The last time I hit a woman
Adam Mitchell learned early in life that in certain curious circumstances society makes special allowances for women.
I will never forget the intensity and range of emotions I experienced the last time that I hit a woman.
I know now, as I knew then, that it doesn't matter:
That she had attacked me first, verbally and emotionally;
That she was the first to begin shouting and intimidating;
That she was much bigger and much stronger that I;
That she she hit me first; or,
That I only hit her once, with an open hand rather than with a clenched fist, and that my blow probably struck her on the arm though she had hit me in the face with great force.
I remember immediately feeling intense shame for what I had done. And I remember feeling very anxious. I loved that woman very much and I was dependent on her love and care. I remember the terrifying dread that went with the thought that she would withdraw her love completely because of what I had done, that she might even abandon me because of my violence.
I remember the shocked look on her face. It was the first time I had hit her in spite of her many provocations during previous arguments, and in spite of her other acts of violence toward me.
I knew that I had crossed a line and that it would be very difficult, and perhaps impossible, to ever return to the other side.
And then she said the words which I most feared hearing:
"You go to you room and stay there until your father comes home!"
I was only seven years old at the time and I had struck my mother.
I sat in my room for hours, waiting anxiously. I did not think that my father would hit me because of what I had done to my mother. I expected that he and I would talk through what had happened, and I knew that I could not defend or justify what I had done.
I was anxious because I could not think of a way to resolve the situation which had developed and because I could not think of a way to effectively make amends.
I also knew that my mother would probably be expecting him to physically punish me and that she would be pressuring him to 'teach me a lesson I would never forget', but I trusted my father to be fair and reasonable, and not to use violence to try to teach me not to be violent.
What I feared most about the conversation I would have with my father is that I would have lost his respect because of what I had done. And, even at the age of seven, it was very important to me to be respected and loved by both of my parents, and my mother's love and respect had always been very conditional, even before I had hit her this one and only time.
My father came to my room soon after he arrived home from work. We talked. We reasoned. We analysed.
One outcome of our long talk was that I never hit my mother again, in spite of ongoing and repeated provocations, and I have also never hit any other woman.
My father did not attempt to shame me for my part in what had happened. My father did not attempt to intimidate me or terrorise me.
My father talked with me about his view of the differences between men and women. And, because much of what he told me does not conform to politically correct thinking, I will not report all of what we discussed.
I will relate the part of our conversation which dealt with what I would have to do to resolve the situation that had developed.
He made it clear that I would have to apologise to my mother for hitting her. I already knew that, but I wanted to know if she would have to apologise to me for hitting me.
My father explained that the world requires men only to be responsible and accountable for their thoughts, their feelings and their actions. Women, he suggested, are always permitted to blame others for what they think and feel and do. My mother, he explained, would maintain her belief that I had "made her hit me first" and would insist that I needed to change so that "she wouldn't have to yell at me or hit me ever again."
I remember saying that I did not think that was fair. My father explained that fairness is a male value which most women do not understand or appreciate. He explained I could use logic and rationality to devise an acceptable response to her demand without having to lie to her by falsely admitting that I thought her violence was my fault. He advised me to keep my logic to myself, explaining that women do not highly value logic at the best of times and that they detest it when they are emotionally upset. (I told you that much of our discussion was not politically correct.)
During my apology to my mother, as my father had predicted, she demanded that I acknowledge that I had caused her to hit me, that her violence was my fault. My father had advised me not to argue that point even though, objectively speaking, it is not true.
Knowing that I had not been responsible for her violence and that, except in very special circumstances, I could not be responsible for any future acts of violence she might commit against me, it was acceptable for me to promise that:
"I will never again do anything which will cause you to hit me."
My mother seemed to infer that this promise contained some acknowledgement that I felt responsible for what had already occurred and, after telling me how much I had disappointed her, and after telling me what a "bad little boy" I had been, she allowed that I might one day again earn her respect and her trust.
My father then bore the brunt of her unresolved rage. That night she threatened to leave him because she thought that he should have disciplined me physically and that he had let me off too easily.
In my life I have found that my father's politically incorrect perspective does not only apply to intimate relationships.
I remember an incident with a teacher when I was 11 years old. My female math(s) teacher had graded a test the whole class had taken and had distributed our test papers with our scores. It was a 20 question test. My grade was 95%. It appeared that I had got one of the answers wrong.
I was a child prodigy in math(s) and it was unusual for me to get a wrong answer when doing tests with students my own age. I rechecked the answer that had been marked wrong. I found that my answer was correct.
I brought this to the attention of the teacher. I asked her to re-grade my paper and credit me with a score of 100%.
She checked her scoring sheet and it showed an answer different than mine. I said that the answer sheet had to be wrong and that I would do the problem on the black board to show why my answer was correct.
She flew into a rage. She started yelling at me in front of the class and attacked me for even suggesting that the answer sheet could possibly be wrong. She said that every teacher who used the same text book we used would be using the same answer sheets we were using and that "they" would never allow an error on an answer sheet which is so widely used in schools.
I calmly offered again to do the problem on the black board so that I could show the correct answer.
Then, to my amazement, she began to argue that there could be more than one correct answer to a math problem and that the answer given on the answer sheet was probably more correct than the answer I had got.
We were working with numerical calculations, not with the math of quantum physics, and I told her there was only one correct answer in this case and that it was different from what was shown on the answer sheet. I offered again to work it out on the board.
Her response was to send me to the principal's office for discipline.
As fate would have it, this particular principal was a gifted math teacher. He allowed me to do the problem on paper and acknowledged that my answer was correct and that the answer given on the answer sheet was incorrect.
He and I agreed that many students would have been given a grade 5% lower than they had earned. He then explained to me that he was not going to require, or even ask, the teacher to regrade the test papers. He said that the rightness or wrongness of the answer had now become a side issue and that the central issue was that I had challenged the authority of the teacher in the classroom.
The resolution was to be that I would be required to apologise to the teacher for disrupting her class and no mention was to be made of the correct answer to the disputed question. If I did not want to apologise I would be suspended from school and would only be allowed to return when I was ready to apologise unconditionally.
This betrayal by a trusted adult male was a valuable and important lesson for me. As well as being a math teacher, the man was the coach of the school football team and a referee for senior football matches involving other schools in our region, and I still think that he should have had a better understanding of what constitutes fairness and objectivity in resolving disputes.
He had his own problems. He had to supervise and support a female math teacher who, unlike the many competent female math teachers I have known, did not actually understand math.
It was the first time in my life I had witnessed a man in a position of authority willingly disregarding matters of fact in order to take a position favourable to a female in a subordinate position.
Though he had acknowledged that the answer on the answer sheet was incorrect he was wholly unwilling to acknowledge the error. For him, a 5% error on just one math test which would corrupt the scores of both male and female students equally was unimportant when compared to the need of the teacher to maintain control in her classroom. He actively reinforced her determination to remain in error at the expense of all of her students lest acknowledging that I had been right about the error might undermine the other students confidence in the teacher.
I cannot say that he would not have done the same thing to protect an incompetent male math teacher. It may or may not have been a gender issue. It is, however, a pattern of behaviour I have observed in many males when gender is a possible factor in disputes they are asked or required to mediate.
In spite of lessons learned early in my life, I still managed to marry a woman who during our ten years together was frequently violent, both emotionally and physically. I never responded to her violence by becoming violent myself. As I stated near the beginning of this, I have not hit a woman since I was 7 years old. When I finally accepted that my partner was not going to acknowledge that her violence was a problem, and that she was not going to make any efforts to change, I left the marriage.
During the "sorting out" process over the next several months, we disagreed about something and she flew into a rage. She made a comment which helped me to finalise the distancing process. She screamed:
"I have never forgiven you for the way you looked at me the first time I hit you."
"How did I look?" I asked.
"You looked hurt and shocked and angry and disgusted."
"How should I have looked after you hit me?" I asked.
"I needed for you to understand how I was feeling at that time. I needed your support, not your anger," she said.
I understood then why she had never apologised for that act of violence or for any of her many other violent assaults. She never knew that she had a problem. No one could tell her that she had a problem. No one could help her with a problem she does not know about and cannot be told about.
The answer on the answer sheet says that men are most often the perpetrators of violence, so there are very few programmes for women who act out violently, and very little acknowledgement of the extent or women's violence. The answer on the answer sheet is wrong. Ample evidence exists to show that the answer is wrong.
I didn't go looking for the evidence until I started trying to come to terms with my own experiences. I was aware of all the propaganda about male violence. Like many males who have been in relationships with violence prone women, I thought I was an exception to the rule. Like most males who experience women's violence, I did not report her behaviour to anyone, officially or unofficially.
The vast majority of women's violence toward men is not reported, except to researchers who ask in an environment which protects men and women from any immediate consequences resulting from their violence. In those situations both men and women admit the extent to which women perpetrate violence in relationships.
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