On Tuesday, Donald Trump’s campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, was charged with battery for grabbing reporter Michelle Fields on March 8 at a press conference in Florida. This story felt very close to me, because five days prior to Lewandowski being charged, the man I am legally married to was arrested for assaulting me.
While this was the third time I had to call the police to help me get away from this man, it was the first time he was arrested for assaulting me. In previous situations, he’d given me a mild concussion and injured my hand. It was bad enough that I needed x-rays to determine if it was broken. He has caused me to see my doctor on too many occasions.
So, when Fields’ interaction with Lewandowski was described as “battery,” and charges were brought against him, I struggled with the idea. My initial thoughts were: How dare she? She wasn’t even hurt. What is wrong with this woman? Doesn’t she know what assault really looks like? This is demeaning to women who have suffered real assaults.
Then I stopped myself and thought: Was I so used to abuse that I saw Fields’ encounter as insignificant?
Playing with the ‘big boys’
For years, I lived with the same kind of arm bruises she sustained. In my mind, those bruises were the easy fights — fights I never called the cops for. Where was my anger coming from when I heard about the charges against Lewandowski?
In a way, I was jealous. From the time I was young, I was physically abused, and it had become second nature to me. My family was the sort that would “give you something to cry about” if you were upset — belittling pain, and threatening to inflict more pain, if someone dared to complain. The neighborhood I grew up in was rough. In the school yard at Lowell Elementary, when I spoke up about being pushed in the school yard by a young man, I was told that was what I got for playing with the big boys. Much of my life has been marred by violence that I was told was a way of acceptance and loving. I am not the only woman to experience this.
Abuse and assault can come in many ways. The battery Fields is charging does not require any physical harm. Hitting an object out of someone’s hand on purpose, grabbing someone by the shirt collar, these are forms of battery that may not cause bruising. The size of Fields’ bruises, or whether or not she even had them, does not matter. Lewandowski had no reason to touch her. It does not matter what any person says or screams at a rally: Grabbing and fighting is an inappropriate response.
Fields faces accusations that she did not, on surveillance footage, seem to be immediately physically harmed. As I bled from my face the day of my recent assault, I had no idea how hurt I was. Then I saw all of the blood on my face and on my floor. My body did not hurt or bruise until hours later. Even then I thought, I cannot call the police. This could just make things worse.
When I contacted a lawyer friend of mine, I was so worried about the legal issues of the assault, he worried that I was missing something very important. “Take care of yourself first,” he told me. “Do not worry about what will happen legally. Just keep yourself safe.”
My anger stemmed, also, from how Fields’ social status was affecting these charges, and I cannot be angry at Fields for that. For that, I am angry at the justice system.
Fear of further victimization
According to the United Nations, one in three women experiences violence in her life, either from a partner or a stranger. The Bureau of Justice Statistics estimates that a half-million women are abused in relationships every year in America. In 99 percent of cases, it is men abusing women; and 1 percent of the time it is same-sex partner abuse.
Assaults against women are so infrequently reported that the United Nations website estimates that 35 percent to 70 percent of women experience that abuse at the hands of a partner. That could mean that only half of the women who are abused ever bother to report it.
A big difference between my situation and Fields is that I am tied to the person who hurt me in many ways. Fields and Lewandowski are not more than acquaintances.
Domestic violence is often seen as something women can actively avoid. Neighbors of mine avoid me and consider my family low class. Some who spoke to me were far more worried about the presence of police in our neighborhood than my bleeding face. They did not want police, but they did not want anyone to get hurt — as if I had not been hurt already.
People claiming to show “tough love” would tell me I was allowing the violence to happen, or worse, would accuse me of enjoying the cyclical violence, instead of recognizing that I was struggling to live through what my life had become, that after so much violence in my life, I was struggling to see a way out.
It is difficult to write about this for fear of further victimization, the likes of which Fields experiences now — accusations that she is exaggerating her injuries, having to leave her job because she feels compromised by her employer’s response, and the reality that even with intense media scrutiny and video evidence it still took 18 days for Lewandowski to be charged.
People are still now publicly debating whether she was assaulted enough to press charges, instead of recognizing that women have to turn to law enforcement and the court system so that some men know unwanted touching is wrong. And even when we do turn to legal action, our pain is belittled, as if we are back in a school yard, and it is our choice to mix it up with the big boys that gives them the right to get physical when they think a woman is out of line.