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The Domestic Violence Epidemic Against Women

After feeling restless in the middle of the night, I’ll put on my coat and go for a walk towards Tompkins Square Park or Bleecker Street past Bobst Library. I walk with lagging feet and headphones. When I finally feel worn out enough, I’ll begin to trek home. Sometimes I’ll feel someone walking behind me and I grow nervous and anxious. I turn around and a man is usually just a few strides behind me. I speed up and feel my breath heavy in my chest. It’s 12:30 and I wonder if he’ll run after me or if he’s like that man on the news or that man in the paper.

When I arrive back to my building, I wonder if I should feel lucky that I remained untouched. There is an instilled fear that embodies a woman. All women have been me walking alone at night. They have all felt that rock atop their sternum. They have all felt someone skulking too closely.

Violence is often a shared experience among women in America. If you were to gather several women for an open conversation about their own personal accounts of sexual or emotional abuse, an abundance of horrific stories would flood the room. 1 in 3 women are victims of bodily or emotional violence during their lifetime. PTSD is regularly associated with domestic victimization. Women’s safety is not a valued priority because the country has become desensitized to the critical evolution of mass violence. Normalization of violence against women has always been accepted and excused. Congressmen, senators, peers, and bystanders have rationalized the unethical nature of ignorance. I fear that many of us have stopped paying attention simply because it is easier than advocating. My plea is one of diligence and urgency. Aggressors take far too much from the victim even after the said victim has perished. There is a lasting effect that is worth looking at and being aware of. There is significance in truth in justice for those who have been dying at our hands for centuries.

Approximately 72% of murder-suicides involve an intimate partner or a person who is intimately interested in the victim. Noxious masculinity, entitlement, and hatred are deeply rooted in America’s modern societal standards. Elliot Rodger released a manifesto entitled My Twisted World in 2014 and created a series of YouTube videos. He did this before he murdered six people and injured fourteen in Isla Vista. He stabbed three victims and killed the remaining three with a pistol. Rodger killed three of his roommates and then proceeded to drive to a sorority house near the University of California Santa Barbara. He shot three sorority sisters. Two of the victim’s injuries were fatal, but the third survived. He then shot and killed a man in a local deli. Shortly after the massacre was over, he proceeded to take his own life. These are direct quotes from Rodger’s manifesto:

“One time, as I was walking across the huge bridge that connected the two campuses, I passed by a girl I thought was pretty and said hi as we neared each other. She kept on walking and didn’t even have the grace to respond to me. How dare she! That foul bitch. I felt so humiliated that I went to one of the school bathrooms, locked myself in a toilet stall, and cried for an hour.”

“I desired girls, but girls never desired me back. There is something very wrong with that. It is an injustice that cannot go unpunished. There is no way I could live a happy life with such a scenario.”

Rodger developed a fatal god-complex due to his belief that he should be granted any woman of his choosing. Since he wasn’t able to obtain what he wanted his only solution was to slaughter. Rodger deemed women as bodies, and bodies as sex objects. The lives of many were demolished in order to preserve absolutely nothing. Rodgers received no resolution.

“They pressed with such force through the strait gate, they left their flesh on the post.” This quote, well worn in amongst the Amish, was incorporated into a piece written by Matthew Teague in 1999. This piece was written about five Amish school girls who were senselessly murdered by a shadow of a man in the community. I say shadow of a man because he was faceless for so long. He wasn’t important and he wasn’t a threat. But, that’s how it usually begins; harmless and without threat. Charlie Roberts shot ten young girls. Murdering five of them and leaving the other five wounded. The five girls who survived will live with and through this moment forever. I cannot imagine the trauma or the guilt of surviving something they weren’t meant to survive. They will spend a large portion of their existence aching, living, marrying, growing, birthing, laughing, speaking, singing, and watching for the girls who never made it out of that schoolhouse. The surviving girls, now women, will forever feel the weight of their abuser’s menace. They will be haunted by the flesh that is their own. Men take something from women once they assert abuse, murder, dominance, and power upon them. The families of the recently passed away girls were very quick to proclaim their forgiveness. I don’t actually think they wanted to forgive Roberts. I think they had this hopeful thought that the girls would rest more peacefully without the weight of a grudge that they were not vocally capable of lifting. So, the parents lifted it for them before they were even buried. The flesh left behind reminds us that a victim can never truly die if we continue to preserve what they’ve encapsulated in their unfair departure to a place that will be undoubtedly better than the world they were brought into.

There is a power that young girls and women leave behind when they die long before they’re supposed to. I’ve felt this power and it’s sad and brave and the most unfortunate thing one can feel. Once a woman has died due to the abuse of another human she is able to rest again. She is able to breathe again and that is the most disturbing irony I have to offer. But, it is the most honest. The pain, fear, terror, and worthlessness that a male abuser can make women feel is translated into a meaningful voice upon her exit. The misfortune of hearing girl or woman’s story after she’s gone is that it’s too late to prevent the already unraveled disaster. But, it is our job to scrutinize what remains of neglect. When I think of the anguish and fatality that is the product of abuse I look towards Sylvia Plath. She wrote “I began to see why woman-haters could make such fools of women. Woman-haters were like gods: invulnerable and chock full of power. They descended, and then they disappeared. You could never catch one.” Abusers have a way of escaping the harm that they’ve caused. I think this is because to actually be abusive you need to have some sort of god complex woven or ingrained within you at an early age. To punish those who don’t deserve to be punished reflects the flaws within the Punisher.

Women who were abused by their male partner carry around a heaviness that will never leave them. To abuse someone is to hurt them and to hurt them is to lack respect and to lack respect is to objectify. When one becomes an object, it’s hard to become a person again. Sylvia Plath crossed paths with Ted Hughes on February 28, 1956, in Cambridge, UK. Their relationship began, they got married, continued their careers as writers, and had two children. Hughes was both emotionally and physically abusive throughout the life they spent together. It was only in April of 2017 that several of Plath’s letters, detailed tales of abusive, surfaced. Plath wrote about how Hughes was physically violent two days before she had a miscarriage. “Written between 18 February 1960 and 4 February 1963, a week before her death, the letters cover a period in Plath’s life that has remained elusive to readers and scholars alike. While the American writer, who was living in England during that time, was a prolific letter writer and had kept detailed journals since the age of 11, after her death Hughes said his wife’s journals from this time were lost, including the last volume, which he said he destroyed to protect their children, Frieda and Nicholas.” (Danuta Kean). Plath struggled with mental illness for many years but, the emotional distress and infidelity in her marriage only added to her struggle. To let someone pressure all that you are into a pile of settled dust is to prove the falsehood of unconditional love. I think this was a realization that Sylvia had and that was rightfully strenuous. “I must get my soul back from you; I am killing my flesh without it.” (Sylvia Plath)

Plath committed suicide by laying her head on the rack in a gas oven. She took her life during the coldest winter in 100 years (the winter of 1962-1963). She wrote Ariel the October leading to her death and published The Bell Jar the month before.

“Death must be so beautiful. To lie in the soft brown earth, with the grasses waving above one’s head, and listen to silence. To have no yesterday, and no tomorrow. To forget time, to forgive life, to be at peace.” – The Bell Jar

“A living doll, everywhere you look. It can sew, it can cook, It can talk, talk, talk.   It works, there is nothing wrong with it. You have a hole, it’s a poultice. You have an eye, its an image. My boy, it’s your last resort. Will you marry it, marry it, marry it.” – Ariel

“To the person in the bell jar, black and stopped as a dead baby, the world itself is a bad dream.” – The Bell Jar. The reward given to the man who takes the most precious and pure thing he can grasp between his fingers is rewarded with a corpse. The corpse of the meek. The corpse of the ones trapped beneath the glass of the bell jar.

Sylvia’s suffering doesn’t go unnoticed. Hughes edited The Journals of Sylvia Plath in 1982 without her permission after her death.  They weren’t meant for anyone’s eyes. Her journals were not meant for the public because they were in fact journals. They were private. Hughes had power over her even after she was dead. He even added his last name to her headstone. “Sylvia Plath Hughes”. It’s unfathomably remarkable how it’s possible to hold a woman captive after her own suicide. At what point does a woman become e a body and nothing else? Is it before or after her death? I imagine Plath as a young daughter, tugging on her mom’s shirt at a supermarket because her mother was talking to her friend and she was ready to leave. She never got the guts to say she wanted to leave because that would have meant bothering her mother. So, instead, she stood and waited until she was so frustrated that a fit was released for within her. This dumbly describes the relationship she had with Hughes. Plath’s suffering due to her male counterpart deserves attention.

 Sylvia Plath, Naomi, Marian, Anna Mae, Lena, and Mary Liz, and Elliot Rodger’s victims left their flesh on the post and because of that, it is impossible to leave their stories untold. They are gone but their voices continue to ring throughout the mouths of the women who now live in the shoes they used to own.

 

Madison Hartz is majoring in creative writing and minoring in religious studies at the New School.
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