Wednesday, September 10, 2014
Domestic Abuse: It's All In the Family
Ray Rice is making headlines for abusing his wife in an elevator back in February and being released from the Ravens. I have to wonder what took so long? Is it really because the owner and team didn’t see the entire video? Is it all about damage control and disassociation from the scandal? Maybe something good will come out of this by shining a big spotlight on the epidemic of domestic abuse. It may even save some lives if it causes other women seek help before it’s too late. But it makes me wonder when did it become “acceptable” for men to hit women?
This situation brings to mind a story I have heard over and over again in my own family. My maternal grandfather was an abusive man. He came over from Sicily in the early 1900’s with no money. He brought his wife and children here for a better life. He also brought with him the accepted “right” that men in his culture had to beat their wives and children. I often heard my mother and her siblings tell stories of how their mother was beaten for basically no reason because she was a “saint.” My grandfather would go out gambling and drinking at night. My grandmother would worry and sit at the window waiting for him to come home. When he found her sitting at the window, he would accuse her of waiting for another man. Then he would fly into a drunken rage and beat her for this imagined offense. My grandmother was pregnant fourteen times, but only had seven children. It’s been said she was beaten while pregnant and lost seven babies. In those days there were no shelters and divorce wasn’t an option. I can’t imagine what it must have been like to grow up in a household with that kind of abuse and chaos.
The fact is that my grandfather also beat one of his sons. My uncle worked in a bakery to earn a little money to help support the family. He was very young at the time (maybe around 8 years old). He had to be at the bakery at four in the morning and help stack bags of flour. Often he would fall asleep at the bakery, from sheer exhaustion, after doing his job. He missed school once too many times. The truant officer went to see my grandfather about the problem, causing him to miss work. My grandfather was very angry and beat my uncle, kicking him with his heavy work boots. The other children were too afraid to come to the defense of their mother or brother. My grandmother often prayed aloud for ten years of peace after her husband’s death. She died almost ten years to the day after my grandfather died.
When my mother married my father, a marriage arranged by her mother, she told her mother if he ever touched her in an abusive way the marriage would be over. My father also came from Sicily with his culture and beliefs ingrained in him. One day, during an argument early in their marriage, my father raised his hand at my mother. Before he could lay a finger on her, my mother took off and went straight to her mother to tell her what happened. My grandmother stepped in and talked to my father. Whatever she told him, nothing like that ever happened again.
As for my grandfather’s legacy of abuse, none of his sons were abusive, as far as I know. None of his daughters married abusive men. The cycle of abuse ended with my grandfather. Thank God.