Men who beat women

February 21, 2018

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— Calvin Luther Martin, PhD

I was talking to Judge Charles Gardner the other day.  He mentioned something that floored me.  He said that at least 85% of the cases that come before the Malone Town Court are fueled by booze or drugs.  “Remove the alcohol and drugs, and our case-load would drop phenomenally!”

I have been mulling this over.  Do these people (the ones who appear before court) resort to booze or drugs to embolden them in their horrid behavior?  Do they drink or shoot-up or take pills to give themselves “courage”?  (This isn’t courage; it’s cowardice. Bottled cowardice.)  Does the alcohol or drug inflame them, make them go berserk, so they do awful things?  Do they consider their behavior awful?  (This last question is especially troubling.)

Judge Gardner

The judge went on to note that many of the worst cases before him are drunken or drugged men who have just beaten up their wives or girlfriends.  The sterile legal phrase is “domestic violence.” The story gets worse. While being arraigned before the judge, some of these besotted men (some being no more than teenagers) have the gall to inform the troopers, village police, prosecutor, and even the judge that he, the drunk standing there in shackles, is going to kill all of them sooner or later for having the temerity to interrupt and arrest him for smashing his wife or girlfriend in the face!
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Attend one of  these 2 a.m. arraignments sometime and witness this sickness first-hand.  While you and I are peacefully tucked in, there’s another world unfolding in the wee hours.  A bizarre, brutal world where the police and DA and judges are dealing with an alcohol or drug-enraged male who has hammered a woman.  The appalling part is, there’s no remorse!  On the contrary, he’s now notifying everyone within earshot that he’s going to murder them and their wives, while the husband looks on!

This isn’t Camden NJ I’m talking about; this is North Country teenagers and adults. These are people you see filling their 4×4 Ford or GMC with gas at Maplefields.

My wife, a psychiatrist, sees lots of women who were beaten by boyfriends or husbands over the course of their life. She tells me there is a peculiar mentality running through the male culture here:  that a girlfriend or wife is “property.”  Chattels, in other words.  She’s not  saying all North Country males suffer from this, yet it is strikingly common.

“Your Honor, you have no right to interfere with my brutalizing my wife. She belongs to me!”

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It sounds like the lyrics of a love song gone insane.

My father beat his children. Yes, including me. He said we deserved it, that it was for our own good. He flogged us with a thick, cruel strap—20″ of horse harness.  There was a buckle at one end.

He beat us because we were his property.  He was the righteous Jehovah.  It was the 1950s, we lived rurally, we were helpless.  “Spare the rod, spoil the child.”

I have a brother, an older brother, whom my father beat on what I call the “installment plan.” Evidently my brother, who was brilliant and sensitive, had somehow transgressed to a degree that Harold Martin realized he couldn’t flog the boy all at once without, I suppose, killing him. Mind you, when I use the word flog, I use it in the sense of the 19th-century British Navy, where a seaman is stripped to the waist, tied to the mast and whipped, say, 50 lashes.

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My father’s solution was the installment plan.  When my brother (well under age 12) got home from school, he knew he was expected present himself in my dad’s office, kneel down at a sofa, pull down his trousers and his Fruit of the Loom underpants—and get his daily flogging.  Kind of like taking your daily vitamins.  (Oh, and when my dad wasn’t flogging him, the school principal occasionally did so.  School principals did this back then, albeit less sadistically.  Rural Quebec, 1950s.)

Would you be surprised if I told you that my brother, a McGill graduate, wound up going to prison for 3 years—for abusing his children?  Would it surprise you if I said my father was a minister? A pillar of the community.

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Nobody suspected any of this.  My 8-year-old brother sometimes mentioned it to his schoolteachers (“I get hurt when I go home!”), but none probed further.  My mother was afraid and ambivalent, as best I can tell.  Nor was there anywhere for her to flee with the children.  (Besides, righteous, sadistic men like my father are notorious for stalking and beating a wife who seeks refuge.  Witness the threats in the Malone Municipal Court at 2 a.m.—by the man you see casually filling his truck at Maplefields.)

Would it surprise you if I told you that when I became a father, I had an overwhelming urge to strike my child when I was angry?  (No, I was not drunk.) After all, this is what I had learned from a father who whipped and struck us with his open hand.  (Frankly, my mother also struck us, using a wooden stirring spoon. I had at least one of these break on my outstretched hands, yes, as a little boy.)  I recall striking (I hid behind the euphemism,  “spanking”) my young daughter once or twice, then, thank God, recoiling in horror over what I had done.

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Then, a miracle. Like a match struck in darkness.  I sat down with Lindsey one day and told her I was a monster for having struck her. I told her about my past. I told her that my slapping her was depraved and criminal. I added:  “If I ever have the urge to strike you, again, I promise I will tell you, and you have my permission to let me know that I would be a monster and depraved.”

I remember when she made good on our bargain. I was angry. Towering above her, I bellowed, “Lindsey! I’m enraged and I’m going to spank you!”  I awaited her response.  Looking up, she replied in her little girl’s voice: “But dad, you know you would be a monster and a horrible person if you did this!” The seconds ticked by. “Yes, you’re right,” I conceded.  “Even so, I really feel like doing it!”

But of course I didn’t. Thank God, I didn’t!

The spell was broken—broken by the child whom I had forewarned of the evil which had thrived for what I suppose were countless generations.

I never struck her again. (I find it interesting that I never struck a woman. I never struck my wife, for instance. I now think it’s because I never saw my father strike my mother. But because he beat and struck us, by some weird, twisted logic it seemed okay for me to strike my child.)
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Domestic violence. Don’t call it this. Men who beat women carry a lethal gene, as it were. We become a twisted, self-righteous god.  It’s a form of insanity.  Generation after generation.  Until the miracle happens.
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