Have you ever loved someone so much that you’ve become violent toward them? That sounds strange, an oxymoron even. But it happens all the time – and even if you don’t have a spouse or kids, perhaps you have some hidden shamefulness in your past toward a family member, a friend, or a pet.
In our culture today, commentary on rape and other violence toward women often includes a minority voice that says, “she had it coming to her,” particularly if a woman dresses a certain way or has a history of disreputable character. Most of us scoff as such commentary, but perhaps many of us at least consider this possibility. One small thought might wisp through our mind – “well, if she hadn’t been out at 4am in that part of town…”
Though it’s not on the level of a full assault, I thought a bit about this idea while recently watching Touch, the anime adaptation of Mitsuru Adachi‘s classic manga. Early in the series, Tatsuya slaps Minami in a fit of rage. He feels terrible (though stubborn as he is, he finds it hard to admit his fault) and the reaction against him by the rest of the school body is predictably angry. Minami, however, claims that she “deserved” the slap. I guess we’re supposed to appreciate Minami’s strength in seeing the other side of the coin and accepting a hit like she’s one of the boys.
I was quite taken aback by the scene. I’m looking at this episode through a very different context in which it was once viewed. The time period is different; the medium is different; and the culture is different. I really have no understanding of domestic abuse/violence against women in Japan, but I wonder if there’s some minor level of acceptance or at least “cover-up” in Japan, knowing how many men from my background (Korean) grew up suffering physical abuse or predicating it themselves.
I don’t want to really delve into the repercussions of accepting violence against women on any level. We know it’s bad, really bad. But I do want to discuss the idea of seeing this issue from the eyes of the one being hurt. Minami has a most optimistic (if strangely off-based) view of the situation. Others are affected more deeply and painfully, even when the act doesn’t escalate to the level of a felony crime.
Someone very close to me was groped by a stranger the other day. This wasn’t the first time it happened to her. She was in a store with her children, no less, and the man walked by, did his deed, and quickly left the store. Outrage was replaced by pain, shame, and tears. By the evening, she was falling apart. Her background had much to do with how she reacted to the situation. While another woman might have yelled at the man and chased him down, this young lady’s hurt overshadowed the act itself.
Though I’m a typically emotional black-and-white sorta guy, understanding the young lady’s background and context of the situation helped me better empathize. If I didn’t know these things, I would’ve been no help at all, and maybe would have caused additional hurt.
We have a chance to be empathetic, compassionate, and loving every day – when someone cuts us off in traffic, when a co-worker causes us grief, when a friend stands us up. Jesus taught us to turn the other cheek, but even if we can’t live up to that beautiful standard, I think we can at least try to understand that there are things going on with the perpetrators that we don’t know about. That horrible driver could be distraught, driving away from an emergency situation (I was in these shoes once). The co-worker might have a family member going through cancer treatment. The friend might be ridden with guilt over some issue. And though the person could just be a jerk, I would rather ere on the side of caution and show grace to others – love always trumps pride.
Now…to just do what I feel. That’s the hard part.