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“Beit Noam-ize” America’s Batterers?

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I’ve been thinking about domestic violence partly because of the film Private Violence recently shown at Sundance and other film festivals and now scheduled for an October run on HBO — featuring women’s advocate Kit Gruelle, among others, and with Gloria Steinem as one of the film’s executive producers.

Kit Gruelle has since the mid 1980s served as an inspiration for women surviving abusive marriages, having experienced her own ordeal 34 years ago that ended with the death of her husband in an oil barge accident offshore Louisiana. Gruelle suffered through three years of domestic terror prior to the tragedy.

I’ve also been a human rights activist/ journalist through the years, chairing the first major benefit for battered women in Manhattan in 1985, which was endorsed by many of New York’s political leaders, its Jewish philanthropies, and sponsored by the National and New York coalitions against domestic violence. I’ve covered the nightmares of war for Newsday and The Economist, as well as the polygamy issue out West for the Financial Times.

So I decided to phone Kit Gruelle and have a chat:

Suzan Mazur: Your personal ordeal, Kit, is the classic American domestic violence story. Your husband was trained to kill by the U.S. Marines, was sent to Vietnam, and he then turned his aggression on you.

The use of force, violence, the fist continues to be America’s philosophy. It’s key to US economic and foreign policy. If we had a more gender-balanced government, force would not be central to US policy. That means getting a critical mass of women in public office.

You’ve said your husband liked to strangle you the most, that it made him feel in control. Your life was in his hands. Please say more about this tactic of control.

Kit Gruelle: One of the things important to understand about controlling tactics abusers use is that often it doesn’t look to the outside world like the violence that it is. It plays itself out in ways that do not require a law enforcement response. It happens in subtle ways. I mean, females are raised to be loving, forgiving, understanding and supportive.

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