I’ll give you a minute to let that sink in.
“Physical assaults” does, of course, cover a wide spectrum of behavior - from simple battery to sexual assault to murder - so I suppose it’s to be expected that there would be a correspondingly high rate of occurrence. But every nine seconds?
I was thinking about this yesterday as I read news articles about Donald Trump’s campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, being charged with battery of a female reporter at a Trump campaign event the beginning of March in Jupiter, Florida. As with many political stories, there was initial reporting on the incident a few weeks ago, during which Lewandowski and the Trump campaign insisted he’d never had physical contact with the woman in question, and that she was either delusional or attention-seeking in claiming that he did, and then relative quiet.
I’m really not interested in rehashing the coverage of Lewandowski’s charges, or the frame-by-frame breakdown of the surveillance video released by the Jupiter Police Department to substantiate their charge of battery. Because, ultimately, it’s for a court to decide whether his contact with her reaches the legal standard of simple battery.
What is more important to me, and what I find more disturbing than the facts of the case, is the degree to which people commenting on the news reports were willing to acknowledge that contact occurred, but were assigning their own standard as to whether the contact in question was sufficient to have offended the reporter or to have resulted in criminal charges. Arguing, for example, “She’s making a big deal out of nothing. I saw the photo of the bruises on her arm and they really weren’t that dark.”
And a lot of these commenters were women.
So the questions I have today are, when are bruises sufficiently dark that they warrant having a big deal made out of them? Is there some sort of “bruise shading chart” that one should refer to when determining whether someone has acted inappropriately or even criminally toward you? Are bruises even necessary to know that someone has crossed a line, or is feeling unsafe or threatened as a result of contact enough?
Because, here’s the thing. Most women who are the victims of physical assaults know their assailant. And more often than not, they’ll tell you that the assaults didn’t start with getting pushed down the stairs or punched in the face or having gasoline poured on them. They’ll say it started with getting pushed back in the sofa cushions during an argument. Having their phone ripped out of their hand and thrown across the room. Having their arm grabbed as they walked out the door.
Now, please understand, I’m not saying Corey Lewandowski abuses women. He’s only the latest headline, and the latest debate over where the line gets drawn.
What I AM saying, is that women are physically assaulted in this country at an appalling rate. And some of the reason for that is that we, as a society, have been willing to leave open the possibility that maybe the bruises aren't dark enough.