Lawmakers look at wife beating
BY MIKE ROYKO
r 1976, Chicago Daily News
I RECOGNIZE that we have a critical
shortage of new social problems It's
our own fault. During the 1960s we went
through them as if they were inexhaustible, being shocked, doing studies, enacting laws and making even the mildest
form of misery illegal.
But have we become so desperate for a
juicy new problem that we are now ready
to accept that wife beating is everybody's
problem, something that society as a
whole must brood about0
I had always believed that when a man
beat his wife it was something they must
work out themselves, with the help of a
cop. a judge, relatives and a couple of
But apparently that's not enough. An
Illinois commission has just finished holding hearings, during which experts tossed
around all kinds of shocking statistics to
prove that women are on the verge of
being rendered extinct by ham-fisted
They told horror stories about women
who get punched more often than a time
clock. Everybody is doing it. they said,
from wealthy professional men down to
the lowest menial.
And so the experts want laws that will
provide new penalties for husbands who
thump wives, public shelters to be established for women who flee, public funds to
be used to compensate wives for their
suffering, and greater compassion and
concern by cops, judges you and me
Now. 1 suppose, the commission will
rush back to Springfield to create now
laws, set up a new state agency to enforce
them, allocate funds, and otherwise let
their social conscience run amuck.
However, the most shocking fact to
emerge from these hearing seems to have
been overlooked And if it wasn't. 1 don't
know what could be done about it anyway.
And that is the amazing number of really dumb women there are in our society, if
the experts' testimony is to be believed.
For example, somebody from the National Organization for Women said that
in half of all household murder cases, the
police had been called at least five times
in the past.
This statistic was meant to show us that
somehow society has failed to protect
these women despite repeated danger signals.
But what I fir>d remarkable about that
statistic is that the women apparently
couldn't take a hint.
You would think that after the fifth time
the police had to be called to protect them
from a domestic caveman they might
have begun to suspect that the marriage
was in trouble
If somebody pounded on my head so
much that I had to call the cops five different times. I don't think I would want to
make breakfast for him again.
One expert told about a woman who was
regularly beaten for several years. The
husband would chase her with a knife and
she would roll hershelf up in a rug to
avoid being wounded
The experts explained that women en
dure the abuse because they can't net
jobs, or they have no place to go. or their
religion forbids divorce, and so on
Well, nobody has ever promised that
divorce is a rose garden. And maybe
being a waitress in a truck stop isn't the
best job in the world, but it beats rolling
up in a carpet
If a women's religion forbids divorce,
there isn't much society can do to protect
her. If she prefers being punchy in this
life in hopes of an unmarked face in the
next, that's her choice.
Maybe members of a congregation
should demand that the church provide
karate lessons to wives or the women
might get drunk and beat up the clergyman now and then to show him what they
endure to please God.
Some charge that the police don't take
wife beating seriously enough. That may
be true, but I'm not sure it is their fault.
After a cop is called by the same
woman a dozen times, he begins wondering if she is taking her own welts and
bruises seriously. If so. what's she still
doing living with that lunk?
And if you spend any time in the police
courts, you will see a familiar scene repeated over and over again.
There she is. in the house dress, with
the black eye or swollen lip and the story
of how he came lurching in after spending
half the paycheck and pow.
And there he is, with his hangover red
eyes, his jailhouse stubble and a Neanderthal frown on his face.
The judge asks what she wants done?
Should he toss the beast m jail? Give the
"Meo." she says, "he'll lose his job. Just
make him promise not to do it again."
So off they go: to rest before the next
Before we are stuck with any new laws
^\\u\ new agencies, the state commission
should remember you have to give divorce a chance to work Or. as a poet
"Love means not having to say: Don't
kill me ' v
Appeared in the Houston Chronicle, Sept. 28, 1976
Submitted by Beth Kendrick and Alice Rickel, Houston
Chapter, National Organization Against Sexism in the