly and Trump are complicit in these crimes, and in my opinion, must be held accountable. Kelly was no hero, not any longer. He altered his own legacy by his own choosing, and he is now part and parcel of Porter’s original sin. I believe that, and I will never doubt myself on that one. I am offended and personally hurt that any man could treat you the way that man did, Patti, and it makes me stronger to know that I am not an abuser; that I have never considered such vile behavior. Your column has made me more powerful and more self assured, and that is something I need to say. My hope is that all men will respond to stories such as yours, with the same emotional fervor. Thank you, Patti.

  3. Thank you for adding to a much-needed conversation. Indeed, we as a society have a long way to go, but posts like this one, advances the discussion – which will hopefully lead to solutions and peace.

  4. Thank you for sharing. Keep speaking your truth, your voice can help many people.

  5. Ken W. Brown says:


  6. Tom Hahn says:

    I used to think how absurd science fiction movies were that depicted the future of needing to regulate the populations to keep them under control; reporting bad behavior and punishing those that did not comply. Sadly, it appears that those predictions are the only way to stem this violence that continues to occur with onlly the cast members changing. And, I recall Maya Anjelou’s words each day; “When people show you who they are, believe them”.

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