The news about Bettyjean’s tragedy, the assaults on her daughters Denise and Louisa at the hands of a violent man and a useless legal system, has made me reflect on some of the threats I’ve received and about how many other women have gone through similar experiences. Most of my life, I never really felt threatened, until the last few years. The threats I’ve had directed at me recently have been unprovoked anger and verbal that has taken me totally by surprise, because the circumstances would not normally trigger such violent responses. They were disturbing when they occurred and even more disturbing as I recall them tonight.
I’m just about the only one around here who walks my dogs, and being from the East and used to pooper scooper laws, I always pick up. In these parts, there is no such law and sometimes a stray or an inconsiderate dog-walker will allow their dog to leave a mess on someone’s property.
A few years ago I peeked out of my front door window to see a neighbor opening my front gate, a man whom I had seen a few times but knew little about, except that he was an ex-Marine and was now working in some sort of dispatch job for the city. I opened the door to a barrage of verbal abuse and accusations about how my dog had left a poop on his property. Totally taken aback, I informed this guy that “I picked up.” This didn’t stop him one bit–he called me a “bitch” and told me I shouldn’t walk on “his street.” Of course, this made me angry…very angry. I stepped outdoors and stood nose-t0-nose with this ranting man. I went into Marine-mode.
“Listen, SIR, you have no right to accuse me of anything, SIR! SIR, it’s a public street, SIR, and I can walk anywhere I damned well please! You’ve got a damned nerve, SIR, talking to me like this…You may talk to your wife that way, SIR, but you can’t talk to ME like that!”
By this time he had turned and was hurrying away. I left him with this salvo: “You just throw your dogs into the backyard, SIR. You don’t even know how to take care of them!”
A few weeks later the dogs were gone and I found out he had separated from his wife. They’re back together now, but Grandma is around an awful lot keeping a watchful eye on the couple’s little girl.
Another altercation occurred while I was out with Slick one Saturday morning, looking at some things at a garage sale. Suddenly, a big white pitbull mix, which I had seen looking out the screen door of a nearby house quite often, suddenly sped out of the house, jumped me, then went after Slick. No one at the sale moved a muscle, but the guy inside the house ran out as he heard me screaming to get his dog off Slick. After getting his dog under control, he didn’t offer one word to see if me or Slick had been hurt. Instead, he laughed at me and mocked me for being upset! When I told him he should watch that door, he immediately got defensive and nasty. The lack of common courtesy, at the very least, got me so ticked off that I called animal control to report the attack. If the guy had treated me like a neighbor and had expressed some concern about the welfare of me and Slick, I probably wouldn’t have picked up the phone. But it was his total disregard for the attack on me and Slick that really angered me. Animal control went to the house, then told me that no one answered the door. They guy was HIDING and wouldn’t face up to what his dog had done.
A few weeks later, I was walking quite far from his house, when the same dog came running down the hill toward me ready to jump me and Slick again! The guy came running and this time, laughed at me and asked me why I was screaming again! Obviously, this guy had no empathy or respect for me or Slick, so I called animal control again. A lot of older people stroll in the neighborhood and this sort of thing could wind up in someone seriously hurt. This time animal control left a notice. Since that event, the door seems to stay closed. Apparently, the guy got fined and that got his attention, not an actual attack in action! But once again, there was a complete lack of respect and concern from this man.
Last week, I had another confrontation as I walked by a house I usually pass on our short walks at night. Tammy and her husband were out putting up Christmas decorations. I’ve known Tammy for quite awhile on a casual basis and have talked to her about our dogs quite a few times. (By the way, their German shepherd doesn’t get walked very much, either). But, on this night when I walked by, her husband, in keeping with the season, jumped up and charged at me, screaming about how my dog pooped on his front yard. No thought about a simple inquiry, no, this guy was fully ramped up. As he screamed at me, I whipped out a handful of plastic bags and told him “I pick up!” I had seen some old poop on his front grass, but it certainly wasn’t from me! He assumed it was ME, though, and told me he didn’t care about “my plastic bags.” He called me a bitch. I then found myself with my fistful of bags in front of his face, telling him that I came from the East where we had pooper scooper laws and I knew how to walk my dog. He said he didn’t care about the East, around here, it didn’t matter…and I shouldn’t walk up his block any more! (Sound familiar??) I got so in the guy’s face that he started to back off, and warned me not to threaten him! Well, I just told he had a damned nerve accusing me of something he had absolutely no proof I was guilty of, and that he was an idiot if he thought he could tell me I couldn’t walk on a public street! I then asked him point blank if he was on drugs or if he was drunk.
At that point, I turned to Tammy and said, “You know me, you know I’ve always picked up!” and she turned away and said, “I’m not getting involved!” I was taken aback and really wondered why an adult woman couldn’t tell her husband that he was way out of bounds. I got the feeling that something was wrong in that relationship. Coincidentally, yesterday I found out from one of their close neighbors that the whole family was dysfunctional. Tammy’s father was an alcoholic and her sister, whom I had met several times, had nearly killed herself a few days ago by going on a drinking binge. It seems that Tammy must have repeated the pattern and, judging from what he did to me, she married a guy with the potential for some pretty violent behavior.
What ties all these stories together? Men with irrational anger, nasty language, demands for me to curtail my normal activities–in other words, abusive men who become hostile instead of approaching a problem with some degree of civility. It’s more than being uncouth, it’s an attitude toward women they don’t even know that manifests in behavior that is completely off the wall. It’s as if they all thought that they had a perfect right to be abusive right from the start. Sensitivity? Empathy? Simple politeness? Normal behavior? I think not…Not with these guys…all of whom backed down as soon as they were surprised by a woman, and an older woman at that, who gave it right back to them.
What’s especially upsetting is that I’ve had to feel that I was FORCED to get so aggressive in return. But something told me that if I didn’t these guys would just be getting the reaction they wanted–a sense of power over me and a satisfaction that their macho behavior had intimidated me. At the time of the first incident I was really rather surprised at my own reaction…the sense of power I had when I challenged this guy who came onto MY property and verbally assaulted me. Somewhere along the way to getting older and wiser, I had figured out it out…no more taking it from anyone anymore, least of all bullies who had something screwed up in their approach to women.
Women put up with an awful lot of this sort of thing and sometimes it really goes beyond verbal assault into the realm of a real threat to life. The so-called protections of marriage or committed relationships don’t seem to apply when things get violent. What’s given a benign name of “domestic violence” is really just, plain VIOLENCE. It galls me that there’s a sense of being diminished as a human being simply because a person is somehow “related” to the abuser. How is this different than a an owner abusing an animal?
Down here in “the Borderland” we have a lot of animal abuse and “domestic violence.” The two seem to go hand in hand. But after what we’ve been through this year, with the misogyny ladled out to us with the help of the media, the Democratic Party, and their pre-ordained nominee, it’s clear that “women hate” is perfectly acceptable. Latest example? The fawning story in the Washington Post about Obama speechwriter Jon Favreau.
Now, he has transformed into what one friend called a “Washington political force” — a minor celebrity with a down payment on a Dupont Circle condo, whose silly Facebook photos with a Hillary Rodham Clinton cutout created what passes for controversy in Obama’s so far drama-free transition.
Yes, it’s all so silly. All so silly.
So now Bettyjean’s daughters suffer at the hands of a man whom they once thought they could trust. But, their trust has been cruelly betrayed this man AND the depraved indifference of “the system.”
As a child, I spent a lot of time in Lodi, NJ. It was my father’s hometown. His immigrant parents settled there and ran a mercantile. My father, his three brothers, sister and half-sister all grew up there. His sisters remained there all their lives. I recall visiting every Sunday. My Aunt Lucy lived in a building next to the old Lodi Modern Bakery on Main Street, a short block from the old plant with the smokestacks that still stood there then. My Aunt Florence lived upstairs in the same building. The smells of the bakery permeated their apartments. Aunt Lucy, as the oldest of all the children, was the matriarch of the family. We saw our uncles and cousins there when they came back to Lodi to visit. We would sit at the kitchen table and watch the adults play canasta and eat Aunt Lucy’s marvelous food. Her stuffed artichokes were the best I have ever tasted. Aunt Florence always ate with Aunt Lucy and never cooked as far as I know. But she was the one who would stop by the Sorrento bakery and pick up the Italian pastries before hopping the bus to visit us. We all went to the annual “Feast” and enjoyed being part of what was basically an Italian enclave of close families.
In my childhood memories, Lodi was a wonderful place. I haven’t been back in years, but it seems like it’s just like anyplace now…just like any other place in America and or anywhere in the world where violence against women – or the lurking threat of violence — is part of our lives…
…We must take back our power and take back our lives…
Report on the arraignment of the attacker and his comments
Man in shotgun case barred from contacting ill wife
Thursday, December 18, 2008
The man who is accused of shooting his wife’s sister in the face with a shotgun told a judge this afternoon that he wanted to see his terminally ill wife “before she dies.”
But a judge ordered George Hartwig to make no contact with his estranged wife, the shooting victim or any family members.
“That sucks. I didn’t even point a gun at her,” Hartwig said, referring to his wife, Denise Richardson, who is dying of ovarian cancer.
Hartwig was formally charged at the hearing in Superior Court in Hackensack with the attempted murder of 41-year-old Louisa Rodas of Hackensack. She remained in critical condition this afternoon.
Filed under: Current Politics | Tagged: animal abuse, animal activism, Barack Obama, battered women, Democratic Party, domestic violence, feminism, Free Us Now, Jon Favreau, Lodi Modern bakery, Lodi NJ, misogyny, Sorrento bakery, the "Borderland", the media, violence against women, women's movement, women's rights | 27 Comments »