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Understanding abuse


I worked as a legal advocate for battered women for years, and I’d like to "fill out" your advice to LIFE a little, on the assumption that his lady-friend is telling the truth. (And I think this is worth addressing, because far too many women are in her situation, and this is worth a little public service announcement, don’t you think?)

1. He should contact the local battered-women’s shelter, get brochures, advice, etc. There is even a national hotline that he can call: 1-800-799-SAFE (

2. He should pass on the info to her. He could even talk to her friends or family that are trustworthy, to get them to further assist her.

3. He should then back off and not look back. She has "battered-women’s syndrome," which is a dainty way of saying that she is severely fucked-up in the head right now (as evidenced by the fact that she is so matter-of-fact about being murdered when she has four kids who rely on her) and has years of therapy to look forward to, for herself and her kids. Even if she’s an "angel" that does not change the fact that she is not ideal partner material — not now, and probably not for a long, long time. Additionally, he may want to consider the following: 1) batterers are the jealous type, and 2) women’s odds of being murdered by their abusive husbands do in fact skyrocket, at least temporarily, when they finally leave. Does he want to be responsible for increasing the odds that she, or he, or her kids will be killed?

Then, if she leaves, there will be litigation. Lots of it. There will be a criminal case. There will be civil litigation because of the divorce and child custody battle. It will be ugly, and if he is hanging around as the lover-in-the-wings, he will only hurt her case. —Sincere Lawyer Type

Usually I really enjoy your style of sarcastic advice-giving and ass-kicking, and really liked your book about adopting your son, but your advice to LIFE was so disgustingly vacuous and offensive that I’m thinking I might never read your column again. Way to take advantage of an opportunity to talk about something important like domestic violence! Did you Google anything about domestic abuse before writing about some stupid dating show?

Don’t you have any friends who’ve been in that resigned place of hopelessness that an abusive relationship can create? (It’s called Stockholm syndrome — look it up.) As you must know, domestic abuse affects every population — gay, straight, male and female, and every socioeconomic class. In my relatively short lifetime, I’ve had five friends — smart women all, with the requisite self-esteem issues or crazy, stupid angel complexes that insist on seeing the best in a bad partner — who could not make the break. And then it happened to me. One day I was happy and healthy and then — boom — I was dating a sociopath I couldn’t quite convince myself to leave because when it was good it was the best I’ve ever had. Your flippant dismissal does nothing for those readers who might be in a similar situation and wondering how to help.

For the record, the one friend who was repeatedly put in the hospital by her husband finally made her escape. Because some man had a matching rescuer complex, loved her through and through until she finally had enough hope to imagine that maybe she could be happy without her asshole husband and requisite bruises. Mr. White Knight swept in on his big horse and took her away, no bloodshed required. Four years later, she’s finally coming out of the daze of years of abuse. To LIFE I would say this: Just love her as much as you can and through your actions show her a different kind of love is possible. Making her feel pressured to leave or judged for staying won’t work. Find a battered-women’s shelter or counselor and ask for more qualified advice than some sarcastic, self-absorbed sex columnist would give. —Been There, Done That

I call bullshit on that woman’s story of extreme abuse that she is telling LIFE. If she is that abused and her husband is that bad and if she’s got the balls to tell some random guy and strike up a relationship with him, why doesn’t she have the balls to get the professional help she needs? She must not love her kids very much to allow them to remain in that abusive home, but she loves herself enough to hang out with LIFE.

My ex came up with horrible stories about me to justify cheating on me as well. We weren’t married with kids, and I doubt she told people that I physically abused her, but she made me out to be an emotional monster.

Wake up and smell the steaming pile, LIFE. And I guarantee that if she leaves him for you, she’s going to make up abuse stories about you one day. —Been There, Ditched That

"Maybe I’m just shocked that the girl of your dreams — the girl of any man’s dreams — would be a married woman with four children and what may be the worst taste in men this side of Denise Richards. Can this angel-on-earth pick ’em or what? She married a bordering-on-homicidal asshole and now she’s sneaking around with a bordering-on-homicidal dumbass, a guy so stupid that he would threaten the life of his lover’s husband in a newspaper column."

Way to blame the victim of a potentially fatal abusive relationship! Even if this particular woman is lying to the guy who wrote you, what kind of message do you think this sends to other victims of domestic violence who might read it? I’ll tell you: "It’s your fault, because you have the worst taste in men this side of Denise Richards. Can you pick ’em or what? You married a bordering-on-homicidal asshole!

"Oh, also, if you tell someone — even someone who’s supposedly good at giving people advice — get this! They won’t believe you! They’ll think you’re just saying that because you want to sleep around and still play the victim!"

This answer is nothing short of disgusting and potentially damaging. I really hope you’ll think about this and maybe publish something with some real advice — like where to turn for help if you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence. —Laura E.

Thank you, Sir Savage. Guys with hero issues like LIFE deserve a swift kick in the ego. For all those would-be "heroes," remember this important fact: There are no damsels in distress! I am so sick of dweebie little men who couldn’t impress a teenager obsessing over those angels who only need a good man to love them. Those angels usually being strippers, drug addicts or victims of abuse.

Most of the Angel’s story could be true but here’s the rub: Angel is in an abusive relationship because she most likely has a long history of being damaged. She is indeed so damaged that she is far beyond being saved by the love of a good man. She wouldn’t know what to do with a good man. If she were to leave her bad husband for LIFE, I would bet money that she would either cheat on him with some pathetic scumbag or leave him for some other big, bad meanie. She has cast herself as a victim and thrives on the attention of being a victim, and the only thing that will save her from that is herself and the support of a good and firm friend who pushes her toward battery hotlines and safe shelters. Hardcore therapy and the love of patient friends is the only thing that can allow a "victim angel" to eventually be able to be in a healthy and loving relationship. Heroes be damned, what we need are more sidekicks. —My Own Damn Hero

I am a tremendous fan of your column. You are a wonderful thinker. You make the world a better place. Thank you!

I’m writing, though, to say that your latest column doesn’t provide evidence of a very deep understanding of the dynamics of domestic violence. Your reply to LIFE seems to skip the DV aspect entirely. In my opinion, although it’s normal for LIFE to feel hostile toward the man who is abusing the person he cares about, and though it is stupid to make thinly veiled threats in a nationally syndicated column, the most important point is that while LIFE is selfishly worrying about getting his happily ever after on, the girl of his dreams and her kids are in serious danger. Rape is considered an escalation of domestic violence, and the victim’s belief that the batterer will kill her is an important indicator of lethality. I don’t know what state they’re in, but here in Virginia, someone is killed every five days in a domestic-violence situation. (It is inappropriate to assume that the woman is lying; I recommend erring on the side of helping a liar, rather than disbelieving a victim.)

It’s wrongheaded for LIFE to try to "save" her, but he could be supportive. His main complaint, it seems to me, is that another guy has something he wants. In my opinion, the best thing LIFE could do for the angel on earth is get her the contact information for her local domestic-violence program and then support her in anything she does to get herself and her kids into a safer situation — whether or not it fits with what LIFE wants to see happen. LIFE is in a unique position to help, with your encouragement.

Thanks for listening. —Lisa

Kudos on your advice to LIFE. I have a bit of a cautionary tale to back up your advice. Back in high school a friend of mine went on a date. The next day the girl told everyone how he got her drunk and raped her. My friend was a bit of a lech, but not the type to do something like that, so I took her tale with a grain of salt. However, some boys eager to defend her honor decided to take matters into their own hands. They beat my friend with a golf club and left him near death. Only then did she recant her story of rape and tell the truth: He took her on a shitty date, then they went to the beach where they had some awful sex. She figured branding him a rapist would decrease his chances of getting lucky with any other girls at school. Oops. —Sometimes Women Lie Too

I like reading your column but I don’t like the way you reacted to LIFE’s domestic-violence situation. His isn’t some run-of-the-mill "Am I gay if I like sticking vibes up my asshole?" question. Domestic violence is a truly frightening, depressing issue. One in three women will experience some kind of domestic abuse in their lifetime. The last thing they need is someone to start questioning whether their stories line up. LIFE obviously might be misguided, thinking he can run in and save the day — but it was a bad move on your part to give him poor advice. Now isn’t the time to take chances with this woman’s life by assuming that she is lying about her abuser. What you really should have told LIFE was to give his girlfriend as much mental support as possible, and post the number for the National Domestic Violence Hotline (U.S.), 1-800-799-SAFE (7233), so she can call any time and get the help she needs. —Don’t Ignore Scary Truths, Realize Everyone Seeks Safety

I always read your column, each week, religiously — hoping for another chuckle or another insight into this human drama called sex. After reading your response to LIFE, the guy in love with a married mother of four in an abusive relationship, I felt I needed to toss you my 2 cents.

About two years ago I became involved in a relationship with a married mother of two in an abusive relationship. I knew going into it that it was stupid and foolish, but I had some misguided notion or belief that I would be able to "stop the cycle" through my love.

Wrong, wrong, wrong. All I got was taken for a ride on the merry roller coaster labeled domestic violence. Being a social worker, I fully put my blinders on because I wanted to be the hero and get this girl. Man, oh, man — talk about life lessons. I still have a lot of sympathy for this woman because she is in a bad situation. A lot of times I also feel a great deal of resentment and disgust toward her because she continues to expose her children to this poison.

You’re dead on in telling LIFE to get the hell out of there and to do it now. But what I’ll say is this: If this man truly loves this woman, he’ll do what he can to help her find the help that she needs. Give her the numbers to battered-women’s shelters, get her a cell phone so she can call 911, be encouraging and supportive of her getting out of there. Then be prepared to watch as she grabs her kids and goes back to the man a month or two later. Sometimes, there’s nothing any of us can do to help a person learn to protect themselves. —Social Worker in Arizona

Even if Angel’s story is 100 percent waterproof, that dumbass LIFE is still wasting his time. I guess she deserves some credit for not accepting his offer to murder on her behalf, but she said that she’s worried about losing them both — not just about losing Dumbass — which means she actually thinks that waiting around for Asshole to murder her is better than being alone. And whipping Dumbass into a frenzy of chivalry, while she refuses to extricate herself and her kids from her ugly situation, is likely to result in Dumbass getting his dumb ass kicked while trying to be a hero.

Dumbass should point out that Angel’s kids are in danger, and that she owes it to them to not get herself murdered in front of them; nudge her toward the nearest women’s shelter; and then step back. Refusing to protect one’s own kids is a serious character defect, one that even Dumbass may have trouble ignoring for long. —M. C.

A message for LIFE, the gentleman in a relationship with the angel on earth who’s married to an abusive rapist: He can’t save her. She needs to save herself. I would say DTMFA but that sounds awfully harsh for this situation.

If LIFE really cares for her: Get her phone numbers for local women’s shelters and rape crisis centers — give her the options, be supportive and then step to the sidelines. While the angel and her kids would probably love a knight in shining armor (who wouldn’t?), what they need more is the tools to build a life, things like therapy and some of the programs available for women and children affected by Intimate-Partner Violence (IPV). It may take several attempts before she leaves her husband for good (there are statistics out there to back that up). Emotionally, LIFE needs to consider that possibility and the impact it will have on him — that’s reality.

I didn’t leave a 17-year, verbally and emotionally abusive marriage until it culminated in an act of violent rape — pathetic, but it took an act of physical violence to wake me up and get me moving. I am on the other side of it now — went back to school (finances are a powerful weapon in domestic or IPV violence, especially if there are young children to raise), got my kids and myself some therapy, have a great job now, and have worked hard to build a new life — and I am not the same person I was seven years ago. That woman lived in fear and couldn’t live a full life — or even be herself (she was buried too deep to stay safe). I’m finally in a real relationship with a man I dearly love — a man that I can be myself with, can trust, feel safe with (something I have never experienced before) and who treats me like an angel.

I’m getting to a point, really. …

LIFE may find that he may risk all to discover that she may not want to be with him after she gets herself out and away from the chaos she is living in now. I’m no professional, but I found that the struggle to get out of a crappy relationship — both literally and figuratively — was something I needed to do on my own in order to really break free. It was an experience of tremendous personal growth.

LIFE doesn’t say how "involved" his relationship is — but for his sake, her sake and the sake of her kids, if he really wants what is best, then be supportive. Stay out of her pants, let her get her life together; he can’t fix it for her, although his intent is both honorable and admirable. Everyone has baggage of some sort — some folks have worse things to pack than others — it’s all in whether or not you have it contained in a suitcase and you know what’s in there. LIFE’s angel needs to pack her own suitcase before getting involved with him. It’s not fair to him and he is putting himself at a lot of risk — unless of course, that’s the appeal. Sign me … —A FALLEN! (Finally A Life Lived Existentially Now!) ANGEL Send letters to

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