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Grooming the Rich and Famous for Abuse

Evan Rachel Wood and FKA twigs with Shia LaBeouf

The last few months have found wealthy, successful women escaping abusive relationships, with Evan Rachel Wood and FKA twigs prominent among them.

But how do wealthy women who, it seems, could so easily leave, end up in such harrowing circumstances? Actually, theirs is the story we find among most victims of domestic violence, rich or poor: whirlwind romance, controlling behavior, isolation, criticism and verbal abuse leading to violence.

Forewarned is forearmed. What can we learn from the experiences of FKA twigs and Evan Rachel Wood?  Read the rest of this entry

Real Men Don’t Beat, Rape Women

By Ted Esparza

family-violence[1]Constance Johnson was a domestic violence prosecutor – and also a battered wife.

She met her husband, Ben, in college and fell in love. They got married and were very happy for three years.

But then he began criticizing her. Everything was her fault. He was always right. And she was too fat — at 110 lbs.

After they moved near her husband’s aging parents to help them – Ben’s idea — the violence began. He didn’t seem happy after the move and one morning he decided he didn’t like his breakfast.

“Make it yourself.” Constance told him.

— SLAP — Read the rest of this entry

The Allure of Bad Boys

cartoon-bad_boy_navy1-300x289Why do women fall for bad boys?

My students ask that question all the time.

Michael Kimmel, who studies men, asked his women students to choose between the charming rouge, Rhett Butler and dependable Ashley Wilkes.

Do I have to choose?

They groaned.

Are those my only choices?

They pled.

Because the women liked — and disliked — characteristics of both.

Forced to choose Read the rest of this entry

Batterers Brag

I was out of town when Chris Brown unveiled his neck tattoo of a battered woman, possibly Rihanna, but now I’m back and I have to comment.

Strange that Brown would brand himself with a battered Rihanna for all the world to see. And if it’s not Rihanna, why sport an image that will remind everyone of the pummeling?

Publicity seeking seems likely.

Still, you have to wonder why shame doesn’t stop him.

Apparently Chris Brown is not alone in feeling no shame. Sean Connery and others feel that it is “absolutely right” to slap a woman. Televangelist, Pat Robertson, advised one man to beat his wife into submission – even if he had to move to Saudi Arabia to legally do it. To these Neanderthals, beating women is all part of being a real man (or caveman).

Amanda Marcotte over at Pandagon sees it as a batterer’s brag:

There’s a myth that men who beat and rape women just “lose control” and that after they act out, they sit around stewing in shame. That is because this is what these men tell people they are trying to ingratiate themselves with, in order to gain their acceptance and forgiveness. But inside, as many victims who have seen their true face can tell you, they are defiant. They believe they are entitled to dominate women, and they feel victimized by a world that doesn’t give them what they believe is theirs. They act out, looking for little ways to assert the right to dominate [what] they believe is theirs.

Marcotte cites research from psychologist David Lisak, who found that certain men will happily tell stories about successful sexual assaults. Joanna Schroeder over at The Good Men Project feels the analysis rings true:

The batterers I’ve known have betrayed a certain pride over the pain they cause their partner. They want their partner to keep the abuse a secret, but they themselves say things like “Jodi knows better than to look twice at another guy” while making a punching motion with their hands. It’s always under the guise of being a joke, but it makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up when you already know or suspect that the guy is abusing his wife. One man I knew who was a batterer would threaten to rape his wife, seemingly joking, in front of almost anyone. Turned out he had been raping her for almost as long as they were married.

If you see yourself as righting the scales of justice — punishing those who have “hurt you,” and returning gender to its rightful order, with men on top — I guess bragging makes sense.

Marcotte continues:

…telling others about it and watching them recoil basically means reliving the power trip… Not only did they dominate the victim, but they have provoked anger and disgust in you, and that makes them feel powerful all over again.

Growing up, Brown was tormented by watching his stepdad beat his mom. That childhood horror and helplessness seem to have deeply scared him. Too bad he hasn’t dealt with his issues in therapy and focused his power in positive ways – in real ways – because how much power does this guy really get from beating his girlfriend?

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Battered and Bruised is Beautiful?

By  @ Ms. Magazine Blog

Treating women like dirt is hardly a new tactic for the fashion industry, with its long history of objectifying the female body, idealizing physically impossible beauty types and glamorizing violence against women. Bulgaria-based 12 magazine, however, has hit a new low with an inexplicable photo spread in its latest issue titled, “Victim of Beauty” [TRIGGER WARNING].

The six images are all close-up portraits of young, attractive white models sporting various gruesome injuries: one boasts a black eye, another a slit throat and a third sports a split lip and a bruised neck. Scrolling through this montage of burns, bruises and gashes, it’s easy to forget you’re looking at a “fashion” photo shoot; the images more closely resemble police files of horrendous domestic violence.

Were the magazine spread a deliberate attempt to raise awareness and generate conversation about our society’s failure to prevent and punish widespread violence against women, it might be possible to salvage an argument in its favor. But the spread contains no words or explanations to contextualize it, plus editors-in-chief Huben Hubenov and Slav Anastasov have actually gone on record arguing the photos can be interpreted as “beautiful”:

We believe that images such as ours can be seen from various angles, and we think that exactly that is what is beautiful about fashion and photography in general – that anybody can understand it their own way, and fill it with their own meaning. Where some see a brutal wound, others see a skilful (sic) work of an artist, or an exquisite face of a beautiful girl.

With these blithe words, Hubenov and Anastasov have not just admitted to cheapening violence against women but to actively eroticizing it as well.

We’re so accustomed to seeing the female body stripped, arranged in demeaning poses and digitally manipulated in fashion shoots that few even question what scantily clad, emaciated women have to do with selling a clothes. But the descent into sexualizing violence against women to hawk a few magazines is a truly dangerous trend. In Bulgaria, 12 magazine’s country of origin, one in four women suffers violence at the hands of a male partner. Its neighbors Turkey and Serbia have even worse rates of domestic violence (40 and 54.2 percent of women, respectively). Yet magazine editors think we need to look beyond the injuries and start seeing “beauty” in a maimed female face?

Hubenov and Anstasov do scramble to state that they “do NOT support violence of ANY kind, and this is NOT a shoot glamorizing or encouraging or supporting violence against women.”

But being part of an industry which refuses to take responsibility for constantly spewing out misogynistic images, they would say that, wouldn’t they?

Reposted with Permission from the Ms. Magazine Blog

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Real Men Don’t Beat, Rape Women

By Ted Esparza

Constance Johnson was a domestic violence prosecutor – and also a battered wife.

She met her husband, Ben, in college and fell in love. They got married and were very happy for three years.

But then he began criticizing her. Everything was her fault. He was always right. She was too fat (at 110 lbs).

After they moved near her husband’s aging parents to help them – Ben’s idea — the violence began. He hadn’t seemed happy since the move and one morning he decided he didn’t like his breakfast.

“Make it yourself.” Constance told him.

— SLAP —

“Did he really hit me?”

Next, Ben shoved her onto their bed and told her not to “make him” hit her again. Later, he said he was very sorry.

Eventually Ben and Constance both entered law school, but after Ben dropped out to take over the family business the abuse escalated. Constance graduated from law school and developed a successful practice. But the more successful she became, the more violent he got.

She finally left him for good after he held a gun to her head in a fury.

The story of Constance Johnson reveals a huge problem with patriarchy. Men learn that manhood is all about being number one, being in charge, never showing vulnerability, never expressing emotions, and transforming any “weak” feelings into anger and rage – “manly” emotions.

Men learn that they are supposed to be powerful. But they aren’t always.  And when they aren’t, too many try to create a sense of power by hurting women – including those they love. When they beat down a woman, or take over her body in rape, they feel strong, at least for a few moments.

In my mind the greatest problem with patriarchy, at least for men, lies in “tough guy” ideals that look powerful but actually reflect weakness.

Boys learn that “real men” don’t show emotion or reveal what’s hurting inside. But this only leads to an inability to deal with problems and personal trauma.

How is this manly?? It is not. It is childish. The “tough,” “domineering” ideals of patriarchy reduce men to children who can only express themselves through “grown up” temper tantrums that result in violence directed at others. I cannot for the life of me understand how this is considered manly.

We must redefine what it means to be a man – which is difficult because the redefinition MUST include traits that are considered feminine — like expressing emotion in a healthy way.

Manhood includes compassion and understanding, not narrow thinking and an over inflated sense of entitlement. It is understanding that women are essential to men’s very existence and loving them for that.

I will do my best to facilitate changes in my own life, and encourage my friends to take positive stances on sexism and what it means to be a man. I will also speak up when I see injustices occur, whether they be against women or anyone else.

I suspect I still do many things that are sexist without even realizing it, but that’s what the learning process is about: learning to make yourself into a better person – to the benefit of yourself and everyone else.

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In-laws Rip Off Girl’s Fingernails, But Who Cares?

Fifteen-year-old Sahar Gul’s in-laws locked her away in a basement for six months. They beat her, tortured her with hot irons, broke her fingers, and ripped her fingernails off. Her uncle called authorities and by the time she arrived at a hospital her eyes were swollen nearly shut and scabs crusted her fingertips.

Afghanistan allows multiple wives, including child brides. This young bride had been taken in hopes of pimping her out in prostitution. The abuse was meant to persuade.

What struck me most in the AP report were the following lines:

The outcry over a case like Gul’s probably would not have happened just a few years ago because of deep cultural taboos against airing private family conflicts and acknowledging sexual abuse.

I am heartened that things are changing, with public outrage and an editorial in the Afghanistan Times reading, “Let’s break the dead silence on women’s plight.”

But to think that not long ago horrendous abuses like Sahar’s would have provoked no comment is outrageous. You have to wonder why women’s plight has been invisible for so long. And whether Afghanistan is alone in its blindness.

Women must be poorly valued for such abuses to go on without remark: mere property to be sold off, to make money off of, to beat when “disobedient,” to be stoned as spectator sport. And in some cases, to be tortured like lab rats.

When that is all you’ve known your whole life, when this world seems normal to all around you, who can fully see the horror?

Yet America isn’t always so different. Many still blame rape victims for their rape, and many victims still fear coming forward. Battering victims may be blamed for their abuse. Bullied spouses may feel shamed and cover up — and cover for their partners. Half of the teens who were surveyed in the Boston Public Health Commission’s Start Strong Initiative poll believe Rihanna should be blamed for the beating Chris Brown meted out.

The world is changing in Afghanistan.

The world needs changing right here in America, too.

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The Allure of Bad Boys

Why do women fall for bad boys?

My students ask that question all the time.

Michael Kimmel, who studies men, asks his women students to choose between the charming rouge, Rhett Butler and dependable Ashley Wilkes. “Do I have to choose?” they groan. “Are those my only choices?” they plead. Because they like characteristics of both. Forced to choose, about half opt for each type. Those desiring Rhett want his gusto and charisma, minus the philandering. Change – but keep the good parts. One woman insisted, “The problem is that Rhett Butler has never been loved by me. When I love him, he’ll change.”

So not all women want bad boys — or want them to be very bad. But what about those who do? Women likely end up with hurtful men for various reasons.

Some get bored after making a “win.” One woman explained that at first she wonders, “Can I get this person? Am I good enough?” But after she wins him over she thinks, “Now I know and I’m bored.” Bad boys keep her guessing so at least life’s not dull.

Or, when a man sends mixed signals a woman can spend a great deal of time discerning his intentions. Realizing she thinks about him constantly, she may suppose she’s really into him.

A few are drawn to the drama that surrounds difficult relationships. Certainly there are no ruts.

Others simply suffer from low self-esteem and feel they deserve no better.

Some think that men who abuse them out of jealousy are showing great passion. He must really love me to get so upset! As Dr. Regina Barreca over at Psychology Today describes it, “His anger and her fear are seen as ‘proof’ of their love.” Usually they end up divorced in the end – once she gets that he’s only abusive.

Bad boys can come across as self-confident and powerful – even if it’s more bravado than real, and some feel “special” at being chosen by them.

Meanwhile, because our culture eroticizes male dominance, many internalize the notion and find it appealing. These women may not end up too happy about the reality of domineering men in the long run.

A few believe women are hard-wired to desire a strong man who can impart superior genes to her children. And so they choose cheating, abusive bullies who end up abandoning them and their children? That aids survival? Or does cruelty just masquerade as strength?

Many say their desires have changed. Their younger selves wanted bad boys, but with maturity they’ve turned toward good men. As one put it:

I did leave the cave man, regained my independence and self esteem, and found another man. To my surprise, this man is attentive, loving, tells me I’m beautiful (in sweats), and spontaneous. He picks flowers, decorates my car, cooks. . . I could keep going on, but I’ll say I feel like a queen!

To all the good guys: plenty of women want you, and more so as they grow and gain understanding. Hang in there.

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Whipping a Daughter. Good Dad? Bad Dad?

By now you have probably seen or heard about the YouTube video showing Texas County Judge, William Adams, mercilessly whipping his 16-year-old daughter with a belt. Hillary Adams made the video public in reaction to her father’s history of abuse.

The punishment was meted out for pirating videos and music off the internet. But does the punishment fit the crime? Or is the crime an excuse for punishment?

It all reminds me of another man, a pastor, who beat his daughter for such infringements as falling grades. After deeming a paper unacceptable he’d command, “Bra and panties!” Meaning go upstairs to your bedroom and strip down so I can beat you. Why the lingerie garb was necessary is unclear—or maybe it is clear.

Interestingly, these men’s wives responded similarly to moms who fail to stop incest. They let things be. Typically, incest occurs when wives/mothers are powerless. They may be physically or mentally incapacitated, or they may be absent. But sometimes they disempower themselves, believing their husbands are the head of home and, really, King of the Castle. Their job is to obey. So they don’t step in.

Except on this video Hillary’s mom not only supported the beating, but joined in, taking a turn at bruising Hillary, herself. “Bend over and take it like a grown woman,” she ordered.

Makes you wonder if Mom had heard that phrase before. On “Today” she said she had left her husband, saying she had been “brainwashed” by a cycle of abuse and dysfunction.

After Mom took her turn whipping her daughter, Dad told Hillary to submit to him.

This notion that women should submit and accept beatings is troubling to say the least.

Just speculating, but when you add it all up the whole scene resembles a sadistic fantasy. You have to wonder if Mom took over from Dad hoping he’d exit for good and take his focus off “the other woman” — but then punished her daughter for “provoking” (in her mind) Dad’s prurient interest. Or did Mom get a sadistic thrill, too? Or was she just being a good parent? Ok, not the last one.

When women are seen as mere things to satisfy urges — whether sexual, or a drive to dominate and belittle in hopes of feeling bigger, more powerful, or whatever…

The wrong person is being punished.

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Why Did Nancy Garrido Help Kidnap Jaycee Dugard?

jaycee-dugard-4Jaycee Dugard told Diane Sawyer in an ABC interview that after kidnapping her, Nancy Garrido was intensely jealous. So why did she do it? Beyond the question of how she could commit such an atrocious crime, I’d like to focus on why Nancy Garrido made herself miserable by actively acquiring a sexual rival.

I don’t know the specifics of why. Nancy clearly wanted to please her spouse, even if that entailed personal anguish. But in asking why Garrido assisted in her own torment, we might as well ask why women too often stay in distressing, and even abusive relationships, in some ways imitating her – if on a lesser scale.

Everyday women mimicking Garrido?

In one section of Why Women Have Sex, psychologists Cindy Meston and David Buss talk of women reluctantly agreeing to bring other women into their relationships in order to keep their men. As one put it:

Right now, the guy I am with is into swinging. I am not comfortable with that lifestyle… I just pretend he is my master and I am to follow his every command and it makes it easier for me to get through the night… He keeps asking me to have a threesome with my best friend and I keep acting like it is okay, but I am dreading it.

Others tolerate the incest that partners inflict upon their children. Some endure marital or relationship rape and battering.

That’s quite a range. But all of these women are allowing their hearts and souls to be hurt, and sometimes they are letting others be harmed, as well.


They may feel they love these men. More than they love themselves – or anyone else for that matter. A sick sort of love swimming in injury.

They may think they have no better options. They don’t deserve much and can’t expect better. They aren’t lovable or attractive enough, or they can’t survive on their own. They can’t find a better man. And their partners willingly prop up the downbeat assessments. And so they desperately try to please, and appease, their men in hopes of gaining love.

Poor self-esteem anchors their submission.

But they also hold their own sex in low regard. Women who endure pain to give their men pleasure see men as better-than and more deserving than women. And so they sacrifice so their men may have all.

Some stay in relationships due to “sunk costs.” Having invested so much – emotion, all of the work gone through to create only small changes in partners, resources – they can’t bear to give it all up with nothing to show.

But if we’ve learned something is the cost really sunk? We could take what we’ve learned and move on.

For whatever reason, too many women don’t realize they don’t have to put up with crap.

Too bad Nancy Garrido never figured that out.

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