I recently saw a syndicated episode of Law & Order: Criminal Intent called “The Posthumous Collection”. In it, a man was killing women who resembled his family members, and posing their bodies for artistic photographs.
When the detectives visited one of the man’s sisters in prison, the sister chuckled as she retold the various ways she, her sisters, her mother and her grandmother had tortured their brother. The torture included tying him to a smelly bed and beating the crap out of him, throwing lit matches at him (and even lighting his hair on fire), and subjecting him to scalding hot showers.
The sister’s explanation: “Like Ma said, he could handle it – he was a boy.”
The theme of females abusing males isn’t visited often on popular TV shows. Actually, it’s not visited much outside of TV, either. It’s just not something we talk about. Our national identity is forged through men: perhaps it’s just sad to think of women being violated, but to think of our hearty red-blooded American males as vulnerable would bring on a national identity crisis. So we deny and pretend. Some women emotionally and mentally torment sons and brothers and lovers, and even fathers. Some women take advantage of the fact that people are conditoned not even to consider us as suspects.
But rather than admit a woman can have power over a man, we force boys and men into denial, violating them a second time by our refusal to acknowledge the first violation.
Not that we treat women much better: thanks to Lifetime’s “women in jep” (jeopardy) movies and Oprah’s teary sessions, we’ve created more of a victim/sympathy dynamic than a survivor/empathy. We should be acknowledging violations and offering support, and then teaching survivors how to turn trauma into character-building. Gender shouldn’t matter.
After all, most abusive men come from abusive backgrounds themselves. How is looking at only half the equation going to solve the whole problem?