Abuse is not always ‘Visible’ as Megan Short was Punished by Death for Realizing

by  on Feminist Current.. shared with thanks

‘On August 6, Short’s planned moving day, she was found shot to death alongside her three children, her husband, and their dog in the family’s Pennsylvania home. A “murder/suicide note” was found “near one of the deceased adults,

Megan Short, 33, posted a request to Facebook, asking for help moving on August 6. Only weeks earlier, she had commented under an article posted by a friend, saying she was leaving her husband.

The article, written by Leigh Stein, was titled, “He didn’t hit me. It was still abuse.” In it, Stein explained that, while working at a diner, her boyfriend made her shower twice a day, so she “wouldn’t smell like French fries after work” and so that she could shave her entire body, “or else he wouldn’t touch me.”

He also told Stein she “wasn’t sexy” and that, therefore, he needed to sleep with other women. Stein didn’t see her relationship as abusive, at the time, because her abuse was invisible — there were no bruises to prove it. “I didn’t know what to name what I couldn’t see,” she writes.

Like so many other women, Stein had learned that red flags were, in fact, “romance.” She writes, “I felt like I was in a movie — how quickly we moved in together and isolated ourselves from friends and family, because all we needed was each other.” Women are groomed to become victims of abuse, in this way.

We watch movies that send the message that stalking, jealousy, and force are romantic — signs of “passion,” not control. The fact that we don’t recognize psychological abuse for what it is, and only accept “abuse” that looks like physical battery, doesn’t help — women are tricked into complacency, and learn not to trust themselves. They are unable to “prove” to themselves or to others that something is very wrong, often until it’s too late.megan16

Stein writes:

“Today when I tell someone my story, whether a stranger or a friend who didn’t know me in my early 20s, I always get the same question: ‘Was he physical?’ I wonder if they are imagining what my face would look like black and blue. I know they are asking for proof that my relationship was, by popular definition, abusive, and then they want to know why I stayed. The truth is that the few times he was physical with me were tiny blips on a long timeline of subtle manipulation, public humiliation, controlling behavior, and gaslighting.”

Stein’s story is similar to my own, in that way — the trauma of my own abusive relationship has little to do with the physical attacks, which never left me with any serious injury and were few and far between. The trauma was in the mind-fuckery — the constant verbal abuse, the manipulations, the humiliation, the isolation, and the carefully crafted lies. This, too, was what made it hard to leave and hard to recover from. I saw a therapist for years afterwards, who told me she feared that if I had stayed I would not have made it out alive.69cc3c3c106b87555087565107f6efa5

Megan Short didn’t.

On July 23rd, Short, who had met her husband, Mark, seven years her senior, at only 17-years-old, commented under Stein’s article, posted by her neighbour, Angie Burke: “It really does a number on your mental health for sure… This is why I am leaving my marriage Angie. 16 years.”

On August 6, Short’s planned moving day, she was found shot to death alongside her three children, her husband, and their dog in the family’s Pennsylvania home. A “murder/suicide note” was found “near one of the deceased adults,” according tothe Berks County District Attorney Office.

 As is often the case, things looked well and good between the couple to outsiders. The Reader Eagle reports:

“On Facebook, Mark and Megan shared dozens of photos of their children with friends and family. Mark’s cover photo is a side-by-side with his wife.

‘She’s still the most beautiful girl that I’ve ever met,’ Mark wrote in a comment on the picture. ‘I’m the luckiest guy in the world to have her as my wife and the mother of my three amazing children!’”

Abusive men will often cultivate an appearance of a happy couple, fully in love, while behaving in entirely opposite ways at home. This kind of behaviour is commonly described as a “Jekyll and Hyde” personality, as there is a distinct and irrational switch from one extreme to another — oftentimes based on a “public” persona and a “private” one — as though women are dealing with two different men.

Stein explains:

“The World Health Organization recognizes four types of intimate-partner violence: physical, sexual, emotional or psychological, and controlling behavior. These often coexist, and verbal aggression early in a relationship frequently precedes violence.

Some studies have shown that abuse in the form of degradation, fear and humiliation is more psychologically debilitating in the long term than physical violence; psychological abuse can in fact sustain the relationship, as the victim becomes consumed with self-doubt, depression and low self-esteem.”9003203_orig

One of the most frightening consequences of society’s limited understanding of abuse is exhibited in Short’s fate. Controlling, abusive men may not leave bruises the world can see, but are no less dangerous than the ones who do.

We know that 75 per cent of women who are killed by their partners are murdered when they try to leave or after they have already left. Mark’s victim, like so many women, was punished for naming the problem and for trying to wrest herself of her husband’s grasp. (In fact, Heavy reports that Megan had temporarily left Mark for another woman.)

In the most vile news story I read about Short, two NBC reporters pushed a narrative of a “good guy” who did all he could to “keep the family together,” despite an apparently cruel wife who “planned to leave” regardless. The reporters quoted a cousin of Mark’s endlessly, who said:

“Don’t think any less of him, because he’s a really, really good guy. He would do anything for anybody… You don’t know the situation, so don’t try to judge.”

An addendum beneath the article read: “If you or someone you know is considering suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or visit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.”

“Suicide” is not the problem, here. Nor is “mental health” or any other host of problems we continue to use as excuses for male violence like “love” or a “broken heart.” We need to stop glorifying the idea of “keeping the family together” and start encouraging women to trust themselves. “Families” clearly do not do any better when they remain a unit, if that unit includes an abuser.

We also need to stop defending men who aren’t overtly violent or brushing off verbal and psychological abuse. These misunderstandings and efforts to “stay positive” or “not pass judgement” isolate women and empower abusers. Our unwillingness to take “invisible” abuse seriously and understand that psychological and verbal abuse can be equally as damaging as physical abuse clearly has dire consequences.

Meghan MurphyMEGHAN MURPHY

MEGHAN MURPHY, FOUNDER AND EDITOR OF FEMINIST CURRENT, IS A FREELANCE WRITER AND JOURNALIST. SHE COMPLETED A MASTERS DEGREE IN THE DEPARTMENT OF GENDER, SEXUALITY AND WOMEN’S STUDIES AT SIMON FRASER UNIVERSITY IN 2012 AND LIVES IN VANCOUVER, B.C. WITH HER DOG. FOLLOW HER @MEGHANEMURPHY


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    I usually do not comment on articles and I’m sorry but I am more upset now after reading MOST of these comments then the tragic article we should be focusing on. Yes men abuse women and yes women abuse men! Abuse in all shapes and forms to all genders is real. I am not going to get into statistics for either side because this article was not about which gender has it worse. What we should be focusing on is this story at this his moment, when an article is posted about which group has it worse then all of the comments I just read would be relevant! Instead of everyone thinking about the people in the story you are all trying to one up each other and making it about yourselfs! In my opinion that is what is wrong with society, everyone thinks they need to prove that they have it worse than someone else, and their opinion us the only one that matters and is correct. So if we could all stop bickering like children and trying to make someone look stupid so you look correct and focus on this story for even 5min that would be amazing! The way most of you have made this tragedy about you instead of the family that lost their lives is shameful.

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      Speaking out about your own abusive situation is helpful, and it’s a pity that you can’t see this article as the opening for others to possibly realize, that they aren’t alone, they’re NOT crazy, they have others who are in the same boat. It’s too late for the family in the article, but it’s not too late for someone reading this who might have needed this little push to get the hell out. It seems to me, YOU are the problem here. Your comments were not needed and noone who is already abused needs to be further abused by you.

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      ” I am not going to get into statistics ”

      Well you really should get into statistics. Go check it out. Have a good hard think about those statistics. This should go a long way to improving the relevance of your comments.

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      NAMETHEPROBLEM. COM

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      Gaslighter!

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      I’m not exactly sure whose comments you are referring to, but the feminists here have not ‘made it about themselves’ by contextualizing male abuse or talking about their own experiences of abuse… Apologies if I’ve misinterpreted you.

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      You don’t need to apologize for anything, and you did and didn’t misinterpret me. I am specifically referrinig to the comments made regarding which gender has it worse, and the ones regarding statistics of male vs female abusers. My point is that, in my opinion, instead of focusing on this family’s story a lot the comments started to become a debate or even attacks (ie: someone told you to get of your high horse) which are inappropriate things to say after reading a story about abuse. Once again though this is just my opinion!

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        It is necessary to look at statistics and put individual stories in context to see the pattern. That is not making it about us. It is people coming in and defending this behavior and/or criticizing criticism of it that make it about them. Your comment is slightly tone-policing and unfortunately very familiar to us who are well-educated in the reality and circumstances of male violence and abuse against women.

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        Well, it’s not really about ‘which gender has it worse,’ it’s about naming the problem… And the problem is male violence, which is systemic. Individualizing these kinds of stories is unhelpful in terms of prevention.

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          I thought that the problem being named was domestic abuse of all kinds, and how this can end in violence. I did not realise we were only allowed to talk about the cases in which it is the male who is violent, and ignore the cases in which the female is violent. Or aren’t we meant to prevent cases where the female is abusive and violent?

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          This particular case and article are about Male Violence Against Women, which is still at epidemic proportions. Female violence against males is not at epidemic proportions. That’s what NAMETHEPROBLEM means.

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          The problem is VIOLENCE…. be it male or female. Violence. I think that is what Bri was trying to point out. Not which sex , just that this is a tragdy and

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            No. The problem isn’t VIOLENCE in a some kind of vacuum. The problem we are talking about is MALE violence against women. Stop being a handmaiden for the patriarchy. You’ll soon discover that the cookie crumbs they give you are poison.

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            Who is committing the majority of violence?

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            Male violence against women is a very specific crime and the one that is being discussed here. Why is this so hard for you to accept and respect? What are you trying to prove, and to whom?

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            NOPE.

            NAMETHEPROBLEM. COM

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            The problem, unless you are blind, is MALE VIOLENCE. Like, against women.

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            Thanks Megan for this other again excellent and important article. Im with you 100%

            Why it is not possible to recognise all types of violence has being all criminal in a justice court?! … Do you have any references for that or anyone? This is probably a key for taking action from the roots. ..

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    How tragic! It so often is the case that the abusive/narcissistic/ soociopathic husband or boyfriend (and sometimes it’s the woman) is thought of by everyone outside the relationship as a wonderful, great guy. And the woman ends up questioning her own feelings and experiences and blames herself. These guys are experts at this…they have to be in control at all times. It has become an epidemic ….The woman needs to get out at the first sign of these red flag behaviors. The longer you stay, the more addictive the relationship becomes and the greater the chance you will be severely abused or ..in this case murdered.

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    Megan, you are a real warrior!
    It is very generous of you to allow comments from men, and have to deal with all of the sh*t they throw at you.

    Yesterday I opened the free Sacramento Ca weekly, the Sac News and Review. In the letters to the editor was a man complaining about “female privilege.”
    He’s upset that some women get defended by a bouncer in a bar when a man sexually harasses them, and that some women get to decide how to raise their children when the guy leaves.

    How to respond to this in 50 words or less?
    And worse, that men do not see what they do to women, and here is more proof.

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    Too often this happens, because the abuser truly believes that if he cannot have her and the kids, no one else can either, so death is the way they believe they are “keeping the family together”. Also his family mentions several times how he took the family to Disney in February, like that would magically make all right in the marriage. I think seeing that quote really throws me over the edge. Who cares where he took them? He waited to kill her on the day she was leaving and chances are, made sure he killed the kids in front of her first, to further make her suffer.

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    I’ve only read a few comments, and I see the feminist claws coming out. Yes, this article is true and since this tragedy I’ve been in discussions where I felt like I was on the defensive, defending the victim that deals with emotional abuse. But, getting off that this is all about women is no better than saying only black lives matter. We all matter, people. Look how easily you’re all divided and thus you are a divider. Unity is but a tiny step in accomplishing a goal of having not just the lay person understand, but drs. The numbers would be sickening if the question was asked, “How many who “think” (the victim knows it, but drs think it is all in the victims head) they are emotionally abused, when talking with a dr, find the dr focuses on physical abuse?” “How many after describing scenario after scenario has had a dr ask, is there any physical abuse?” and than when the victim answers “No”, or “extremely little”, gets the head nod that says it all in the dr’s face and gestures, that well golly gee than, you’ll be just fine. They don’t take it seriously. As for this being all about women. While reading this article two men I know came to mind. Two men that have dealt with verbal and emotional abuse for years from their wives. Two men I care about and don’t understand why they put up with it, but the abuser has absolute control. Society, we, need to be aware and willing to help all victims, not just women. Numbers = power. United people seeing a problem and finding a way to help. Not all this silly, panties in a twist reactions I saw in just a few posts. Hopefully, I just happened on here at the wrong time and most people care about all people, not just women. btw I am a 56 yr old woman.

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