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Love is… not this…

February 20, 2008

You remember those old “Love is…” cartoons? This story would surely never make it. Panda Bear, MD reports having to explain to an abused woman that her boyfriend probably does not, in fact, love her. His rationale? “Well, he did shoot you in the vagina….” Despite what some of the commenters think, no, that is not funny at all.

It seems appropriate here to provide links to the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-SAFE) and the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (1-800-656-HOPE), as well as this checklist for leaving an abuser.

31 Comments leave one →
  1. February 20, 2008 12:30 pm

    Well, it is kind of funny, and sad too. It also highlights the undisputable fact that in the selection of mates, women can be so emotionally needy that their behavior borders on and crosses well into stupidity. This young lady in question had no practical reason to be with this guy, he provided her no support, was not the father of her children (she had none), and before the shooting (done in a jealous rage) had beat her several times before.

    She’ll probably wait for the guy to get out of jail and carry on as before.

  2. February 20, 2008 1:04 pm

    Panda, I love your stories, but this one just disturbed me – like you, I have a really hard time understanding how someone gets to the point of being shot and is still worried about whether the shooter loves her.

  3. February 20, 2008 3:03 pm

    I feel that referring to women as emotionally needy and stupid in this context underestimates the role that social and spousal hatred plays in situations like this… many abused women remain abused because they internalize that hate, become needy because they internalize the belief that they are incomplete without social or spousal approval.

    This patient has the responsibility to remove herself from this situation now, but she is not responsible for being shot or for being abused. Only her abuser can claim responsibility for this… not that he will.

  4. February 20, 2008 4:11 pm

    Tanglethis, I think you’re exactly right about that. I don’t think blaming abuse on emotional women is any more useful than blaming rape on short skirts. A specific woman may be more inclined to stay in a bad relationship than other women or other people in general, but that doesn’t give anyone a license to abuse.

  5. February 20, 2008 5:32 pm

    Who’s licensing abuse? I’m just pointing out that, inevitably, the young lady (the third vaginal shooting I have seen in as many years) will return to her boyfriend who will continue to abuse her, impregnate her a few times, and will eventually use her as a source of financial support while he dallies with as many other young women as he possibly can.

    Unfortunately, this young lady is the product of an environment with absolutely no good male role models (“fathers”, what are now called “babydaddies” to verify that they have no other role but sperm donation) and precious few good female ones either. I swear that I am probably the only man many of my patient’s children see who is not swearing at, beating, selling drugs to, or otherwise mistreating their mother. The “babydaddies” are uniformly ignorant, immature, and completely useless to their families and society in general and have, themselves, never seen a good male role model either.

    As for assigning blame, while she is certainly not to blame for being abused, if she’s not willing to stop dating animals, there is nothing anyone can do to help her except to patch her up as needed. I’m a doctor, not a miracle worker. I have also noticed that the ususal counselors are unwilling to talk any real sense into her or anybody else. I have never heard our social workers say (and they tell me they don’t say it), “Don’t have babies until you can support them and then only when you are married” which is the root of the many, many pathologies that afflict the underclass…out-of-wedlock birth I mean. Until you get a handle on that everything else is useless. I mean, seriously, I have 45-year-old crack addicts who are great-grandmothers and themselves don’t even rememeber how many times they’ve been pregnant or the number and ages of their many children. (You know, some in foster care, some dead, some with their own illegitimate children and now “independent.”)

  6. February 20, 2008 6:58 pm

    Panda, I didn’t mean to put words in your mouth, and I appreciate discussion. This is a conversation that comes up from time to time with regards to rape. Yes, as an individual woman, I can leave an abuser, I can keep an eye on my surroundings, not leave my drink unattended, and so on, in order to reduce my risk of being abused or raped. But does that actually reduce rape and abuse in general, or does it just mean somebody else gets to be the victim? I’ve read recently that a substantial portion of deaths from abusers occur after the woman has left, so that’s not a panacea, either. What do we have to do to prevent the people doing harm from doing it in the first place, rather than have victims constantly playing “can’t catch me?” As a doctor, yes, you patch people up as best you can. But people can have babies and not be married and not get abused. What’s the root of the problem, and how do we get at it?

  7. February 20, 2008 7:48 pm

    He shot her. In the vagina. He shot her in the vagina. He’s not going to just abuse her, have kids with her, and mooch money off her. He’s going to kill her. He’s already proven he’s willing to shoot her; next time he’ll just aim farther north and that will be the end of her. There’s really nothing funny about that, at all. Would you look at a person with what looks like terminal lung cancer from years of smoking and find their situation funny?

    I mean, good lord, it’s easy to get all high and mighty, but Panda Bear, read back over what you’ve said here. “Unfortunately, this young lady is the product of an environment with absolutely no good male role models.” “I swear that I am probably the only man many of my patient’s children see who is not swearing at, beating, selling drugs to, or otherwise mistreating their mother.” And you must know that women who are abused as adults almost always have either witnessed horrific abuse as children or been abused as children.

    What’s tragic–which you, yourself, recognize at some level–is that to that woman, and to other women in her community, what she’s going through is normal.

    What’s laughable is your idea that these women should just wait around to have kids until they get married. You, yourself, have said that the men in their community are lousy. What difference is being married to them going to make?

    This girl is doing what you advocate. She hasn’t had kids with this guy. If she marries him before she has kids, is she really going to be better off?

    No. You and I both know she’s not going to be better off. And you and I both know that it’s going to take more than her just deciding that she’s not going to date “animals” any more for her to pull her life together.

    I mean, seriously, she thinks the best she can expect from a man is that he might shoot her in the vagina. You think her waiting until she’s married to have kids is going to fix that?

  8. February 21, 2008 6:09 am

    Disturbing story but still an eye opener in everyone who doesn’t know the concept of being together. Very alarming it is, but you have to be open minded in some point.

  9. February 21, 2008 3:18 pm

    Whoa. I don’t know too many things for sure but one thing I do is that teenage girls should not have babies, unless of course they want to be stuck in the same rut as their mothers and grandmothers. Not only are little teenage girls the age of my daughters too young to be parents but when they are, they are usually horrible at it being children themselves. It’s not even as if they have had good parental role models because they most certainly don’t. Even the grandmothers now are little more than overgrown children, irresponsible to a fault and conditioned for nothing but dependency. Teenage fathers are even less fit to be fathers but the only saving grace here is that they are usually not involved with their children.

    The greatest predictor that my young patient is going to end up trapped with some animal is if she has his kids, at which point he will claim, and she will give, her youth, her freedom, and her self-respect to him.

    There is no doubt that many of my poor female patients have an unusually strong desire to have illegitimate babies often and early. Part of this is cultural, as all of their friends and role models do it. Part of it is ignorance, as in not really appreciating the consequences of having babies at 16. Part of it is economic because out-of-wedlock birth is the ticket to your own Section 8 housing, food stamps, cash payments, and medicaid as you have to be pregnant or have a young children to access the full benefits of the Welfare State. Whatever the cause, it is a bad idea and I cannot believe the you who are woman’s advocates would give any other advice to a young 16-year-old girl, shot in the vagina or not, than to not have babies, finish high school, learn a trade, and try to find a decent man who is committed to you before having sex.

    This is good advice, even if it will be ignored. If you don’t think illegitimate children raised by teenagers is not a social pathology you don’t get out much or see some of the crap that we see every day.

    The traditional family structure, while not perfect, is the foundation of a civil, self-sufficient society. Many years ago when I was a teenager not only was out-of-wedlock birth a rarity but any man who shot a woman in the vagina would have done hard time, not the six months that my particular shooter eventually got.

  10. February 21, 2008 3:22 pm

    And folks, it’s no marriage per se that’s important, it’s the idea that a man and a woman will commit to each other. Marrige is, or was at one time, just an expression of this commitment. Don’t be so “feminist” that you can’t recognize that men and women need each other, particularly when it comes to raising children.

  11. February 21, 2008 3:35 pm

    “I cannot believe the you who are woman’s advocates would give any other advice to a young 16-year-old girl, shot in the vagina or not, than to not have babies, finish high school, learn a trade, and try to find a decent man who is committed to you before having sex.” – I don’t think anybody’s arguing that getting an education and a job and having a committed partner (especially if children are involved) are bad things, but that they don’t necessarily prevent abuse. There are well-educated, successful professional women who are abused as well, and women who only left their abusers because they realized what they were setting their children up for. While education and such are important, I don’t think abused women are well-served if we simply think that violence only happens to those “other” women – the poor, the uneducated, the young moms, etc. who made “bad choices.” And if did, there’d still be some systemic issues that needed solving, like why they didn’t finish their educations in the first place, for example.

  12. February 21, 2008 6:32 pm

    Panda, we are talking about an act of violence here. That’s the bottom line. Not a societal breakdown of why young kids should or should not have babies or live a life of monogamy.
    We are talking about a young woman shot by her partner. All the other stuff is just static.
    I can speak about abuse. I’m a professional woman who is educated and was the victim of domestic violence when I was younger. It didn’t last long but it shouldn’t have happened at all. So the systemic issues you discuss delve into stereotyping all women isn’t the way it happens.
    Listen, I didn’t think what you wrote was funny, but as a medical professional you can be one of the voices of change in helping abuse victims out and I’m not saying you didn’t but I’m also saying that partner violence isn’t amusing. People, male and female, operate on emotional and intellectual levels but when people are being abused it goes into survival/feelings based reactions. And I know of what I speak as I also worked at a battered women’s shelter for several years as well.
    Not everyone was poor and uneducated.
    When one out of four women are in abusive relationships, it can’t all be just one thing. It’s a mosaic.
    She was shot by someone she trusted. That’s the bottom line.

  13. Noelle permalink
    February 21, 2008 9:10 pm

    IMHO PB is a self rightous asshole for thinking that the woman who was shot in the vagina can “just leave” and she’ll magically be fine. The woman is obviously deeply emotionally damaged and needs help and compassion, not sarcasm and lectures about kids that don’t exsist. Granted, I was never abused to the point of thinking a bullet in the twat equaled love, but I *was* abused by more then one man. And they all had one thing in common – they chipped away at any self esteem I had and made me feel as if I was lucky to have them around.

    I’m lucky I’m still alive.

    Medical school should come with a “Basic common Sense and Human Kindness 101” course for jerks like PB.

  14. February 21, 2008 10:33 pm

    You see, you are projecting your experiences on a woman who you probably have nothing in common with at all, not education, not upbringing, not expectations from life, not anything. And whether I am a self-righteous asshole or not, the woman needs to leave that kind of man as a first step. Nobody is implying any magic of any kind. In fact, for this kind of patient, given the limitiations of her upbringing and the narrowness of her horizons, as well as the ready crowd of your ilk to reinforce to her that she is nothing but a powerless victim, there is very little hope she will turn out well. Almost none. So sorry. And I don’t know what is more “Basic Common Sense and Human Kindness 101” than to tell a confused young lady that being shot anywhere by your boyfriend precludes the possibility of love. You should have heard, but didn’t of course, this young lady’s relatives trying to get her not to press charges and tell the police it was all an accident “Because he loves you, baby.”

    Noelle, I don’t usually say this but as I spend most of my days (and nights) actually helping people instead of getting self-righteous about it you need to reconsider your ignorant opinions. The fact that I will, for example, stick my hands into the chest cavity of an HIV infected gang-banger looking for holes in his heart precludes the need for me to be engage in the usual empty language of the do-nothing advocates for one cause of another (like you).

  15. February 22, 2008 7:48 am

    Ouch. Please, no name-calling, folks.

  16. Susanna permalink
    February 24, 2008 2:38 am

    Panda Bear,

    You uphold marriage or at least a relationship with a decent man who is committed to the woman. What do you think your patient is trying to achieve? She is striving towards this ideal as best she can, looking from the pool of men available to her.

    Have you ever considered that maybe it is this Myth of Love that victimizes women? The Myth of Love that makes them put up with all kinds of crap from men because it is generally believed that a woman just cannot be happy on her own? This is what your patient’s ill-advised relatives were buying into when they told her that her boyfriend’s jealousy was proof of his love.

    Finishing school would not necessarily improve her chances of securing a supportive, non-abusive husband, as scores of middle class and upper class women can testify to. A good man is hard to find for a woman of any station in life.

  17. February 25, 2008 10:34 am

    Okay, I kept seeing this on my comment feed and finally concluded why PB’s remarks continued to bother me. This:
    I spend most of my days (and nights) actually helping people instead of getting self-righteous about it

    is not true. I don’t dispute that PB helps people, but he also seems to hate them.

    These:the grandmothers now are little more than overgrown children, irresponsible to a fault and conditioned for nothing but dependency
    a woman who you probably have nothing in common with at all, not education, not upbringing, not expectations from life, not anything
    limitiations of her upbringing and the narrowness of her horizons

    are this: self-righteous

    and not this: empty language

  18. March 3, 2008 1:28 am

    But you see, what I tell you about my 45-year-old crack addict great-grandmothers is the truth. Love and hate have got nothing to do with it. In other words, I am merely commenting on a world that you seem to know very little about and instead of saying. “Gee, Panda, that’s interesting,” have decided that self-righteous posturing makes you feel better about what are actually unsolvable social problems…unsolvable because you won’t even admit that they exist or have an identifiable cause if they did. Better to spout feel-good feminist propaganda than identify the problem, in other words.

  19. March 3, 2008 1:35 am

    Susanna, that’s entirely my point. The young lady has no one who instill a little common sense into her. Nobody. The “myth” of love victimizes woman but love, the old-fashioned kind built on both attraction and respect does not. Good men are hard to find which is why, ipso facto, the young lady is better off without a man in her life and certainly better off without some scumbag’s kids, kids which she will have in an effort to find love which does not exist in her brutal world, a world that you cannot imagine and is nothing like that of an abused suburban housewife.

    I’ll refer you to Theodore Dalrymple for an explanation of life in the underclass. Start with “Life at the Bottom” which I’m sure you can find on Amazon.

  20. March 3, 2008 11:08 am

    Panda, how do you know that I know little about the world of the patients you treat? You’ve assumed so, because my opinion differs from yours, and you think this must be because I know less than you.
    But before I came to grad school and began studying feminism – which rarely makes me feel good, by the way – I taught at an impoverished high school that isn’t there anymore, due to Katrina. Your addicts and young great-grandmothers and abused girlfriends were my students and their parents and grand-parents. You may know a lot about their bodies, but it was my job to work with their minds. You’ve also been reading me wrong if you think I’ve said that problems don’t exist.

    You’re also reading yourself wrong if you think the language you use to articulate those problems isn’t itself problematic. But I’m not going to repeat myself here – this is just another reminder to check your assumptions.

  21. Susanna permalink
    March 3, 2008 5:39 pm


    I’m intrigued that we both used to teach at schools in bad areas. I could tell stories that would rival those of Panda’s, but will refrain from doing so because this is not a contest.

    Notice how he manages to be smug both towards his patients and us? He has been slumming a bit, so now he declares we know nothing about “life” and sets off to educate us.

    Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and put his behavior down to frustration with his work. I hope and want to believe that his bedside manner is better.

    As to unwanted or undesirable pregnancies, I’ve come to the conclusion that the best, most effective, cheapest way to avoid them would be to grant every woman and girl in the danger zone free contraception. And not oral contraception, which can be challenging to remember to take even for the most focused and organized of women, but the kind that is inserted surgically into her arm, so that she will be set for a few years at a time.

    But, of course, this idea will never gain ground, as there are always these people who believe the underprivileged should just postpone sex until they have secured a relationship that meets bourgeois standards.

  22. March 3, 2008 6:02 pm

    I repeat: The traditional family structure, while not perfect, is the foundation of a civil, self-sufficient society. Many years ago when I was a teenager not only was out-of-wedlock birth a rarity but any man who shot a woman in the vagina would have done hard time, not the six months that my particular shooter eventually got.

  23. March 3, 2008 7:54 pm

    Susanna, I’m a huge fan of the idea of free and accessible contraception. I feel (given my own bad experiences) that the problem with pills is more about finding a brand that works with your body, but I think the world would be a little bit better if everyone had the option of choosing not to give birth.
    Thing is, though, I’m also willing to believe that having children young and unmarried is also a viable choice. I’ve read some convincing work along those lines, can’t remember where, but regardless, I respect motherhood as a choice when it is a choice.

    Panda, I’m just not convinced. The “traditional family” you describe doesn’t have too many years of tradition behind it – historically the “haves” get to decide who among the “have-nots” can marry and with what benefits. (cf. miscegenation laws.) Even then, the notion that a husband and wife should co-parent their own children is pretty 20th century. I don’t think it’s a bad idea – the more reliable caregivers, the better! – but it’s hardly been the bedrock of society.
    I do wish this society had a more pro-woman view of domestic violence and rape, though. On that we agree.

  24. Susanna permalink
    March 4, 2008 3:58 am

    Panda Bear,

    How do you know out-of-wedlock births were a rarity? Maybe you just did not know about them as they were hushed up? It is possible there were problems even in your parents’ marriage, you just never learned about them. A “traditional” family structure goes to great lengths to put up a front.

    Actually, in the 19th century and in developing countries today, we see people putting off marriage and sex because they cannot afford it. Although the popular conception is that the traditional family structure is the norm here, there are large groups of single, childless people. Only those who have the means to marry actually have large families and account for population growth – well, granted, there are lots of out-of-wedlock births, too.

    You are wrong in saying your patient has nobody to talk any sense into her. She does have you. And there is a way you can prevent her from having kids with the scumbag. Insert that little capsule into her forearm. I’m surprised you have not done so already. Don’t hold on to your unrealistic expectation of people abstaining until they’re married. It’s not happening.


    Early motherhood is fine except that it does make it considerably harder to be anything else than a mother. I would not recommend it to anybody, not even if the people in question were tremendously rich. At the very least, the grandmother usually ends up taking care of the child.

    Anyway, from what I’ve seen, most young girls we are talking about do not choose to become mothers or choose not to become mothers. It just happens. They never fail to be surprised at how sex, ultimately designed for procreation, can lead to pregnancy although they were engaging in it just for recreation.

    The reason why I am so in favor of the capsule in particular is that you need to be proactive to have it taken out, not to use it. Thus parenthood truly is planned and a choice. If you continue doing nothing, you remain protected.

  25. March 5, 2008 4:11 am

    Many years ago when I was a teenager not only was out-of-wedlock birth a rarity but any man who shot a woman in the vagina would have done hard time, not the six months that my particular shooter eventually got.

    Stats are useful things: while the teen pregnancy rate has increased by slight amounts over short periods of time in the last several decades, the trend has been an overall decrease in teen pregnancy. Just because pregnant girls got hitched right away, and were no longer out-of-wedlock at the time of the actual birth, or were sent away where you couldn’t see them doesn’t mean that they were never pregnant.

    Also useful is realizing that a woman who was just shot by an abusive partner probably knows full well that her choices are to be killed or be killed faster, and so the question becomes not “should I leave or stay?” but “is leaving or staying the choice that will prolong my life?” and since leaving is the unknown and poses all kinds of new dangers in addition to pissing off the guy that just shot you, let’s start rationalizing and pretending that nothing is wrong, and instead only voice the question “does he love me or not?”

    So is remembering that marital rape is a relatively new crime. It’s hardly a gaping leap of logic to assume that partner violence was often ignored or minimized as much or more when it was legal for husbands to rape their wives, compared to now, when it’s not.

  26. March 8, 2008 12:26 am

    Tanglethis, Norplant, probably the best contraceptive ever invented, is no longer available in the United States. The best we have is “depot” provera which is only good for three months, not the five years of Norplant and, as it needs to be folowed-up every three months the compliance rate of our young, irresponsible patients is not good.

    Additionally, I cannot force contraception on anyone. I can recommend and try to convince but many of my young, single patients want to have babies to gain their financial independence…and they tell me this all the time.

  27. Susanna permalink
    March 9, 2008 6:50 am

    Panda Bear,

    In another conversation going on at this site, “Bloody Baby Pictures Banned by MySpace” that you will find at Top Posts to the left of this page, a 22-year-old woman says she never would have had a baby at 14 if somebody had shown her a picture of a newborn baby dripping with blood. Maybe you could try this with your (pre)teenage patients. Get the goriest shots available and scare them into their pants!

  28. March 9, 2008 7:43 am

    Susanna, nice connection there! 😉

  29. Susanna permalink
    March 9, 2008 11:51 am

    Rachel, great site!


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