Thursday, August 24, 2006

Domestic violence in 1831

Can women commit acts of domestic violence? Some interesting evidence is to be found in The English Dane, a biography of Jorgen Jorgenson I'm currently reading.

Jorgenson led an eventful life. Born in Denmark, he led a small-scale coup and became the ruler of Iceland for two months. He lived in England, worked as a spy for a while, but fell foul of the law and was sent to Tasmania as a convict.

In 1831 he married Norah Corbett against the advice of his employer, Thomas Anstey. Anstey wrote in his report on the proposed nuptials:

I have often told Jorgenson that his ruin is inevitable if he marries this woman. His infatuated attachment to her has now existed a long time ... I know nothing to the woman's prejudice, save that of being much addicted to liquor, and of her propensity to beat and scratch Jorgenson when she is intoxicated.

Jorgenson's biographer, Sarah Bakewell, adds the following:

He and Norah were often seen staggering in the streets of Hobart and the various Midlands towns where they lived over the next few years, she often laying into him verbally or physically. Jorgenson himself was no lamb ... but her attacks on him seemed more frequent and frenzied; she was half his age and twice as ferocious ...

But, as Anstey recognized, Jorgenson was in love, and there was no reasoning with him. Norah was charismatic at her best, and Jorgenson felt protective toward her.

So it seems that the existence of female domestic violence stretches back a long way, and that alcohol abuse contributes to such violence just as it does for men.

1 comment:

  1. Each person (male of female) tends to have ethics that vary. Some people have much more patience than others to a certain type of behaviour before they reach their ‘limit’ and react. Such as violence.

    My view on domestic issues (violence or otherwise) is that it should be a private matter. I suspect many women want the law to interfere (as it does) in domestic issues (like arguments) so as to protect one party over another, because said party may not be able to win an encounter. If a husband/wife physically abuses (drunk or otherwise) the other as a regular part of their character (with no provocation) then I think it seems very ‘clear-cut’ that they are in the wrong. They are acting out rage on the other for NO reason what-so-ever.

    IF, on the other hand, we have one partner (lets say the man) continually harassing his wife, then slapping her – THEN she reaches her limit and grabs the frying pan and bashes him over the head because it’s the only course of action that will make him stop (after she has asked him to verbally stop, etc) – then I think she is justified. No doubt about it, in my view.

    Those of you ‘pacifists’ who argue that any type of violence (physical, verbal, etc) is NEVER justified, are more than free to disagree with me, by I dare say that when one is confronted by a situation (such as being being raped in a dark alley) that one would in fact ‘fight’ back. I am only using an extreme case (admittedly) to illustrate that it may not be logical to exclude violence in situations where one’s safety is being threatened.

    The wife who keeps scratching, hitting & throwing plates (drunk or not) has to be aware that no matter how ‘patient’ (read: Gentlemanly) she may assume a male to be – that he may infact reach his limit and ‘hit you back’. The fact that his hit may be stronger than yours is no reason to exclude a man from a course of action that women find justified engaging in themselves.

    Today, the roles of men & women have drastically changed, however many females still expect him to be a ‘gentleman’ while NOT requiring her to be a lady. (ie. Such as men should never hit women) – Well… which is it? Do you want a gentleman, in which case you may need to assume the historical traits of a lady? – or are you a feminist who is equal in every way to a man? – which includes being hit by one, just as men would hit one-another.

    Unprovoked violence of any form, I believe, can be looked down upon. However, even the most passive, well-natured creature (including a human) – will snap back (read: natural defense mechanism) once you have ‘poked’ him enough.

    Common sense should be considered as paramount if we are to objectively assess there situations.