Beaten But Unbowed

In Blog, Culture, Politics by Fedayn36 Comments

 

jane

Following a savage assault last year, and a well-documented sentence on her attacker, Jane Ruffino posted on her Facebook timeline some rules to follow in order to stop beating the shit out of women.

Including rule 10 “Don’t hit women”. Facebook in its wisdom removed her post only to reinstate it with apologies…and then remove it again.  

We republish it here in full with kind permission from Jane Ruffino

 

Facebook notification that the status was removed

Facebook notification that the status was removed

Exactly a year ago, my then-boyfriend put me in a headlock and punched me until his hand shattered. The only reason I didn’t die on my bedroom floor on the night of May 3, 2012 is that he didn’t know where to put his thumb when he made a fist. It wasn’t the first time, nor, I’m sad to say, was it the last time, but it was the one he got caught for, and the one I can’t get sued for talking about.

He spent the night in a hospital, having his hand rebuilt with pins. I spent the night strapped to a trolley in a different hospital, having everything x-rayed. I left with stitches in my face and my blood-soaked clothes in a Dunnes Stores bag. He left the hospital five days later, in a cast, and with a diagnosis of “work and home stress”.

I still get concealer in my scar (and it is still sore), and I’m still not totally safe, but I’ve started to rebuild my life, and it’s getting pretty good. But while my life improves, dudes are still beating up women.

As much as I’d like to shut up about this and have people stop identifying me with something that happened to me, it’s not that common for an abuser to be convicted. I’m in a position to do something that many women are not, so I’ll keep talking until dudes stop beating up women.

We all know victims, so we all know perpetrators. It’s always someone you wish it weren’t. Believe me, I know this better than anyone.

Even though you can’t make a relationship with a violent dickhead safe for his girlfriend (or possibly for any woman), we can make the world safer for women by making it harder to get away with cracking our faces open.

Here’s some of what I think we need to do differently.

1. Swap your sympathy for empathy, and get angry: Nothing could get better for me until I got really angry, and empathy helped me get there. Empathising with me means you’ll stop asking me why I stayed, and assume that, like with any violent crime, it could happen to anyone. Empathising with him means you accept that it’s done by seemingly normal human beings, and not by easily identifiable monsters.

I do appreciate the “Sorry for your troubles”, but I’d rather you be angry with me than sad on my behalf. I know the sympathy comes from the right place, but it can feel a little like a pat on the head, and even a bit isolating. We live in a world where you can beat your girlfriend nearly to death and walk out of a criminal court straight into a pub for a burger and a pint. That should piss you right the fuck off, so if you don’t think it’s my fault, then don’t make it all my responsibility.

2. Trust us: Women like me lose the ability to trust ourselves, and we don’t often speak believably about what’s happening until it’s well in the past. Even I sometimes don’t believe me. And yes, we all take them back. It seems to have undermined my credibility with a lot of people, forever. Because hey, if I hadn’t been exaggerating all along, then why would I take someone back after he put me in the hospital?

I managed to gloss over the time I woke up with a pillow being pushed to my face. I didn’t want to believe he was capable of it any more than you did, so you should probably trust that I’m not going to make this shit up.

3. Start calling bullshit: Does your friend, your brother, your colleague insist that his girlfriend or wife is“batshit crazy”? Does she sound like a wild-eyed shrieking harpy who is totally ruining his life? I’ll tell you something: having the shit slapped out of you makes you a little crazy. Five weeks after I contacted his family to ask them to help him, I was in the hospital with a busted face. They hadn’t believed me because they’d been told I was crazy. I’m not, by the way, which I feel the need to say because trauma does all sorts of things to you, whether or not you ever get your face broken. But maybe if someone had started calling his bullshit years ago, he wouldn’t have ended up the way he is, and I would not have to rebuild my life and my sense of self.

Try it. Next time some guy says “She’s crazy”, assume what he really means is, “I’m an enormous dickhead with no respect for women.”

4.  Stop looking for the truth: My account is true and real, and verified in a criminal court, but his account also represents a world he truly lived in. The fact is, we were both delusional. He believed I was a monstrous asshole, and I thought if I stopped being such a monstrous asshole, he would stop throwing things at my head and be the loving boyfriend he promised he’d be – if I only changed a few more things about myself.

It’s a Venn diagram, where the overlapping bit was “Jane is an irredeemable piece of shit”. It’s when I started insisting I was a worthy human being, when the punches and the slaps would start. You can rearrange the data points all you like, and get a hundred different versions, but there is no grey area between two overarching perspectives where you’ll find the truth you’re looking for. That crisscrossing of narratives applies to normal human relationships, but these were two competing and incompatible narratives, neither of which were rational.

This was a situation where I was trying to have a normal relationship with someone who once threw a pint of beer over me to prove he wasn’t an alcoholic. OK, so maybe that is a little crazy.

5. Let go of the checklist: You know the one. You Google “emotional abuse” because someone was a dick to you, and there it is. It’s a useful guide, perhaps, but you can’t identify abuse through a Cosmo quiz. Yes, abusers fit a profile, and in some ways, they’re all the damn same. They all try to smash your computer. They all put your phone through a wall. They all search your fucking email. And they all cry and beg for your love right after you’ve cleaned up the glass they smashed at your feet.

But there are times when we all fit the more minor things on those checklists. I’m talking about the name-calling, the voice-raising, the times we manipulate and goad and cajole our partners; it’s not OK, but it doesn’t make your relationship an abusive one. I’ve seen you cringe and turn all confessional when I tell you about things he did -– you’re like me, trying to make absolutely sure the same terrible tendencies aren’t in you. Every one of us probably has the capacity to turn into despots, or become complicit in terrible acts. Being mean doesn’t make us despots, but covering up domestic violence does make us complicit.

Working only from a checklist makes it easy to ignore the enormous difference between acting like a dick in an argument, and wanting absolute power over your partner. I’d hate to add up the amount of money I spent on therapy, desperately trying to understand if I was really the abuser all along. Until one day the penny dropped: sometimes I am a fucking asshole,but that doesn’t make me an abuser. Maybe this is obvious to you, but it was news to me. And yes, I still feel the need to prove it over and over, and I’ll never fully believe it myself.

Even I’m still looking for the truth, and I’m never going to find it.

6.  Get over your need to diagnose: We live in a pathology-obsessed world. “He sounds like a psychopath.” “That’s sociopathic!” “How totally psychotic!” “Is he bipolar?” I don’t know, and frankly, unless you’re his doctor, it’s neither your place nor my place to slap a diagnosis onsomeone based on my description of him, especially given the bias I have since he cracked my face open like an egg.

Diagnosis is also what he used on me, as part of his pattern. I was Google-diagnosed with everything from premenstrual dysphoria to narcissistic sociopathy to -– wait for it -– Munchausen’s By Proxy (I told him I thought he drank too much). I think diagnoses are partly a form of excuse-making, but also, sometimes people are just assholes.

If you want to ask what diagnosis is most likely for him, try to be satisfied with “gigantic piece of shit”.

7. Focus on the perpetrator: Outside of gender-based violence, is there any other crime where the focus is so much on the victim that the criminal becomes practically invisible? Remember his name; forget mine: his name is Mark Jordan and he broke his hand off my face. I get that it comes from a good place when you say I’m the last person you’d think it could happen to, but there’s an uncomfortable implication that it had more to do with me than it did with him.

In fact, he used my outward confidence to his advantage; it made me less believable, and it made people question me. Because rather than seeing me as the sort of person who sends work emails with my neck strapped to an emergency-room trolley, my ability to cope made me look suspicious. I don’t know what’s more humiliating: knowing people think I’m a domineering and irredeemable asshole, or people knowing how easily I caved on just about everything.

But until we shift the discussion from “Why do so many women get abused?” to “Why do so many men beat their partners?” it will continue to be a sympathy-driven discourse that puts the onus on the victim to stop getting her ass kicked.

8. Cut out the platitudes: It’s not that I don’t understand what you mean by “There’s nothing you could have done” or “Nobody deserves it” or  “Even if you were batshit crazy” – I get it, but those phrases are meaningless. When I say that I want to find out why I am afraid of spiders but not the guy who smashed a door to splinters with his bare hands, I’m not blaming myself for staying. When I talk about the things I did wrong, I’m not blaming myself, I’m actually kind of revelling in the fact that I’m now safe to be a complicated and flawed human being without getting a smack for it. Just respect my intelligence and my agency, and accept that I am able to grasp the complex dynamics; I still want to understand why I had such terrible risk assessment.

I think that people are pretty good, generally, that most people try to do the right thing, but platitudes are part of an “I don’t want to get involved” attitude. You’re involved, like it or not. You think I wanted to be involved?

Stop spouting cliches and talk for real. As long as what you say isn’t worse than “you fisheyed c*nt”, you can be sure I’ve heard worse.

9. Stop raising awareness and start demanding consequences: The week of Mark’s sentencing, Women’s Aid did a balloon launch. Women’s Aid is an indispensible organization that does great work, but what does PR fluff achieve? How much more aware of violence against women do you need to be before you do something? And are we so afraid of women’s anger that our own organisations are resorting to nice-girl complacency?

Pretty much every one of my calls to the cops – even with a barring order in place – was met with dismissiveness and impatience. They won’t start taking women like me seriously until the community makes it impossible to get away with beating us up.

It’s a crime against the state, which means the victim is only a witness. Violence against women is a crime against you.

10. Don’t hit women: It’s statistically likely that some of you reading this hit your partners, or will eventually. If this is you, then, hey – go fuck yourself.

 

Hat-tip to Broadsheet for carrying and updating this story as well as their ongoing work cataloguing deficiencies in Ireland’s judicial system

Comments

  1. Jane taught me mapping in college. She’s a really nice girl. Very brave of her to write this article. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Jane, you don’t know me and you have my sympathies but you asked to not receive platitudes and I won’t give them.

    I am commeting on this article because it came to my attention via an irish friend still living in Ireland.

    When I fist met my America wife, she was living with an irish partner from a previous relationship who was still viollently abusing her, stealing from her and verbally abusing her. Slowly but surely as our relationship matured and she got rid of him from her life, she explained what had happened because SHE felt ashamed that a feminist woman could have been brought so low.

    Her abuser was a jovial type, an only child manipulator who at one point called his father to threaten me with assault. Details perhaps – but just to show how the young man was able to summon any and all powers to help him. When I got her to call the police, her landlord evicted her for no reason.

    Well, we eventually married and we now live happily in New York.

    However approximately 2 months ago a minor war kicked off on my facebook page: two friends decided to start making jokes about “beating the shit out of” my wife if she wouldn’t make my dinner on my FB wall. I aksed them to stop, told them to stop and then unfirended them.

    Since then no less than SIX friends – one of them a woman – have unfriended me because I am a “humourless cunt” and cannot see the funny side of jokes about beating women. They were not even involved in the discussion, they came to me the next day – all irish – to ask me bizarre questions like “have you never read tennessee williams?” in order to explain to me why in fact, I should take jokes about beating women from a country which… well, to be quite frank, culturally protects men who harm women.

    When I raised this issue today I was accused by one of their friends of “making (your) story about me” – when I replied that in fact I was “making (your) story about my wife” people seemed to get a bit more shy – perhaps it’s more understandable for them that a woman would be upset by doemstic violence than a man, I have no idea.

    The reasons are irrelevant, as in fairness are the details of my and my wife’s story:

    The facts are important however:

    And the facts are that irish people condone and conceal domestic violence *by habit of speech*. One the internet, in the pub, in the workplace: irish people silence conversation about abuse, enable abuse by men, and reward abusers with more credence than anyone else.

    Now, I’ve NO DOUBT that pointing these cultural facts out make me about as popular as someone who points out that irish people drink too much and do nothing to change their lives. However having recently emigrated and seen how other english language cultures in fact TRY to work against domestic violence and TRY to make men accountable for the jokes they make and the things they do.

    But I thought it was a suitable footnote to your account. I hope you get free of this bullshit Jane, but much more than that I hope IRELAND gets free of this bullshit: it makes us dumb, it makes us slow, it wrecks everything that is good in our culture and makes us a worthless bunch of liars.

    I hope I’m not being vain, and “making your story about me”. I never intend nor feel that’s what I’m trying to do.

    I just want men to read this story – irish men, men like me – and not be able to shrug off their role in this.

    I want peoople in the pub to stop lauging, and think for five minutes.

    I would really like to not be ashamed of my country and my gender anymore, and every couple of months another incident happens to make me be that way.

    So yeah: I’m only in this for myself.

    Peace and respect.

  3. A powerful article that does need reposting. However, I think it should stand as the beginning of a discussion, not as a final statement at the end. For instance, men are not the only abusers in human society and also the issue of codependency is a highly complex issue that needs better understanding, if outsiders are to intervene.

  4. Alex enough ,men are not the only abusers,no they’re not ,its not an anti man article its anti “beating up women” grow a vagins and some confidence with it,Pratt

  5. Not this again. Everywhere I go I’m getting this story. Is there another side?

    1. The case was heard in a court of law where the violent abuser had his say. People heard his side and decided he was guilty.

      Do you disagree with them?

  6. Rather than having this descend into a slanging match, this article is a personal account and a reflection on the abused’s thoughts to improve our culture. It does not purport to be a thesis on all aspects of abuse and doesn’t therefore need to be discussed in that frame. Appreciate it for what it is, not what it isn’t. Thanks all.

    1. Unfortunately, this is exactly how domestic violence fails to be discussed in Ireland:

      Men – and in my experience often abusive men – descend on the discussion and cry “why are we not represented here! What is this, do you want to DESTROY ALL MEN !?!?!?!”

      Pretty soon it then descends into the usual “why didn’t you call the cops”.

      It’s called “standard derailing technique”.

      This is what’s known as “wilful evasion of the problem” – so men of Ireland, do not think you’re fooling anyone.

      A refusal to discuss is a refusal to discuss. Period.

      1. I think I’ll cut and paste that response for the future. Well said.

  7. When I first read this article on the ‘Feminist Ire’ blog, I was highly moved by it. Therefore, I will refrain from bringing my personal experiences into it and just let it stand for the expression that it is. Again, thanks for reposting.

  8. i dont mean t be mean but u allow hm to do this. get your out ass out of there. have never ht a woman and never will but cannot listen to women complain that men hit them. i have been hit and very hard from women but never retaliate. you dont want to get hit leave the prick…..

    1. Alex, you should read the article again. She DID leave the prick. As to why she didn’t leave him the very second it happened, she describes in detail why not. Have another read.

      She’s not “complaining” for some random reason, she’s just talking about 1) about the fact that men beat women and 2) that it’s so damn hard to get them sentenced (properly punished the way the state dictates physical abusers of all kinds should be). And 3) She’s justifiably frustrated because it’s way way way too common, and because there’s this crazy impulse to sweep it under the carpet and not talk about it.

      Not wanting to discuss uncomfortable things is an understandable impulse, but it doesn’t get anyone anywhere. By making comments that put the problem all back on the author (for staying, for taking it, whatever) you’re shutting down the discussion and back it goes under the carpet again – you get me? I’m not trolling you here, I want you to understand why your comment kind of misses the point.

    2. It is easier to say than do. Anyway this woman both left the abuser and speak out as well. And its not the fault of the ones that got hit. The fault is with them that are hitting. They should have the shame.

  9. After my boyfriend beat the shit out of me, I went to the cops to put in a formal complaint. The first question they asked me was “what did you do to him to make him beat you up?”
    He never got convicted, in the end it was my word against his.

  10. Wow this really sums up the broad differences between men and women in a relationship.
    Let me add one more ‘rule’ here for consideration.
    Men are invariably simple creatures when it comes to emotions and relationships.
    We are also taught to solve problems via violence, this starts in the schoolyard and continues on the streets.
    A lot of mens minds cannot even begin to express themselves in the lucid and eloquent manner Jane Ruffino did above.
    This then will sadly exacerbate the possibility of physical violence in times of conflict in certain men.
    It is our jobs to get over this side of our nature, social training and expressive limitations and restrain ourselves in society.
    Most guys including myself can do this without too much drama.
    However the ones who cant it should be fairly obvious!
    If a guy is prone to uncontrolled outbursts then he is prone to them – the pattern is there from the start.
    These things dont happen out of the blue, the guy will have a whole series of undealt with issues that can only be solved by serious counselling.
    As soon as any woman spots this kind of tendency just get the hell out of dodge.
    Nothing you can say will change the guy or cure him.
    The deeper the emotional connection and the longer the time spent the more likely when conflict arises the guy will flip and do something violent.
    All the above rules are entirely female centric and concerned with the psychology involved of being a victim etc and thats all grand after the event.
    My point is that before any of this occurs learn to spot a dysfunctional male and as soon as the first signs of him going off the wall pack the bags

    1. Blaming this on gender is incorrect, and furthers gender stereotypes, which furthers adherence to such stereotypes, and perpetuates the problem. Men are not “inherently simple creatures” who are too dumb emotionally to know what they are doing. That’s excusing the behaviour.

      Most men are equipped with a functioning brain, and have access to community, family, friends, and professional services which can aid them if they find themselves acting in a violent manner.

      Step 1: Realize that you just physically harmed another person who did little or no physical damage to you and got away with it.
      Step 2: Thank god you didn’t go to jail for that.
      Step 3: Seek help before you destroy your own life, and the endless chain of the lives of people you are supposed to care about.

      It’s not that fucking hard and even the simple minded human male can follow those very basic steps.

      The truth is, the abusive partner, wether male or female, is an incredibly complicated creature caught in a torrent of conflicting emotions and thoughts that they clearly have no control over. In the lucid moments, when the brain chemistry has settled and you can think and talk calmly about what has transpired, GO FIND HELP. Do it because you really do care about your wife or girlfriend, or at least because you care about yourself and want to put an end these hellish experiences. Abusers, you are in control of our own behaviour, and if you are not, you are being irresponsible.

      Partners, friends, and family of abusers: Have compassion, but not sympathy. Understand those abusers are struggling with a difficult problem but do not internalize the blame, or excuse the behaviour or it’s motivations. Treat the situation as it is: a complex, but reversible emotional and psychological condition similar to drug or alcohol abuse (and often correlated to those thing). It even has a component of addictive physiological chemistry, with the pattern of brain chemistry that is setup by episodic rage. Low serotonin sound familiar? Repeated violent behaviour over a long period of time can cause actual damage to the pre-frontal cortex and amygdala.

      Focus on the perpetrator, not the victim. Get the victim to safety, treat the criminal with compassion. A basic mantra for most criminal behaviour problems.

      1. napoleon–thanks for posting this. you are absolutely correct. there is no excuse for harming others. neither having a penis between your legs nor being simple minded is any excuse, and there is no direct relation between these two things. aaron has been indoctrinated into humbug-ism, thanks for schooling him in some basic accountability theory.

  11. Yes, all of my calls to Gardai were ignored, except one, for which I so grateful not to get hurt again. It took quite a while to have him leave peacefully! No courtcase, I love my children too much.

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