A SIMPLE, SAD STORY
(I do not have the capability of publishing photos. That will come shortly. The article pretty much describes the photo.)
The photograph, and blow-up to the right, are my mother and father holding their newborn twins, Tom and Emily.
The photograph was mailed with many others by relatives for my parent’s fiftieth weeding anniversary seven years ago. When the weekend was over, I brought them home and they sat in a closet.
I pulled them out a year ago. I did a double take. I recognized the bruise on my mother’s chin. I had the exact same bruise when I went to court to get a Protection from Abuse Order against my son’s father.
It is made when a man puts his thumb on one side of the chin and his index finger on the other side and squeezes while applying tremendous pressure. He doesn’t like what you are saying, and he is forcing your mouth shut.
Sadly, it is a litmus test for domestic violence. My therapist recognized it immediately. On the original photograph, you can see the bruising from the index finger on the other chin as well.
By the time I found the picture, I was not surprised - I was simply overwhelmed by the enormity of it all. My parent’s relationship was a simple, sad story.
I turned to a book I found extremely helpful when I was getting out of the abusive relationship, "Men Who Hate Women & The Women Who Love Them," by Susan Forward, Ph.D.
When I read it years ago, I had no idea she was writing about my father. But I had a vague memory of something and I went looking for it. Sure enough, in chapter 3, titled How He Gains Control - Weapons, and under the subtitle, Unrelenting Criticism, there it was.
"Some Misogynists do not resort to the obvious cruelty of scare tactics and screamed insults to gain control of their partners. Instead of raising their voices, they wear down their partners through unrelenting criticism and fault-finding. This type of psychological abuse is particularly insidious because it is often disguised as a way of teaching the woman to be a better person.
The “Professor Henry Higgins” type of misogynist - the one who offers to help a woman become a better person by making her over - is liable to be in an advisory profession that is held in great esteem or even awe by many people. These men are often physicians, attorneys, professors or psychologists. The prestige of their job provides these men with additional credibility as critics and mentors.
This type of misogynist sets himself up as his partner’s teacher and guru, but no matter how much she shifts and changes to suit his demands, she is inevitably in the wrong.
Criticism of this sort works in much the same way as water on a rock: the first few drops are not damaging, but the cumulative effect over time makes deep and lasting crevices. Similarly, the misogynist’s constant criticism and picking eats away at his partner’s self-confidence and sense of self-worth."
My brothers and sisters still believe it was a "Daddy knows Best" household. Even though he viciously ridicules and criticizes her daily, and becomes violently angry if anyone dares to even slightly criticize for disagree with him, they argue this is not an abusive relationship.
I understand. When you grow up in a family this dysfunctional and isolated, you have nothing to compare it to, and no reason to examine it later in life.
I had a reason to examine it and I took a closer look. The list is endless. Like most abusive men, he began to control and narrow my mother’s world so it revolved solely around him.
He doesn’t let her talk on the telephone. He doesn’t like her being on the computer and denied her internet access for years.
They never went out when I was growing up. The only time they left the house was to attend functions involving Quaker Meeting or the College.
He made a written list every morning of what he wanted done in the house or grounds. He controlled every penny she spent.
They rarely had anyone visit. He made her quit a job that she loved.
He cut her off from her family. He ridiculed them. They were not intellectuals and educators as he was. I don’t know the name of a single first cousin on her side of the family.
He cut her off from her friends. When I called her former best friend, I realized what a cruel and truly evil man he is. She and my mother were an hour late getting back from a Quaker weekend conference. He said to her privately, "Stay away from my wife." She did.
"I’m not afraid of him," were the first words out of a relative’s mouth I went to see. It turns out that he/she is afraid of him and later asked me to never reveal that we met.
"Your mother hasn’t had a happy life?" a childhood friend asked. "No," I said, "She’s had an awful life." She has feared the man she is married to for 57 years.
Why did she stay? Maybe, she liked being a professor’s wife. Maybe, she liked living in a house with a name. Maybe, she was so battered she thought it impossible to leave.
Yes, I am sad that she never had any love, happiness, affection, warmth or joy in her life.
But absolutely nothing excuses a man who molests his children, and nothing excuses a woman who stands by and does nothing.