I am a forum junkie. I am a member of more forums than I can remember to post on, and I go through phases where I will spend lots of time posting on a couple of boards all the time, then move on and forget about them for months or, sometimes, years. In my current condition I am partial to pregnancy/parenting forums, and I post on a good number of them. One thing that pregnancy forums are rife with is woman complaining about their OH’s or DH’s (Other Halves or Dear Husbands), as they tend to call them. In between the complaints about men going out with their friends for a few drinks or not doing enough around the house, there are women (usually very young ones) posting about flat-out abuse, and the replies they are getting from other women are shocking.
Take, for example, a 19 year old who is 38 weeks pregnant. Her boyfriend is angry because she forgot to lend him money that he’d asked to borrow. When she gets teary, he tells her that she should die, and if the baby dies along with her, he’s holding her responsible. Predictably, he comes back later and begs her to stay. When she refuses, he tells her he will never take her back if she goes. Her own mother convinces her to come stay with her for a couple of weeks but to leave the baby’s things at his place, since she knows her daughter will end up moving back in with him. All the posters tell her she’s doing the right thing by taking a short break. Wait, WHAT?!
Then, there was the young woman with the history of sexual abuse (her husband is aware of this) who finds sex uncomfortable and sometimes even painful during the second half of her pregnancy. Her husband ignores her protests and has sex with her anyway. She says she’s afraid to be alone with him, then says she knows she should be more open to trying ways to make it hurt less and asks for advice. He’s a very supportive and great guy otherwise! The overwhelming majority of posters tell her she needs to have a talk with him. Maybe you can fool around without penetrative sex? Maybe you should try it from behind! Or hey, maybe you should explain to him that he is RAPING you. Novel idea, I know, but true!
While I’m disturbed by the amount of these stories I read, I am not surprised. I was a 19 year old once, with lots of 19 year old friends, and we were all idiots when it came to men. You love so deeply and they say they love you, so all the screwed up things they do to you must be your fault! It stands to reason. These girls say all the things you’d expect to hear from someone who is being abused. “He’s not usually like this, he’s under a lot of stress”, “I know I should_________more.” “He’s only like this when he smokes weed/drinks/has a bad day at work”. These girls clearly don’t know any better, which is an entire post in itself. WHAT are we teaching our daughters?!
They are clearly reaching out for help, so why are grown woman replying to them with milquetoast expressions and idiotic platitudes? All the “that’s not rights” and “you should have a talk with him” tempered with parroting of the victims own excuses for her abuser. They always start off apologizing as if what they are saying is offensive. As if their (admittedly bad) advice is somehow more offensive than calling a woman ugly and vile and wishing she would die? Even when she is told to leave, the advice is tempered with “sorry” and “maybe you should”.
I just don’t get it. Is it because they’re young and pregnant? Do people really think these girls (and their soon to be born children) will be better off with rapists and emotionally and verbally abusive men living with them? I mean, we’re talking about young women with no concept of what respect and love should be, raising daughters and sons with their abusers. I can’t possibly be the only one horrified by the implications of this. If we’re not in a position to teach our daughters self-respect, or our sons how to respect women, then we are setting them up to replay these mistakes over and over again. To teach them anything, we first have to learn to do it ourselves. Aside from being the angry feminist reply in the sea of enabling responders (yes, I always make sure to be that person, especially if no one else is), and raising our own children to be different, to be better, what can we do? I’m afraid I do not have the answer.