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Burnett's Urban Etiquette

Monday, July 09, 2007

Intimate Knowledge

How long and how well you have to know someone before you develop a serious-toned relationship with them?

I don't mean how quickly you sleep with a new flame, though that's part of my query. I mean how intimate does your knowledge of the other person have to be?

I ask because I've been thinking hard the past couple of weeks about Jessie Davis, that 9 mos. pregnant Ohio mom who was murdered, allegedly by the unborn baby's father, days before she was to give birth. If you recall, the father, who has been charged with the murders was a cop in Canton, Ohio. He is also the father of Davis's toddler son.

Also, I've been thinking about Nancy Benoit, wife of pro wrestler Chris Benoit, who murdered Nancy and their young son and then committed suicide a couple of weeks ago.

I would never blame the victims for being killed. The only people to blame here are Chris Benoit and Bobby Cutts Jr., the cop (if he's proven guilty).

However, I wonder how far in advance of these murders these women were aware of their men's shadiness. And I wonder if they knew enough to raise red flags in advance. I don't intend to be mean. You have to admit it's a fair query. And if you don't think so, tell me with a straight face that while you watched the news unfold about these cases on television you didn't talk to the screen and say things to the effect of "I'd never have let him treat me that way!" or "Why didn't she leave his sorry behind?" If you're willing to say or even think something like that then you're admitting that you believe you wouldn't have been in a similar relationship to one of these.

I understand that many academic studies show that women in abusive relationships often don't leave - sometimes because they fear their spouse/significant other, sometimes because they've so emotionally beaten they don't even recognize their desperate situation, and sometimes because they're in denial about how they're being treated. I've read studies that say that sometimes women in such relationships are unaware of their significant other's dark side or they don't have the means to leave.

And that brings me back to Nancy Benoit. She had been involved in pro wrestling for years, like her husband. If it's true that he had been exhibiting steroid rage before he killed her and their son, why didn't she recognize the symptoms? Since the murders, retired pro wrestlers have been coming out of the woodwork, telling cable talk hosts that 'roid usage was always rampant when they wrestled. She was in the business. She didn't know? I had a friend using 'roids in college. We used to work out together. I never took anabolic 'roids, but I took things close to 'em. And I scared the crap out of family and friends who wanted to know how I packed on lean weight so rapidly. I went from 185 pounds to over 260 pounds in about three months. My friend, who took steroids, had even more dramatic results. And along with his muscle gains he started getting inexplicably angry at little things and would lash out at people smaller and weaker than him. He eventually stopped and got help, but not before a lot of friends broke off contact with him and steered clear 'cause they saw the signs. I stopped taking my non-steroid (but still stupid and potentially dangerous) supplements. And now I'm flabby, but that's a different story. Again, back to Nancy Benoit - could she have seen it coming? Maybe?

Then there's Jessie Davis. When she first began dating Cutts she apparently didn't know that he was married. She learned as much later. Still, they had a child. She also learned later he had other affairs and at least one other child with someone who wasn't his wife. And yet, together they conceived another child - the one she was carrying when he allegedly killed her. She may not have known that Cutts had a violent history too - having been convicted of a crime related to kicking in the door of another ex-girlfriend. So what did she know about this guy?

Several years ago a popular pastime of the single women I know was to go onto their state's circuit court Web sites and try to put the names of potential boyfriends in the search engine in order to find any available dirt on the guys. Often they were successful. I have female friends who after they'd meet a guy in the club or the bookstore or church or the grocery or the gym, or wherever, would run his name through the court site and find that he was two years behind on child support or that he had been charged three times with drunk driving or that he had been convicted of some other felony. It was such an easy search. And it seemed like a smart thing to do. Dudes can be crazy nowadays. So can women, but women are not violent as often as men in relationships. I know of a woman who looked me up. I was initially offended, when she told me. I wasn't worried she'd find anything negative. She didn't. Still, when I calmed down I knew she was smart to do it. Can't be too careful. So again with Jessie Davis - what did she know about Bobby Cutts Jr? Was it enough to give some advance warning? And if she knew nothing about his troubled side, why didn't she know?

If neither woman knew anything about the dangerous side of their men, then this conversation is moot. But if they knew about Benoit's alleged 'roid-fueled temper and Cutt's multiple affairs and sometimes violent behavior? Why did they stay?

I am so torn about this whole thing. Maybe it's a difference between men and women. Guys often lack patience. We'll leave a significant other for "nagging" us or for raising her voice at us or for gaining an ounce. We're shallow that way. Women seem to give guys - especially guys who don't deserve consideration - too many breaks.

Or am I all wet in my speculations? You tell me.

One more time though: Even if these women knew everything about these guys in advance they are still not to blame for being murdered. That's silly. And anyone who suggests as much is a knucklehead. Don't blame the victims. But do learn from their mistakes...if they made any.

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  • I hear you James, I often wonder why ladies stay in relationships with people like Cutts.

    Low self esteem could be one reason why she would have, another could be just general gullibility.

    By Anonymous DJ Black Adam, at 5:19 PM  

  • Boy, have you ever opened up the proverbial "can of worms" with this topic! I can think of way too many instances that could/should/would apply to the various scenarios you wrote about. Some things, I can even site, chapter and verse, from my own life, my own experiences. Way too much to delve into in the comments section of any one's blog though. Perhaps, if I sit down and think your post through clearly - all of which I do basically agree with - I might venture forth to post a piece on my own blog about this subject. Remember the old song' "Nobody knows the trouble I've seen" somehow at least partially applies here. No one who has not lived with some type of abuse, going into the relationship in a knowing or unknowing stance, can totally relate to what goes on in those type of circumstances. You may think you can relate, but till you've been there, it really is very difficult to explain how and why some atrocities do come about. A very good post, James. VERY GOOD! You've tried to bring something that has been hidden for centuries, accepted in many cases for the same length of time too, out into the open where it does, truly belong for people to get some semblance of what can and often does transpire.
    Now - you see why I put your name up for that "award?" You bring things up that are often swept under the carpet, discuss without being accusatory and put a lot of common sense approach to your post. Some might not call that "schmoozing" in the true sense of the word, but to try to explain, to cajole at times, to put a common sense approach out with a calming affect to it - to me, that is "Schmoozing" at its finest and buddy boy, you do a great job with that! Keep on doing it too! Please?

    By Blogger Jeni, at 6:19 PM  

  • Well said. I've long wondered why women involve themselves in abusive relationships. I'm not talking about what you posit, that they may not know. I'm talking about where it is clear that they do know, they are being yelled at and hit.

    I have a cop friend and he tells terrible stories of women who are bleeding when the cops arrive and plead or fight when their husband or boyfriend is cuffed.

    I don't know what the solution to that is.

    By Blogger Dave, at 7:35 PM  

  • There are many reasons women stay in realtionships that aren't working. Women are nurturers and many times they think they can help this person get past their issues. This is just one of the many reasons women stay in these types of relationships - there are many more.

    I think everyone woman in this day and age should check out potential suitors not just for their safety but for the safety of those around them.

    Excellent post.

    By Blogger Dayngr, at 9:07 PM  

  • I know several women in abusive relationships.

    There's not talking to them. Well there is talking.
    There is no listening.

    By Blogger Pamela, at 9:39 PM  

  • As you have obviously stated, you can't lay blame for violent crime on the shoulders of the victims when it squarely belongs to the perpetrators.

    Still I often wonder the same thing. Especially when I watched the Jessie Davis thing go down. She had one child by a guy who was married and then conceived another by the same jerk. What was she thinking? There was no way that was ever going to end well. Even a blind man could see that. I would not necessarily have jumped to the "murder" conclusion but still; she obviously did not exercise sound judgement.

    Same with many women who don't end up murdered but do end up in less-than-desireable situations.

    The subject of women taking responsibilty for picking a good man is actually a pet subject of mine. How is that we women, the people who get pregnant and are ultimately responsible for bringing life into this world end up choosing dangerous and/or deadbeat guys over and over? There are times when a guy has a hidden sociopathic streak (which is easy to forgive if rare) and there are other times, like Jessie Davis, when the guy is clearly a cad at best and they continue to see him anyway. What the hell?

    We of the female gender clearly need to get our butts in gear.

    By Blogger Queen of Dysfunction, at 9:47 PM  

  • I'm not so sure that the situation lends itself in either case to simple analysis. It's simple in hindsight, but for the players as the facts are unfolding, it's a different situation.

    For example, I'd bet that Nancy Benoit had learned to accept some faults in her husband, such as 'roid rage. After all, it was all over pro wrestling so it was something she had seen all the time.

    Same thing in the other case. Cops carry weapons, and engage in a violent profession. His record of having kicked in an ex-girlfriend's door is not the kind of violence that leads to killing. Neither is adultery.

    If we dump the people who commit adultery, we dump a huge number of men, and women as undersireable people. I'm sure that all of your readers, and you are faithful, and I fear that I sound like 'the bad guy' here. It's not my intention.

    Psychologists have been trying to predict their clients behavior for a long time now, with little success when it comes to things such as suicide, murder, etc. You're expecting women who have had children with these men to leave them based on evidence that seems normal before the extraordinary events.

    I wish I was that good.

    By Blogger The CEO, at 9:52 PM  

  • This is a great beginning for an interesting conversation. Perhaps your next post could detail warning signs of abusive relationships, detail exactly how to research people you're interested in, and even talk about what a healthy relationship might look like.

    It's a sad truth that bad relationships are all too easy to fall into. This could be a fine way to help more of us develop skills that will benefit all of society.

    By Blogger Angie Hartford, at 10:31 PM  

  • In some women's minds, a bad dad might seem better than no dad.

    By Blogger The Sarcasticynic, at 10:44 PM  

  • What a very interesting post...actually, how nice to see there are others out there who have a brain and are brave enough to bring such things up.

    I will tell you that once I was in an abusive relationship...I did not leave, even though I thought about the time the relationship was over (he left, THANK GOD!), I was a wreck...

    With that said, I can understand that a woman MIGHT stay...I lived it and I can't say that I am proud of it...actually, some of my better friends could not believe I would actually put up with it, as they see me as a different person...HOWEVER, I ALWAYS knew that he was crazy and unstable...Did I make a mistake by staying? Well, yes...Honestly, he was so crazy I could've ended up like these women...BUT, I was SMART enough to know that it was bad, and that I would under NO CIRCUMSTANCES bring a child into this world with a crazy man like that.

    So, I think I can have some sympathy for a woman who meets some guy, he turns out to be a nut and she stays, with the thought she can change him...but I cannot, and probably, will NEVER understand how a woman can be so selfish to claim these men are crazy and then allow themselves to get pregnant...for that, there is no excuse. And to me, a woman who gets pregnant, knowing how crazy these men are, is just as guilty of child abuse as the men who end up killing them...

    They bring a child into the world, knowing these men are crazy, drunk or whatever, in order to "keep or change" the man...when in actuality, they are doing it out of very selfish reasons...It takes a very selfish woman to allow herself to become pregnant by a crazy man.

    I will probably get many "it takes two to make a child"...which I'm pretty fed up with hearing as might take two, but if one of them is crazy, then you'd think the one claiming NOT to be would have enough brains to not get pregnant. And while it may take a man and a woman, the fact is that it's WOMEN who get pregnant, therefore, the primary responsibility should lie with them.

    And yes, I am a woman, not a man. I now have a child with a wonderful man...and if we were to ever separate, I can support my child on my own, without the need to harrass my husband for child support either...That's why I waited to get pregnant until I could find someone whom my child would be proud to call dad, and second, until I could afford to support him on my own.

    By Blogger whatamess, at 12:59 AM  

  • I have to believe these women knew something. Men seem to be pretty routine oriented. When a guy or anyone for that matter alters their routine, the partner needs to question it. It usually isn't because of something good. Saying they knew something was going on, doesn't mean and shouldn't imply they knew their lives were in danger.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:49 AM  

  • I've known several who should have escaped when they had the chance.

    Even with repeated warnings, they stay with creeps because of some deap seated self esteem issue.

    By Blogger Hammer, at 6:02 AM  

  • it's a difficult topic.. don't understand why women choose bad men.. I think they "know" the men are bad choices but perhaps they think they'll change.

    Really bad idea. great post.

    By Blogger Shelby, at 7:18 AM  

  • Why do women get involved with married men, period? Or, vice versa? That was pretty much her first mistake.

    Same with drug use, and illegal steriods are drugs. If you know it's happening, why are you still there?

    No, we can't blame them for ending up dead, but they can be blamed for being in the situation in the first place.

    And, yea, that's harsh. But there's smart and there's stupid, and we all know what stupid is, so when we don't act on it, we have a share of the responsibility for the outcome.

    I've never been in any kind of abusive relationship, so I'm sure I'll see the 'you don't have any idea' posts.

    But I do know that anytime I start getting an 'off' vibe from someone, I'm outta there. I'd rather be out of there and wrong about him, than still involved and paying the price.

    By Blogger SWF41, at 11:47 AM  

  • These stories kill me. I used to work with abused women and children and I had to stop because there is no reason in their relationships. Reason is what men use between themselves to justify their shortcomings. It can also be called an excuse, but like a lie told many times becomes the truth, an oft repeated excuse magically transforms into a reason. Men have been able to convince the world that the standard criteria for decision making is reason. A decision must be reasonable; what is just is what a reasonable man would do; our entire system of societal laws and mores is based on the reasonable man standard.

    Women, by definition, are not reasonable (only men can be reasonable) and culturally have socialized themselves that they don't need to use reason to solve the problems of their life. Historically, women's "problems" were solved by men. Reasonable men. So the solution to these womens' problems (killing of the woman by the man) would have been considered by male dominated society to be a "reasonable" solution from the beginning of history until about 100 years ago.

    As women begin their path to equality and independence from male hegemony, at time will come when our society will revisit the "reasonable man" standard for decision making. To date, women have simply been trying to adopt the standard as their own and abide by its tenets. The problem is that it doesn't work for women (It really just doesn't work for anyone who doesn't believe in the supremacy of the male or the supremacy of white land owning males, but that's another post).

    Women come by solutions with their own logic and it is difficult for men and those adopting the resaonable man standard to understand the process of decision making that doesn't rely on the "reasonable man". That's why no one understands why these women didn't leave their man or why they put up with abuse. That's why it doesn't make sense. We are so ingrained in our tautology of reasonable man factors, that we cannot compute something that works outside of it.

    That is also why women in our species have children and men do not. The thought process that leads a woman to abide by abuse is also the thought process that leads a woman to unconditionally love an ugly child; to care unceasingly for their child and it is what fosters the growth of our species. We need that thinking that is not controlled by the "reasonable man" theory to survive and progress. If only men did the thinking and feeling for our species, we would not have gotten very far and would most definitely be extinct right now.

    Please understand that I am not saying that women are weak or less than men in any manner, nor are they superior. Both bring something equally vital, but different, to the table. I am trying to explain why a woman will not leave an abuser and why we need to give that victim our love and caring instead of our contempt. Many women who don't leave an abuser are finaincially incapable of moving on--they depend on the abuser for everything. That power the abuser has is both cause and sustenance for the abuse. Many women mistakenly think that they can change the abuser and are on a mission to do so at any cost to themselves. This would be noble if it were her child, but since it is not, we want to castigate her because she can't love the right person. That action of caring and love is why we are able to keep going--it just needs to be aimed at a person who can benefit from receiving it and benefit her as well.

    I can say these things because I too have chastised women for loving the wrong man, for giving an abuser a tenth chance, for refusing to move on. Love is a strange thing--the person receiving it can't usually choose who gives it and women have more of a capacity to give it than men want to receive. No science behind this, just years of observing women who throw themselves after a guy who could care less about them, who put up with verbal beatdowns, physical smackups, and sexual assaults, who have a thing they love so much they can't say no to. Men can't understand this because our capacity to love is not as well developed as womens'; women can't get out of it because they get consumed by a process that defies reason.

    The only way to break the cycle is to reconize you're on it early enough to get off -- otherwise you're in for whatever ride the rollercoaster has in store.

    By Anonymous Big Daddy, at 4:01 PM  

  • I believe the reason I spent 5 years in an abusive relationship with my first husband was directly related to having an abusive mom. She was a smart and god fearing woman, but she believed the devil needed to be beaten out of me. It took me years to admit that I had repeated the patterns of my childhood and to escape that loop. I have never lain a hand on one of my three children for that reason and I am married to the kindest man imaginable. Yes, I do think women are often too forgiving of men or maybe we're just too stubborn to admit we've made a stupid mistake. There is also the financial dependancy issue because men who abuse are also contolling about money. In today's society I do feel that men (and women) are quicker to resort to violence and it may be drugs or just the climate of our present situation.

    By Blogger wordsonwater, at 6:56 AM  

  • And don't for that in-between the the Bobby Cutts and Benoit cases, a father in Illinois murdered his wife and their three kids in their mini-van and then tried to pin the blame on the wife (he even inflicted non-fatal injuries on himself to try and make his story plausible).

    I've dated sociopaths and the like before.

    Sometimes, honestly, it's just hard to break out of the cycle. And not just for one of the reasons you specified.

    But all of them.

    By Blogger thirdworstpoetinthegalaxy, at 11:11 AM  

  • most of the time it's low self esteem and fear. simply as that. "what will happen to me" where will i/children go" what will i do" "i have no moneny, education, family, etc..." "i don't want to end up on the street"

    they are always thinking things will get better, because they can't get much worse-well, yes they can as we have seen so sadly.

    don't judge until you have walked in anothers shoes. also, many of these "men" hide this from their family, work, etc... take it out on the "girl", children. bullies and worse. bastards!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:35 PM  

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