89-year-old Wintrop White Winthrop, Esq., whose vast inherited wealth and numerous globe-trekking adventures have afforded him unique insight into controversial social issues, walks you through these potential minefields with the sensitivity and aplomb consistent with his pedigree.
From my lofty view atop the treble peaks of high society, immense bequeathed largesse, and transglobal accomplishment nonpareil, I have lately espied a tumult in regard to domestic abuse, and, more specifically, to how the victim is often made complicit in her own abuse. After all, why would one remain in such a perilous situation if one did not want to? Why would she not simply leave?
Enough! Language like this is disgraceful! Absolutely disgraceful! How dare you presume to know the many nuanced and complex psychological reasons why someone should stay with her—or HIS—abuser! …Forgive my harsh tones, but as much as it pains me to admit it, I was once the unfortunate casualty in such a relationship. And now, as much as I am loath to do so, I shall recount my own terrible tale of serial battery in the home, so that I may contribute to this long-needed cultural shift in how we speak about the oft-misunderstood and, particularly where the victims are concerned, unfairly maligned tragedy that is domestic violence. This, in the preferred nomenclature of the moment, is “Why I stayed.”
Betrothed before my 21st winter to the end-run of a distant tributary of the Hapsburg bloodline, my bride was a monstrous Bulgarian princess, cresting eight feet in height, with a terrible inbred strength that could snap a Lipizzaner stallion’s spine like a dried twig; many decades on, I still sometimes awake in the night bathed in cold perspiration, the white-eyed screams of an ivory thoroughbred ringing in my ears; the stench of its death-emptied bowels in my nose.
In retrospect, I do not believe that Erzsébet ever viewed me as a person—and by this I mean it remains unclear whether she could differentiate between any human, or knew what a human was, or had even the dimmest inkling of herself as a conscious, self-aware, living being. Her powers of communication were limited to frothing, ear-splitting bellows and hours-long fits of violent destruction, during which a good hectare of Eastern European old-growth beech forest would be entirely leveled; more, if she were able to dislodge from the Balkan earth the massive, 9-meter-long iron spike to which she was chained for much of the day.
So, why did I stay? After the innumerable broken bones, the long, concussed nights spent cowering inside a 17th-century dumbwaiter, the unbearable humiliation at being hurled nude into a nearby peasant village across the three hundred yards that comprised the intervening distance from her looming hillside keep, and the too-many-to-recount occasions of being rolled up in heavy velvet drapes ripped from their brass fixtures and my body used in toto as a sort of crude, frotteuristic marital aide by Erzsébet during her disgusting interpretation of connubial relations, the question remains: Why?
In short, shame. Not just my own, but the engendered shame of my family. Mine, you see, was a marriage of convenience; my father, a magnate of several burgeoning industries in the Americas, had encountered a problem of liquidity after the passing of certain child-labor laws crippled his immensely lucrative toy factories. His chance meeting with Erzsébet’s father during a steamship journey to the much less child-welfare-centric Far East inspired him to offer up his young groom to solve the Grand Duchy’s conundrum of having his royal line end with his terrifying daughter, the courting of whom had already resulted in many deaths. In return, a hefty share of the family’s riches would be transferred to mine pater.
So, in duty to my family—even after my father failed to notify me that he had found some of his misplaced gold in a old shed and was no longer in need of Erzsébet’s wealth—I stayed. In fact, I stayed until Erzsébet attacked her own reflection in a nearby lake after once again escaping her daytime chains, and mercifully drwoned.
And as painful as all of this has been for me to recall, I am glad to do it. If I am able to inspire even one person to realize that thereis life after domestic abuse and, moreover, that no one is ever, ever within her rights to hurl a nude man three-hundred yards into a nearby peasant village, then reliving my own personal trauma will have been worthwhile.