Human Dignity and Humiliation

Lynne Murray says:

I have not lived with what we usually think of as domestic violence–i.e., being hit by a partner. But I recently followed on the subject of humiliation studies, pointed out by Larry-bob Roberts on the Fat Studies mailing list.

Here’s a brief welcoming video clip from the Human Dignity and Humiliation Studies website:

I know from my own experience that domestic abuse can involve emotional rather than openly physical violence, and that it can escalate. My season in hell involved living with a man who, after a great many setbacks in his personal and professional life, began to self-medicate with alcohol and to focus his uncontrollable rage on me. His anger usually expressed itself as irrational demands and threats to leave. When I agreed that he should leave, he demanded that I leave–which made no sense as he was unemployed, while I had a job and was paying the rent. The lowest moment came when he spent the day consuming a bottle of vodka he had bought as a gift for neighbors (who ironically refused it as they were quitting drinking). He trashed our apartment. I came home from work to find him in a vicious mood with almost everything breakable in the apartment broken. The situation got worse as darkness fell and I got so scared that I called the police. One of the cops took a look at the place and asked, “Is it always like this?” which I took as it was intended to be–mostly a tension-relieving joke.

The same cop took me aside and asked if I had been hit. I truthfully answered that he had never laid a hand on me. The other cop suggested that as I was clearly afraid (I was trembling) it would be better for my abuser to find somewhere else to stay the night.

The police understood, although I did not consciously at that point, that violence is a spectrum with many shadings and when someone focuses their anger on humiliating a partner, verbal violence can escalate physical violence toward objects or people, and it’s unlikely to naturally turn in a positive direction without intervention.

I find the Human Dignity and Humiliation Studies’ inclusive approach toward its stated aim of “breaking the cycle of humiliation” very refreshing.

We wish to stimulate systemic change, globally and locally, to open space for dignity and mutual respect and esteem to take root and grow, thus ending humiliating practices and breaking cycles of humiliation throughout the world.

We suggest that a frame of cooperation and shared humility is necessary – not a mindset of humiliation – if we wish to build a better world, a world of equal dignity for all.

In my case, my abuser managed to give up alcohol and simmer his rage down to a background level of inward-turning depression. Then he was gone. Not a happy ending, but a safer and more peaceful life situation for me.