Knocked senseless

By C. Mann

Published February 28, 2001 11:48PM (EST)

Read the story

I was surprised to see, in the brief description of C. Mann that follows her brilliant and incisive article, these words: "This is her first atttempt at writing for publication."

Why surprised? Because to call her essay an "attempt" is just wrong. Her essay is a fact, a deed -- she's done it, and succeeded brilliantly. There is nothing tentative about her words or her style.

Let her leave her bastard husband, who erodes her confidence, and let her write many, many more articles for and other publications.

-- Caren Litherland

I suspect that there is more to the story than we're told, and I'll bet we're not going to get to hear that part. Men don't generally just hit their wives, out of the blue, for no reason, even though some women -- especially budding writers -- might have us believe that they do.

I hope things get better in that house.

-- Jon Bowden

Pathetic! That's the first word that came to my mind as I read C. Mann's essay about her husband's brutality, which she has allowed to become "familiar." My reaction was not one of pity for her but, rather, disgust. Knowing women who work two or more menial, backbreaking jobs so that they will not have to rely on abusive men, I have nothing but contempt for a woman who would allow the abuse to continue and who continues to expose her small children to an atmosphere of violence.

C. Mann's tale is all the more shameful because she has a steady job and is apparently well educated and yet she persists in allowing herself to be a human punching bag. We can only hope that Salon will someday provide a follow-up story about how she stopped whining, got off her ass and took control of her life. That would be a story worth reading, unlike the pathetic drivel related in "Knocked Senseless."

-- Bonnie Nelle Duncan

Get out. Get out get out get out get out get out get out. Please. Or Grace is going to grow up thinking that this is what marriage is and your son is going to grow up thinking he has the right to do this to his wife. Get out. Your husband should be shot. The Dixie Chicks said it best: Earl must die.

I pray to God that hell exists for men like him.

-- Shannon Montgomery

C. Mann's story is gripping and outrageous. The element that is missing is that she is an accomplice to a crime. Assault and battery is criminal behavior. Based on her description, her husband could be convicted of misdemenaor assault and battery and sentenced to jail. The fact that she is aware of his criminal behavior and doesn't report it makes her an accomplice. If she were the only victim, we might shrug and say, "You make your bed, you sleep in it." But what about the children? If the woman he promised to love and to cherish he knocks senseless because she annoys him, what will he do when the children annoy him?

It's unfortunate she allowed her involvement with him to become intimate. If she had had the foresight to avoid him instead of marrying him, her children might not be in the life-threatening situation they are in. The point to understand is that he is not at fault. His message has been communicated very clearly: He belongs in jail. The only people at fault are the other members of society who know about his behavior and won't take the necessary action to deal with him.

Of course, the soft-minded will say life is never black and white, it's always varying shades of gray. If she stays with him he might get better. If she leaves him he might kill her. This is a complicated situation and we shouldn't second-guess her.

BULLSHIT. Life is black and white. People who break the law are asking to be punished. That society fails to punish them is our fault, not the lawbreaker's. People who use violence in intimate relationships are capable of murder. This guy needs punishment and treatment. And, at this late date, even that may not be enough to save the lives of C. Mann and her children.

-- Peter Donner

I would like Mann to know that I would gladly kill her husband for her. I would do this not for money but for the satisfaction of removing an evil person from the face of the planet.

-- Name withheld

Is this piece for real?

What in the world is the author thinking, allowing herself to be abused like this? I am so annoyed right now, I can hardly type. Annoyed because there is absolutely no reason I can think of that a woman in the author's apparent position -- professional, presumably with access to friends, family and help -- should allow this sort of thing to happen to her. And she's angry at co-workers and strangers for their silence??

-- Heather Phillips

This article has "whining martyr" written all over it. The author, an apparently educated and articulate woman, has stayed with this abusive man long enough to have had several young children by him. Most likely, she continued having these children long after she discovered her husband's proclivity for pounding on his wife.

As a child, I watched my stepfather as he similarly abused my mother, abuse that surfaced early in the relationship. Yet, she stayed with him and continued to have his children, four more in all, and feigned helplessness as his severe abuse extended to each of us in turn.

Of course, "the big question" in the abuse industry, then as now, is why did my mother, like the author, stay in such a hellish situation despite other options? Quite simply, despite her protestations, she gained many substantial benefits from tolerating the abuse. She garnered sympathy (at least during the first few years) and created a situation where the whole world revolved around her and her problems. Everyone had to be especially considerate of Mom, because of the, you know, problem with her husband. By submitting to his adolescent behaviors, Mom "earned" helplessness and the ability to pass off all problems as being out of her control.

-- SuZett Estell

What a pity a woman as articulate and self-aware as Mann thus far has been unable to extricate herself (or, so far as I can tell, even envision herself extricated) from her pathetically abusive mate. As a former abused child who suffered both physically and mentally at the hands of her parents -- one of my earliest memories from age 2 is that of my mother pouring a gallon jug of cold milk over my head -- I could well relate to Mann's feelings of helplessness and rage. I know how devastating it is when those sworn to uphold our trust turn it to crap.

Though I am in my early 30s, content in my home life and career, and married to a loving and gentle man, I always sit with my back to a wall when among strangers. The most enduring scar I earned in the battleground of my childhood was an utter distrust of most humans. Today most of my best friends are of the four-legged variety. As I child, a usual month for me would include being choked, slapped, dragged about the floor by my hair, chased around our suburban ranch house by a parent brandishing a steak knife, ducking heavy objects thrown at my head and enduring severe beatings with belts, extension cords or whatever else was handy. My older sister and brother got their share, and my mother, for good measure, would occasionally stamp on my beloved doll, Tabitha.

As the youngest, and the most rebellious of the children, I got the lion's share of my parents' "attention." However, my upper-middle-class parents were careful about not leaving marks on my face; indeed, I suffered only one bruise on my face that I can recall. It was during my early teen years and I acquired it after my father knocked me down, sat over me and punched me in the eye. My sister, already well into her victimhood at age 16, explained to me afterward that "sometimes, you just make him so mad." I well remember the incredible shame I experienced walking the halls of school the next day, wondering if anyone could guess the reason for my discolored eye socket. So I am not without empathy when I say I find Mann's lack of effort to protect herself puzzling and, yes, reprehensible.

When I was a child, I was helpless and completely at my parents' mercy, whereas Mann apparently only imagines herself to be. If she is a professional woman (with as many concerned co-workers as she describes), with any ability to support herself, she is, in my mind, as culpable for the abuse as is her husband. My beatings continued until I was age 21, at which point I moved out of my parents' home -- and far out of their grasp -- for good. How I wish the adult woman I am today could have come to the rescue of that scared little girl, who has since come to understand how truly weak and sad her parents were.

I pray that Mann will be able to nurture that spark inside of herself -- the one that led her to share her tale with Salon's readers -- into a burst of energy that propels her far from her husband's fists. Perhaps it will be the day, alas inevitable, when hubby raises his hands to her two small children. What then will be her rationale for staying?

-- P. Barnett

Now that this is "Life" and no longer "Mothers Who Think" could we please address the issue of men abused by their wives? Not that I don't have sympathy for battered wives -- I do. Due to physical proportions, they are more likely to be killed than battered husbands, but statistics are showing that men and women are equally likely to physically and verbally abuse their spouses. Yet we have no shelters for men and we have no discussion of battered husbands. Even the CDC's Web site identifying the signs of abuse speaks only of the victim as "she" and the abuser as "he" -- never the reverse.

Men's code of silence is infinitely harder to break. My own husband is a formerly battered husband. His ex-wife hit him in front of his own parents for everything from eating out of the ice cream carton to not doing the dishes when she told him too. And she was emotionally far more abusive. Yet even today, he believes the marriage ended because of things he did.

-- Madeline Vann

C. Mann really has been knocked senseless if she's going to spend time and energy crafting her writing style, congratulating herself for being among "those who endure" and analyzing her situation rather than acting to change it. Does she honestly think her children aren't going to be affected by the violence and hostility she's allowing them to be exposed to? Does she really believe that sitting down and writing an essay is a reasonable response to her husband hitting her?

Some will say I'm blaming the victim. But after the first episode of domestic violence, you're not a victim, you're a volunteer. Mann is educated, is employed and has resources. Instead of examining under a microscope the exact sequence of events that occur when her husband hits her, she ought to be examining why she puts up with this and why she lets her children grow up thinking it's OK for dad to hit mom. No, I'm wrong. She should be getting the hell out, and then she can have leisure to look at the reasons she stayed. But first, get out.

This essay sends a terrible message to people in a battering relationship: that it's somehow worthwhile to wax lyrical about it all, to polish your sentences just so. It would have been a lot better for Mann and her kids if she'd put down the keyboard and picked up her keys.

-- Stephanie Dobler

Jesus H. Christ. That is the most intense, realistic and harsh piece of literature I have ever read. It was really, really -- I hesitate to say good, but I just wanted to commend Mann on her article.

-- Ariel Amundsen

By Salon Staff

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