Inner City Diary
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Abuse at the hands of the abused
August 17, 2003
I went to the remand centre, unsure how to start our conversation.

According to friends, Roger and Cathy (not their real names) had gotten into another fight after awhile of drinking. In a rage, Roger beat Cathy mercilessly. Then friends told me he held out her arms and systematically cut them. Just to make sure she understood how angry he was, he apparently killed her cat and proceeded to beat her with the dead body.

I waited for him in the booth. I’m not sure what I expected, but I supposed at least a little remorse would be in order. When he arrived, I asked how he was doing. The conversation went something like this:

“It’s weird, Harry. I feel safer in here than I did in that house. That woman is crazy. You wouldn’t believe all the stuff she does and the things she’s said to me.”
Trying to blink away my shock, I replied, “Then leave! Roger, look at yourself. You’re twice the size of that woman. You decide to stay in the house. You decide to drink with her. I’ve gotta tell you, the stuff you did makes you look more crazy than anyone else in this story. There’s no excuse for what you did. Don’t you get that?”

Responding almost more to my distress than his actions, he started mouthing a confession. But I could tell his mind was speeding in the other direction – denial. I let him talk, and after awhile, he was right back where he started.

“Harry, you have to believe me. I may be bigger, but I’m not that strong inside. I drink a little. She criticizes my family, and mocks me mercilessly. Sometimes she hits me. And she keeps tearing me apart, and stands in my way so I can’t leave, even when she knows I’m getting mad.”

I guess my response was not very pastoral. “What’s wrong with you? If she’s crazy, you’re crazier, and you must think I’m stupid as well. She won’t let you leave? There’s two doors in your house. She’s one hundred pounds and you’re probably close to two hundred. You have a job and could live elsewhere. Are you addicted to her cooking? If she’s so abusive, why do you stay? What’s wrong with you?”

That incident occurred several years ago but, to this day, I don’t think he’s answered the question. A few months later they were together again. And we could tell not much had changed.

About a month ago, I was shopping at a Goodwill store across town when I got a call. “Harry, we really need you to come quick. Roger and Cathy are at it again. She just came running to my apartment. She says he’s drunk. He’s screaming, smashing stuff in the house, and he actually held a knife to her throat. I went over with her a little while ago and heard him threaten her.”

I explained that I was too far away to make it there in time, and it was important to call the police anyway. “But she doesn’t want the cops involved!” said my friend. I told her I would call them. Another woman from the church went there as well and eventually they got into the house and locked him out. The police came and took him away. Courts released him shortly thereafter.

This week I got another call. Another plea for intervention. Same song, same dance.

I know I’m not the one getting beat up, but why does it feel like I’m beating my head against a brick wall?

I’m aware of my own anger and helplessness. I want to remind them of the story of the boy who cried “wolf” too often. When he most needed help, nobody took him seriously anymore.

I can feel a gradual hardening of my own heart. I don’t like it. But my tears, pleading and the intervention of friends and family don’t seem to matter either.

Zero tolerance to domestic abuse requires intervention. Cops come. An arrest is made. But no cop, court or friend can permanently separate combatants too stupid to stop the fight. Sometimes the only way to prevent certain death at home would be a life sentence behind bars.

In a lab, when you mix certain chemicals together, you can predict the time and force of the explosion. In some of these toxic relationships, it’s predictable that someone will die. Many already have.

Maybe I should just visit Cathy and administer last rites in advance, since there’s a good chance I won’t get there in time to do it for real.

I love them both, but I feel like there’s not much I can do anymore.
Copyright 2003
Rev. Harry Lehotsky
Rev. Harry Lehotsky is Director of New Life Ministries, a community ministry in the inner-city of Winnipeg, Manitoba.
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