How to Write About Domestic Violence Without Actually Discussing Violence

by Cara on April 13, 2010

in assholes, media, misogyny, patriarchy, politics, violence against women and girls

The mayor of White Plains, NY has been arrested on charges of domestic violence. Adam T. Bradley, who has not yet resigned, is accused of slamming a door on his wife’s hand, screaming at her that she should kill herself, and then threatening and harassing her to drop the charges against him. This is obviously a very serious issue, and one that could be used to highlight the epidemic of intimate partner violence, and how you can’t tell an abuser simply by looking at his level of success or status in society. It could be used to write about how common intimate partner violence is, how terrifying and traumatizing it is to the victim, and how those victims are usually women.

New York Times “Our Towns” columnist Peter Applebome decided to write it as a political “scandal” piece, to ignore the plight of victims entirely, and to leave a long trail of misogyny and apologism in his path. He begins is column like this:

There seems to be an ironclad rule of politics that the smoother the glide path and the more complete the triumph, the more cataclysmic the fall.

Still, from mayor by acclamation to hanging on (as of Monday morning) by a fingernail in three months? From local boy makes good to local boy makes Tiger look good?

Congratulations, abusing your wife is worse than cheating on your wife with consenting women! Surely, it is relevant to point this out in a cutesy fashion right at the beginning of your column, not so much explicitly, and not so much as a point that media priorities are skewed, but more to create a celebrity tie-in to your otherwise rather dry story about violence against women how a mayor’s career isn’t going so well.

From there, it’s relevant to compare Bradley’s alleged crimes to those of other politicians who have faced “scandal,” in which half of the referenced cases “crimes” again means “infidelities.” It’s also especially relevant to be clear about your own impartiality in a case by reminding everyone that sometimes bitches lie, and anyway intimate partner violence is “personal”:

On the one hand, Mr. Bradley’s travails are personal and, for now, unproved scenes from a marriage, outlined in vivid e-mail messages and allegations in court documents. He has said he will be vindicated. On the other, they are like recycled snippets of political scandals, as if, large office or small, we’re now part of one mix-and-match political culture and narrative — a little Eliot Spitzer here, a touch of David A. Paterson or Hiram Monserrate there, a bit of John Edwards, a fast rise, a steep fall, coulda been a contender.

You see, marriage is private! Who knows what goes on in a marriage, right? I mean, for all you know, she could have nagged him! That’s very important to acknowledge. And responsibly, after going on for several paragraphs about how Bradley became mayor and the enemies he made along the way, Applebome stresses this point yet again, just for good measure:

Life is complicated, and few things are harder to know than someone else’s marriage. Mr. Bradley has neither been convicted nor pleaded guilty to anything.

Sometimes, physically injuring your wife isn’t as simple as it looks, people. And few things are harder to know than whether or not someone else actually injured his wife — because, come on, she’s his wife. His wife!

And anyway, a paper trail of evidence isn’t enough for us to pass judgment yet. But even if it was, it’s not like charges being filed in a criminal court makes this issue public. The fact that Bradley is mayor doesn’t make this issue public. And the fact that violence against women is a systematic problem that continues to persist in large part because it is so frequently excused, so infrequently discussed, and so commonly ignored is simply not reason to discuss domestic violence as domestic violence or to mention such violence without listing lots of caveats about how the issue is personal.

I mean, do you want anyone snooping around in your life to find out whether or not you’re abusing your partner? Or whether or not your partner is abusing you? I thought not. Let’s allow the man — the only party relevant in this discussion — some privacy. Right after we finish gossiping about his career, that is. After all, unlike some petty issues that a few fringe activists want to dig up, which legislators do and do not like the mayor is too interesting and important for us to gloss over.

Peter Applebome’s contact information appears at the bottom of his column.

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{ 2 comments }

1 Sammy April 13, 2010 at 11:27 am

This is my hometown, and Adam Bradley is my mayor. My cousin is in a first grade class with his child.

I’m so appalled at this whole thing – how Bradley keeps saying he’s innocent, but also offers that his public life should be separate from his private one – and his aids are saying he should be judged on his politics and what he’s done as mayor. How can we separate these things? If this isn’t the perfect example of the Personal as Political, I don’t know what is. I don’t want wifebeaters running my local government. Is that so crazy? I’m so saddened and outraged by all this.

And I didn’t vote for the guy. I really miss Joe Delfino (and he’s a republican!).

2 liberality April 14, 2010 at 3:51 pm

It seems like things will never change as long as women are seen as a guy’s private property to do with as he pleases, and anyway, the guys all say that’s none of “our” business. It IS my business and it does matter. If he is abusive within his personal relationships then he is probably abusive in other ways as well. He is not responsible and he does need charges filed against him for breaking the law. What other story is there to write here anyway?!?!

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