Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

The Question Unasked: Why Did He Hit Her?

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

The Question Unasked: Why Did He Hit Her?

Article excerpt

ALONG COMES another mention of O.J. and Nicole Simpson, and I'm reminded again of my grandmother and the jar of mayonnaise.

My grandmother Kate was a forthright woman with uncomplicated views. She tended to look at problems rather directly and then take action. So, when another woman whom she loved had been shoved around, yelled at and slapped a few times by her husband, Kate didn't think deeply about what to do.

She reached into the paper bag of groceries she was lugging, grabbed the first thing that came to hand - a jar of mayonnaise - and threw it, forcefully and accurately, at the man's head.

He stopped shoving, yelling and slapping. At least for the moment.

Admiration of her gutsiness aside, Kate's mayonnaise shot probably was not the wisest thing to do. Meeting violence with violence is problematic.

For one thing, Kate easily could've become the next target of the man's fists. In what's called "domestic" violence or any other kind, resistance often leads to escalation. Hit back, and you're likely to get hurt again.

Still, Kate's view of the situation was instructive. She didn't look just at what was happening to the other woman, at the victim of violence. She took aim directly at its source, at the man doing it. We could learn a lot from her.

It's no comfort to the families of Nicole Simpson and Ronald Goldman. But it's fine - wonderful, in fact - that the celebrity status of O.J. Simpson has focused attention on domestic violence. But how we look at a problem shapes how we see it and its solutions. And the way we look at this one is as something that happens to women, not as something that men do.

We talk about it, write about, think about it that way. Even the statistics come to us in a passive voice: "Every 15 seconds a woman is battered." Not: "Every 15 seconds a man beats a woman."

The images are of her, not him. On the subways of Washington is a familiar poster. It shows a cringing woman. Her face is bruised. Her lips are split. Her eyes are blackened. The sight always moves me to instant empathy, which is what it's meant to do. I think about what can I do to help her, which is generally how we've dealt with this kind of violence. …

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