Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Is it better to speak up?

Hello again,
We have been all out of clean diapers for about three days know (I've been creative about alternatives- dishtowls, sweatshirts, etc).  So finally today after a massive lentil baby food disaster, I ran out to the co-op to get some more composted disposables.

It was there where I saw a kind of curious happening.  A woman in the frozen foods isle was yelling at a man about the same age, who I presumed was her husband.  The man just kind of stood there passively, not saying anything back to her while she went on and on, degrading him about not picking the right brands and not thinking about anybody but himself.  This kind of got to me.

Only recently has verbal abuse become a publicized issue in society.  Before, it was considered a minor infraction, something that does not do any real harm to the victim, and so something that does not warrant any real punishment.  But now studies have shown that a victim of spousal verbal abuse can suffer some seriously traumatic mental anguish.  According to a poll, 1 in 2 people have reported having verbal relationships.  In some cases it can lead to depression and worse.  I am all for putting in work to make a marriage work, but a person in a relationship needs to know when they are being hurt.  And friends and family need to know the signs and symptoms of verbal abuse.  Some include

1. name-calling
2. abuse
3. offensive slights
4. insults
5. disrespectful slams
6. emotional snubs
7. verbal put-downs
8. indignity

The thing about this story that really alarmed me, however, was that the typical gender roles of abuse patterns were reversed.  The man was the victim in this case.  Many people in society do not accept the idea that a man can be the vulnerable one in a relationship, that he cannot be hurt, cannot cry, cannot be the one on the couch with the rocky-road ice cream watching Love Story.  But he can.  And he does.  According to a New York Times article, many men do not report when they are and are not being verbally abused.  This is a very serious issue that must be resolved.

I thought about saying something to the husband and wife but was too afraid.  I didn't want to embarrass either one of them or make matters worse for him.  Now I wish I had.  Then I wouldn't be so afraid that he's crying himself to sleep tonight.

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