I Witnessed My Friend’s Mom Get Beaten for “Disrespecting” Husband

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As a kid, it was “normal” to see wives get beaten for disrespecting their husbands, even in front of a crowd.  With a lot of discussion on the Stanford rape case, and sexual violence, I continue to share some things most of you don’t know about my life, including His Retaliation When I Rejected His Advances, in a series of blog posts on assault, domestic violence and abuse, in which I have been a witness of and even escaped from.

When I was a kid, I remember how “normal” it was for wives to get beaten, if there was any slight sign of what would be defined as “disrespectful”.  Violence was sometimes hidden secretly behind closed doors, but would also often occur in front of crowds for everyone to see, at gatherings, to demonstrate the “lesson” of who’s the head of the household.

In the Asian traditional culture, Husbands are usually the older, and head of the household.  It was normal to expect wives to have food ready on the table each night, do all the cooking, all the cleaning in the house, and even serve all the in-laws (husband’s relatives)– wherever, WHENEVER, they decide to show up at their door steps.  The husbands usually do not touch any cookware, not even a microwave, if they’re hungry. In addition, a Vietnamese lady older than me, told me that it is common that sister-in-laws, (e.g. ex-husband’s sister), to be very harsh on the wives, and give much difficulty.  Ironically, sometimes the sister-in-laws become the enablers to encourage their brothers to be violent towards their wives as well.

My Dad was also the head of the household, in charge of finances, due to Mom’s language barrier, but luckily he never laid a hand on my Mom. The difference also was, that Dad was overprotective and would not tolerate any man hurting his daughters through any physical, mental or sexual violence.  Yes, us daughters had to do domestic stuff as a kid, but my dad also was not afraid to cook or clean.  Yelling may be the norm of our culture within family, (never to elders though), whether we’re just plain loud or need to sort out issues, productively or unproductively, but as we got older and assimilated much into the American culture, we discouraged yelling.

Once upon a time… over 20 years ago, my mom, sister and I went to a family friend’s gathering, for food, drinks and karaoke. The man of the household picked us up and drove all of us there, since my dad worked night shift and my mom didn’t have a license at the time. I was always incredibly excited to see one of my best friend and her sis, along with their “fresh off the boat” family friends living with them.

Us kids ran upstairs to play, as adults laughed, conversed, smoked and drank beer.

As the evening wore on, things suddenly got rowdier.  Us kids upstairs, suddenly heard a man yelling and a woman yelling and screaming back– not of joy but anger.  We also heard large thumps and so we went quiet, whispering, wondering what was going on.

The only boy there, also the youngest, started sneaking downstairs to to see what was going on.  He or someone else followed (I think his older sister), and reported to us that there was a fight going on and things being thrown around.  As afraid as all of us were, the rest of us quietly followed and stayed closely at the stairway to peek out to what was going on.

I remember seeing my friend’s mom on the kitchen floor, crying hysterically, in a desperate plea.  Her husband, completely drunk, had thrown a suitcase at her, which looked heavy, right at her, and began trying to drag and shove her, threatening to kick her out of the house as she tried to calm him down.  They continued to yell back and forth for awhile.

The rest of the adults just sat there in silence at first.  I wasn’t sure if they were shocked or that they agreed to what was happening. I don’t remember or understood, what the rest of the folks were saying in their native language, if they tried to stop the violence or who sided with who at that point.  But at one point, I think my mom desperately tried to calm my friend’s dad down and convinced him to take us back for the sake of us, because she wanted all of us to be home.

After it was all over, we weren’t sure what was going to happen afterwards.  Mom gathered us all, but my sis and I was fearful because we knew he had been drinking, and we knew that he shouldn’t be drinking and driving.  My mom said it was OK, and so we hopped into his car hesitantly.  Still fearful, we hear him discussing the situation with my mom, in an angry tone.  Luckily we lived only about 10 minutes away, so it was not a long drive.

After my friend’s Dad dropped all of us off, I asked Mom why he was angry at his wife and beat her.  She said that the wife made a “wise”  aka smart ass, joke that humiliated the husband and was disrespectful.  I don’t recall exactly what she said, but I remember thinking it was a harmless joke.  My Mom said that she definitely crossed the line and constantly opens her mouth before she thinks, and embarrasses the husband.  So at that point it seemed like the consensus was that most people agreed that she was being a smart ass.. and maybe deserveda good beating.

As a kid, I didn’t agree with the beatings, was afraid of it, but at the same time, not fully understanding.  All I knew is I wouldn’t want to be beaten myself, and being hit is a form of discipline, but if I were, the one that someone threw a suitcase at and get knocked down onto the ground.. That is terrifying for any kid.

Incidents like these made me ask my mom a lot of questions.  I wanted to know if Dad ever beat her like that.  She said “No” and I also never witnessed it in my life either.  If I recall, I even had the guts to ask my Dad if he ever did. But he also said no, and seemed to disagree with wife beating but also felt that she shouldn’t have disrespected the husband.  So I learned that I should never disrespect my husband when I have one.  Other than that, I was too young to fully understand, but it was something I knew I was exposed to more often that I should at friends’ gatherings and that I didn’t want to be around.

After that, it was all gossip, just like any other dramatic situation, where everyone tries to find out or understand further details and updates of my friend’s parents’ marriage.  Years passed by and during the brief years that I did hang out with my friends, I never witnessed such violence happening again.  Of course, I did lose touch over the years, so I did not know what went on.  At most I saw after that was arguing, just like any husband/wife bickering, but of course there were rumors.  At one point we heard they were going to get a divorce due to fights.  Most people seemed unsympathetic, and seemed like they were hoping that they would.  I think they also would’ve became the communities laughing stock, because it sadly seemed like they already were. My friends didn’t wish to speak of incidents.  But as they got older, things seemed to get better, their parents remained married, and I really think tragedies within their families really brought people close together.

Being grown up and thinking about it now.. I remember how fearful I was. I could imagine if I were in that situation with my own parents, that I would be at great risk to thinking that it’s normal, maybe even acceptable.. because as a kid.. it was so normal to see physical violence at gatherings.

Luckily the friends that I grew up with, who went through with all that, are more Americanized, and would less likely to repeat history. Most of them are married with kids, and seem to have a healthy relationships. I only hear good things.

Of course I agree that it’s never OK for a husband to be violent towards their wife (or a wife to husband), and hearing such stories, makes me sad.  Whenever any sign of abuse (verbal or physical), I advise that anyone should get out of the situation as soon as possible, because we don’t know if they would make it to tomorrow and even if they did, the damage stays with you.  Though that incident didn’t happen to me, and maybe at some point I suppressed such memories in the back of my mind, the imagery, the fear, is ingrained in me.

Thank you for reading this. I will continue to share other posts of my experience.   If you want to keep yourself up to date, please Like  http://facebook.com/lifeandcheesecake   My twitter for this blog is also  @LifeNCheesecake, although I need to update it more frequent.   Feel free to comment below your experience or thoughts. Unfortunately I have thousands of spam comments I need to filter through so let me know on facebook that you commented, and I’ll look for it!

Graphic by  johnny_automatic @ openclipart.org

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