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Garth Rattray | Don’t be a punching bag

Published:Saturday | February 11, 2017 | 12:00 AM

The surge in violence and murder of females of all ages is extremely troubling. Such behaviour is absolutely inexcusable and must be condemned in the strongest terms. However, in some instances, women facilitate aggressive behaviour in men, which spells serious trouble for them and for countless others.

In 1982, a young woman was brought into the Casualty Department of the University Hospital of the West Indies. She was stabbed in her chest and had difficulty breathing.

X-rays confirmed that air and blood had leaked into the chest cavity.

I was to urgently insert a chest tube to save her life. While waiting on the operating theatre, I took the opportunity to ask who stabbed her. Just about that time, a thin and morose-looking young man appeared and hovered about the entrance to the casualty area. He did not come any closer, but they both stared at one another in total silence

She explained that he was her boyfriend and that he stabbed her. She went on to explain that she lied to the police because "him stab me because him love me", then she smiled.

I could not believe what I had heard. The situation repulsed me. The misinterpretation and perversion of 'love' mesmerised me.

I also know a licensed firearm holder who lost it and shot his wife in the abdomen during a tiff. The bullet blew away her left kidney, part of her small and large bowel, and fried sensitive nerves as they exited her spinal column. She was strung up, sported a long abdominal surgical scar, and had significant left lower-limb weakness when I visited her on the ward at the University Hospital of the West Indies.




Tubes were going in and tubes were coming out, and she had a temporary colostomy. She shifted her oxygen mask to the side in order to relate how her husband shot her in a fit of rage, but that she reported it as an accidental shooting.

She was a self-sufficient woman. She did not lie to the police out of fear; she lied because she loved him and didn't want to see him imprisoned.

Then there was another patient of mine, a young mother of two, who decided it best to retreat from the armed and enraged babyfather. She took her children, ran into her car, and attempted to drive away, but the infuriated man fired two shots at the back of her head. Luckily, he missed, but the rear-view mirror didn't survive. She reported the incident as an accidental discharge of his weapon. They had fallen out of 'love' by then, but she blamed herself for the shooting because she irritated him over child support.

Sometimes people snap and act way out of character. They maim and sometimes kill before they realise what they have done. However, there are almost always warning signs going back many years. Some women interpret loud quarrels and perhaps even the occasional grab, push or slap as some sort of 'love'.

Without such animated and low-level violent acting out, some feel that their man doesn't 'love' them. They feel that they don't care enough to 'lose it' when made jealous or provoked.

Such women constantly flirt with eternity by associating with unstable, emotional men. Some actually like it when their man 'can't live without them'. That is an extremely dangerous misconception of 'love'.

Whenever any woman sees any warning signs of violence in her man, she should pack her bags and go, or make him pack his bags and go. She must break it off with him immediately.

Violence escalates once it's begun. It builds like swells in the open ocean. Powered by the dark winds of negative emotions, violence rises and falls until one day it comes crashing down like a monstrous tsunami against the shore.

Irrational, overwhelming jealousy, controlling personalities and/or temper flares are not indications of love; they are huge red flags of impending disaster.

When a woman encourages, sustains and incubates such violent men, she is inviting catastrophe for herself and/or for others. Observant neighbours, public education, counselling and intervention all help, but a large part of the solution to domestic violence rests with the women involved with volatile men.

- Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feedback to and