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The softness of his face and hands indicated to me that he rarely does much physical labor.  He appeared to be a “delicate” man.  His wife makes more money than he, so I thought he must be open minded, perhaps even a feminist.  He works as a physical therapist, so I naturally just assumed he has a strong altruistic value system.  Most importantly, he still visits my elderly uncle nearly two years after my aunt, his patient, passed away.  I presumed he is a thoughtful man.

However, I had fallen back into old thought patterns and showed a lack of discernment.  I judged him to be something he isn’t.

My uncle began to banter with him, reminiscent of Clint Eastwood’s character in Gran Torino, and I felt uncomfortable for this man whom I doubted could hold his own.

Then, my uncle referred to the physical therapist as “Taliban.”  The man turned to me, legs still crossed facing my uncle, and practically giggled.  “There’s a story behind that.  We had an incident once, and he teases me about it.”

He didn’t owe me an explanation.

But, I got the story anyway.  And, I’ll refer to the soft mannered physical therapist as Taliban from here out…………..

Once, he and his wife went away for their anniversary.  They usually stayed in a nice but very expensive hotel that his wife really liked, but he wanted to save some money this time.  He chose a rather “seedy” motel.  

In the middle of the night they were awakened by the sound of yelling and a body slamming against the shared wall.  They couldn’t make out the words being screamed at the apparent victim, so Taliban grabbed a glass and held it to the wall.  The man in the next room was harshly telling his wife, “You will O-B-E-Y me!  You will O-B-E-Y!  Obey!  You WILL obey!”

It was obvious the man was shoving her around and throwing her into walls as he screamed at her.

Taliban’s wife demanded he call the police.  He refused.  His reasoning was that they didn’t know what was going on; the guy could come after them; someone else would call.  

He was content to sit, with a glass pressed to the motel room wall, and listen as a woman was belittled and beaten.

Hence, my uncle’s nickname.  The physical therapist earned the badge “Taliban” not because he beats his wife and believes his own wife is subservient to him (as far as we know) but because he sat idly by while another man beat his own wife and demanded she obey, AS THOUGH IT WAS ACCEPTABLE.  

Taliban continued and shared that someone else did indeed call the police.  “For whatever good it did.  She’ll probably just go back to him.  These women need jobs so they won’t keep going back for provision.  They just don’t work, so they think they have to stay so these guys will support them.  It’s just a cultural thing.”

In all fairness, before I go any further, I’ve been told that I have NO poker face.  Just this past week a friend asked if I’m a member of a particular group.  I simply said no.  But, she immediately laughed and said, “There’s a story behind it.  Just for a moment, there was a slight flash of something across your face.  I could see it!”  And, recently, upon my first return to the community college advising office, the adviser referred to me by my married name.  I was trying to conduct myself in a very professional manner to show her I was worthy of funding and guidance, but she looked up at me and said, “You just winced!  When I said your name you winced!”

So, perhaps I “flashed,” or maybe I “winced.”

Again, I tried very hard to conduct myself in a professional manner.  I tried to hide my instant disdain for this callous jerk disguising himself as a namby pamby person.

“Actually, statistics prove that domestic violence crosses all educational, cultural, and economic lines.  It effects everyone.  Women with Master’s are victims.  Women with better jobs than their husbands are victims.  In fact, many times the woman is the main provider for the family.  What we, as a society, need to do is reach women as young girls.  A young girl’s self esteem is set by the time she is only nine years old.  These women need to know they are worthy.  They need to know they deserve better.  And, we need to educate our church leaders.  Often these women seek help from their pastors or church counselors but are sent back, being told to be more submissive.  Sometimes it is even the abuser who brings the woman before the pastor to enlist his help because she is seen as not being submissive enough.”

His upper lip tightened as I spoke, and he began shaking his head no.  “No!  Those women don’t work!  They need educations, and they need jobs!  If they would just work they’d see that they don’t NEED a man.  They think they’re trapped because they need a man to support them!”

I reiterated, “That just isn’t true.  That isn’t what statistics prove.  It isn’t what I personally know to be true. We need to reach young girls who are at risk at a deeper level.  Perhaps for some job training is necessary, but that isn’t the root cause and that isn’t going to stop domestic violence.  That isn’t the issue.”

“Yes, it is!” he retorted.  “If they had jobs they would see that they can be independent of a man!”

He still spoke quietly, but his tone was harsh.  His face was red.  His upper lip was white from being stretched so tightly.

At that moment my uncle hung up his phone, and I smiled as I politely said, “Well, I’m going to take this opportunity to exit and allow you two gentlemen to visit.  I’d also better make sure my children aren’t out there killing each other!”  My uncle and I laughed at my last remark, and though Taliban managed a weak smile, you could see he was a little confounded that I was just going to walk away from our “argument.”  He was obviously not finished with our little conversation though I certainly was.

He then made an off hand comment about me birthing seven children and it being “biblical to repopulate the earth.”

I hugged my uncle and thanked him.  I told him I’d be waiting to hear from him regarding cleaning one of his rental houses and then I turned to Taliban and kindly said, “It was really good to see you again.”  He wouldn’t look at me but muttered something inaudibly.

I flopped my body down into my small car and shut the door a little too hard.  An exasperated, “Ooooh, that man!” flew from my lips.

At that, my 14 year old, not knowing if I was talking about my uncle or the physical therapist, as he had not been present for any of the conversations, shared, “I’ve never liked him.  I didn’t like him the first time I saw him walking up.  He just looks like an abuser.  I don’t know what it is, but he just seems like he’d be an abuser.”

Ha!  He nailed it!  He sensed it!  He could smell it on him!

The physical therapist, who seamlessly portrays himself as insipid, just looks like an abuser to my young teenage son.  My son, a victim himself.  My son who has been through counseling.  My son, a witness to horrific violence in the home committed at the hands of his father.  My son who has read the print outs and excerpts of books on domestic violence.  My son who has visited the women’s shelter and attended the public events hosted by the women’s crisis support team.  My son saw it in this man as he merely walked across the patio!

And, that is what “those women” need!

They…..we……I……need to know that we don’t deserve to be beaten, starved, neglected, robbed.  We need the ability to discern an abuser before he fools us and draws us in.  And, we need a society who will support us, not condemn us and judge us.  Condemnation and judgment are often huge contributing factors in our staying.

My son didn’t need to know that this man’s wife is a greater contributor to his family’s resources than he.  My son didn’t need to know that this man has no professional reason to still be visiting the elderly and very wealthy husband of one of his former patients nearly two years after her death.  He didn’t need to know that this man was out visiting after a short work day while his wife, after putting in long hours, was now at home fixing dinner before running their teenage sons to activities.  And, he didn’t need to know that this man had simply sat by and listened judgmentally as a woman was beaten and told to O-B-E-Y.  Nor did he have to see this man’s reaction to a woman (a woman whom he perceives to be of a lower cultural standing) when she disagreed with him.

My son has learned discernment through all of our experiences.  He can see it.  He can practically sniff out an abuser at this point.

Apparently I haven’t learned the lessons as well as my son.  The patterns are too deeply ingrained, too set.  I still depend on visual cues.

I’ve always been abused by red neck looking men in white T-shirts, flannel, and jeans, so the hair stands up on the back of my neck when I see a man like that.

But, it was just that “kind” of a man who recently wrote off over $150 on my tow bill, gave me a water, and told me, “Honey, don’t let anyone ever hit you again.”  He looked deeply into my eyes and tenderly continued, “That’s wrong.  It’s wrong.  Okay?”  Looking past the greasy autos, big tow trucks, and his jeans, white T-shirt, and flannel jacket, there was a kind hearted man sacrificing a piece of his business financially in order to help a total stranger.

I truly need to quit looking for an abuser behind every bush–or flannel shirt–and instead just close my eyes and start sniffing them out.  Abusers come in all sizes, shapes, intelligences, checkbooks, and manner of dress.  As do victims.  And, regardless of employment status or educational background, NO ONE deserves to be hit.  That’s wrong.  It’s wrong.  Okay?