Jan Brown, Domestic Abuse Helpline for Men and Women
For the past few weeks one of the the stars of MTV’s hit show, “Teen Mom,” Amber Portwood, has been the focus of a whole lot of media attention for her domestically violent behavior caught on tape towards the father of her toddler child Leah and boyfriend, Gary Shirley. Every news outlet from CBS to CNN to TMZ has written or spoken about the on-camera verbal and physical assaults that Amber has directed towards Gary. Gary, to his credit, has never physically retaliated.
Although I don’t know Gary personally I know thousands of “Gary’s” in similar situations. Gary, like other men in these situations who do not hit women or defend themselves against a woman’s violence, know the rules of the game i.e. if a woman hits you stand there in take it because if you defend yourself you’re going to jail. There is no excuse for abuse, unless it’s a woman doing the abusing.
For years women’s violence against men has been ignored, minimized and excused. However, this young women’s violence, caught on tape, has been hard to ignore or brush off. Had her violence not been caught on tape it’s likely that it would still be going on behind closed doors and no one would be the wiser…men don’t tell.
To view a 55 second clip of her physical and verbal abusiveness towards Gary click here And there is a lot more where that came from. One wonders how long the camera crew and producers would have let Gary get away with hitting, slapping, choking and berating Amber before stopping or reporting the domestic violence had roles been reversed.
Still some will choose to make excuses for Amber’s verbal and physical violence because Amber is a female and Gary is a male. Nothing new there, those entrenched in domestic violence issues have been making excuses for women’s violence for decades.
Take, for instance, Lynn Harris’s article for Salon, “Is female-on-male violence on the rise? ‘”Teen Mom’s”‘ Amber Portwood has turned a spotlight on women who hit. We take a closer look at the supposed trend,” (catch the “supposed” innuendo there?). Ms. Harris claims that women use violence out of frustration to get attention i.e. women are weak and needy of attention, while men use violence to assert their power and control over women, i.e. to keep them in their place and subservient to men. However, according to the comments made it seems few viewers of the show agree:
“I live in ambers hometown and…this crazy bit?h is 100 percent real! The stories about her fighting her neighbor over a parking spot, true! Her abusing Gary, true! She is an embarrassment to her entire town….” “…I think Amber and Gary need help, but i defiantly (sic) think Leah is better off with Gary then Amber I do not think she is safe with Amber.” “…Gary is far calmer and needs to have custody of Leah…Now she dumped Gary and has a new guy that she’s bringing around the baby. Has that new guy seen the show? Cause he might want to buy some protective gear.” http://tinyurl.com/25awxz6
“…GREAT JOB GARY 4 putting LEAH first! Amber would love it if u were 2 b sneaky & disobey the laws..thus hurting Leah. Keep that monster AWAY until she is fit & allowed the privilege 2 b a mother again. If it ever even happens!” http://tinyurl.com/25udo6j “I am so happy that the Amber abusive chick is getting what she deserves. Not only does she smack Gary around, but she is a risk for the baby. what if she goes crazy? like the time she locked the baby in the room because she was crying for her daddy. She can snap at any x and at anyone it is scary to have a person like that in your home.” http://tinyurl.com/37h2rfm
Bill at Bill’s Pro-feminist Blog in his posting on (although not on the subject of Amber’s violence but women’s violence against men in general), “But women do it to! On acknowledging female violence towards men,” also makes excuses for women’s violence. He reiterates what Ms. Harris says about women’s violence, “”First, we need to understand how women’s violence in relationships is often very different from men’s violence in relationships,”" and then he discusses how, and I’m paraphrasing here, women’s violence is less injurious and more about attention seeking while men’s is about, “…putting you back in your place, bitch.”" Additionally according to Bill men are in full control of their faculties, their use of violence is patriarchal in nature used to dominate and control while women use violence is because (here comes the excuses) they have a mental illness and/or abuse hard drugs i.e. they can’t help it. Hello, mental illness and hard drug use is not exclusive to women just as using violence as a means to control and gain power in a relationships is not exclusive to men.
Now back to Amber Portwood and Gary Shirley’s (and their toddler who witnessed Amber’s abuse of her father) situation, even with hard documented evidence of verbal threats and physical assault it took seven weeks before the police decided to charge Amber with two counts of felony and a misdemeanor. At this writing there has been no arrest because the DA still hasn’t even filed the charges yet. I think we can all agree that the investigation might have taken tops 48 hours if Gary was doing the hitting and berating on camera. He would have been arrested and locked up before you could say “Patriarchy.” ;-)
Although there are plenty of gray areas when it comes to domestic violence some still choose to continue to look at domestic violence as a black and white phenomonom; men’s patriarchy and men as a group are the cause of domestic violence. These same people continue to turn a blind eye to research that doesn’t fit their beliefs (see Dr. Daniel Whittaker et al http://ajph.aphapublications.org/cgi/content/abstract/97/5/941 Dr. Denise Hines http://www.clarku.edu/faculty/dhines/results.htm, and Dr. Murray Straus http://www.unh.edu/news/cj_nr/2006/may/em_060519male.cfm for info on female domestic violence and male victimization) and continue to perpetuate the myth that women’s violence should be excused for the most part because it’s not as harmful or being used as a means to control and maintain power over an intimate partner. This thinking does a grave disservice to male victims, female perpetrators and the innocent children who are caught in the middle. As long as society continues to view female violence as harmless there will be people who believe that, “…shes not going to hit the baby she hits him because shes frustrated hes a big fat lazy bum I’d hit him too in fact I’d kick him to the curb.” http://tinyurl.com/2bk2t9k and male victims and their children will suffer the consequences.