MY friend had found new love after a few failed marriages, a romance no less passionate because they are in their 60s. He was smitten, she was the one, finally, and so when he returned after a couple of months to his own digs I asked what had happened. As mates should.
He was too boring, he explained, too nice, the only one of his former new love’s partners who hadn’t beaten her up or been unkind and even cruel. And so their time together had become a succession of tranquil days unrelieved by conflict, abuse and reconciliation, and that was a problem.
It does seem to be a novel explanation for a relationship breakdown, being too nice, but given what I know of the woman’s history and the fact that my friend is uncommonly placid I have no trouble believing it. And all my adult life I have marvelled at the appeal to women of men with more animal than most, at the power held by rough, violent men over women.
As a young cadet journalist in a country newspaper I was so impressed by the attraction to the women in the office of a rotund, raucous and permanently angry fellow that I felt the need to dirty down, as opposed to clean up, my persona. But this casanova had more animal than I could ever hope to generate.
At another country town further west in NSW a young schoolteacher would welcome her beau back from his isolated job every weekend, and every weekend he would beat her savagely. Because of that the people of the small town were openly hostile to this fellow, and so he was excluded from much of the town’s social life, but still she welcomed him back each Friday afternoon.
Just a year later, 45 years ago, I watched over some months a disturbingly violent relationship that seemed to leave a young woman helpless.
Most nights an Australian woman who had a room near mine in a hostel in Port Moresby would unlock an external door to admit a Papua New Guinean man and take him to her room, where at some stage in the next few hours he would bash her.
In the morning she’d appear with swollen lips and black eyes, and because she’d be bashed again within a few days the swollen lips and black eyes were more or less permanent. When anyone expressed concern she’d tell them to mind their own business.
Normally there would be an unbridgeable gulf between these two people. She was educated, sophisticated and in her mid 20s, and he was uneducated, tribal, in his 30s and often wearing the facial adornments of his tribe. Five months or so after the beatings began the woman was, against her will, sent back to Australia.
More recently my wife and I had the misfortune to see a similar tragedy play out near our home. Every few nights there’d be screaming, shouting and smashing noises in a house near ours, and a short time later we’d see the woman wobbling up the street or police arrive, or both. Police would take the woman or the man away, and to our amazement she’d return the next day or wait in the house for his return.
Once I saw a police car drop him back at the house at 7am after a night in a cell, and the police car wouldn’t have travelled a kilometre before he was bashing her again. I called the police, fearing this time that she would be killed.One day she didn’t come back, and I hope she has found a life worth living, and a month or so later police who came asking questions about him told me they hoped to have him deported. He was gone from the house a month or so later.
I try to understand that these women may have been beaten into submission, but I cannot understand why they didn’t leave after the first assault. Maybe they have nowhere else to go. Thank goodness there is more support now for women caught in these terrible relationships.
Just as puzzling is the preference of some women for flawed men, for men who are driven to dominate women they see as their property.If the men are not violent they may be physically threatening, and almost certainly they will be abusive and unpredictable.Perhaps these women have an urge to rescue a man, to save him from himself, to lead him to a life of love and domestic bliss, and we see this when women commit to a relationship with a fellow who is clearly a no hoper. She believes he’ll change, that she can change him, and sadly she’s almost always wrong.We see it in the willingness, the eagerness, of some women to become spellbound by criminal men in jail.
I support the campaign against violence towards women, although I resent what is often the suggestion that all men beat their wives or are at least inclined to be violent towards women. It’s a pity this campaign doesn’t attempt also to educate some women on the options available to them so they can make better choices.