The monster myth and domestic abuse.
When I was a kid there was always a moment of fear before I looked under my bed. It was only fleeting, but it was there. Could there be a monster under my bed? My imagination conjured up images of a growling beast with large incisors protruding from the upper lip. This monster was ready to pounce.
It would take a heart of steel not to be disturbed by recent news of an Australian mother and her three young children senselessly and horrifically murdered – incinerated inside their car while going to school. An act carried out by the estranged husband and father.
I’m not sure why I feel so perturbed by this case. But I find myself with a stomach clenched. Perhaps it’s because the perpetrator is, like me, a New Zealander, or perhaps it’s because my maiden name is the same as the perpetrator’s. Thankfully no relation, but here’s the thing, he could be. And he could be in yours. He could be walking around in each of our families.
The perpetrator has been labelled a ‘monster’, described as ‘evil in our midst’. But we need to drop the labels and see it for what it is. MONSTERS DON’T HURT PEOPLE, PEOPLE HURT PEOPLE. What comes to your mind when you hear the word ‘monster’ or the word ‘evil’? Does a large, ugly, drooling, growling, horned creature, like my childhood monster, come to mind? Thinking only monsters abuse, hit, molest and rape silences victims and removes responsibility of those who know it is happening. If the perpetrator doesn’t fit the idea of a monster (and let’s face it, very few perpetrators do), there’s less of a chance victims will be believed when they break their silence.
Let’s ditch the monster myth and call out the perps for what they are. A person who commits any sort of violence or abuse is a human being. He could be partner, ex-partner, family member, flatmate, friend, or carer. Admitting that abusers are human doesn’t lessen their cruelty – on the contrary – it underlines it, says writer/speaker/advocate Thordis Elva
“They choose to be abusive in spite of their humanity. The sooner we understand this, the more lives we can save.”
Monsters don’t walk on this planet. People who commit monstrous acts do. And sitting at the top of the perpetrator list is, MEN. Human-being men. Yes, I know perpetrators of domestic abuse may be either men or women. However, violence by men is often the most serious and lethal type of family violence in New Zealand, the victims are predominantly women and children. www.whiteribbon.org.nz And have always been. And at the risk of sounding like climate change advocate, Greta Thunburg, I say to you men – husbands, partners, fathers, brothers, uncles, – HOW DARE YOU.
I guess you can say I am angry, and I am. This whole case has unsettled me. This could have been me, and it could have been my children. I well remember running down the road trying to escape an angry ex-husband trying to run me over to ‘teach me a lesson’. Did he look like a monster? Oh no, like this latest perpetrator, he was one of the good guys. Well respected in his work community, he was a ‘regular Mt Nice Guy.’ People liked him. There were no horns of evil protruding from his head. Nor did he look like the ‘monster’ from my childhood. He was just a regular person.
I was one of the lucky victims of domestic abuse … I escaped. This was over forty years ago, but the aftermath still lingers today, especially with my children. There were 133,022 ‘family harm’ investigations by NZ Police in 2018 (NZ Police, 2019), however, there is an estimated 76% to 87% of family or intimate partner violence not reported to Police. This is alarming.
Let’s get angry about this. Let’s talk about this. Remember, domestic abuse is not just about getting, ‘the bash’. If there is someone in your family that you need to ‘tip-toe’ around to keep the ‘peace’, this is also abuse. Tell someone. Talk to someone. Deep down, as women, we know when something feels not right. It’s a feeling in the heart. Listen to this. There is help available. Don’t let your life and that of your children be shrouded in fear.
Monsters don’t walk this earth harming our women and children. Ordinary people do. Human beings do. Family members do. Let me say it again, HOW DARE YOU!