Monday, January 14, 2008


When I picked my son up from school last week after he had spent the holidays with his biological father, he had his hair braided in 16 braids, with clear beads. It looked very cute, I must say. I was also quite surprised when I saw that. Since when did my ex starting spending money on F1-1's hair care? It surely is a good thing, right? He's actually making progress.

Yesterday F1-1 asked me if I could re-braid some of the braids that were starting to come undone. When I loosened the one up front, it became immediately obvious that someone had cut off the front clump of hairs in a rage. It was coarsely and unevenly cut. I asked him what had happened.

F1-1: "My father cut it" he says.
me: "But why?"
F1-1: "Because I didn't do my homework."

I was literally speechless, and that doesn't happen very often. My eyes filled with tears, and I had to swallow hard to dispense of the lump in my throat.

me: "How do you feel about that?"
F1-1: "Well, I didn't do my homework..."

Have you ever seen a movie where an abusive husband/boyfriend cuts the hair of his wife/girlfriend? Why is this considered abuse? Here are the reasons I can think of (feel free to add more in the comments):
1. The woman feels humiliated by having her hair cut like that and has to actively hide this fact from her friends and colleagues.
2. It is a control issue for the abuser. He has control over the (quite possibly intimidating) scissors, and he subconsciously lets her know that he could have cut her neck if he wanted to. It is out of the goodness of his heart that he actually *only* cuts her hair.
3. The abuser may actually think he has "controlled his anger" by not physically hurting her, but in his anger, he could easily have hurt her physically. In addition, emotional hurt is just as abusive as physical hurt.
4. The wife may take great pride in her hair, and the cut of course, destroys it.

I realize that I may be posing this stereotypically as abusive male vs abused female victim. I understand that I'm biased and know there may be cases where the genders are reversed, but this is the most common kind of abuse, and one that hits very, very close to home.

Not only have I been on the receiving end of the abuse from the same guy that is now obviously abusing my son, I'm also nearly powerless to do anything about it. My son is getting humiliated by his father and I can't help him anymore than giving him a hug, and telling him I'm sorry, and that I'll take him back to the hair dresser to fix the braids, and that we'll cover the uneven spot off as much as possible until it grows back.

F1-1 has a great, wild mop of hair on his head, and he takes great pride in his handsome looks in general and his mop of hair in particular. This must hurt him beyond believe. It also explains, of course, why his father agreed to have his hair braided. It was to hide the short clump of hair, and to pretend to make up for his actions. It is all so familiar to me. He used to do something similar to me.

After he hit me, and stormed out of the house, he would come back home crying, with his arms full of flowers and chocolate. He was really, really sorry, he didn't mean to do that. But it was actually a little bit my fault too. If I didn't make him so angry, he wouldn't have had to hit me. For a long time I bought this. Yes, I know, I'm an idiot. But I'm not alone. This is very typical for an abuser/abused victim relationship. The abuser succeeds in making the victim believe that they are partly to blame for what happens, and that it is in their power to change it, and prevent it from ever happening again. Together with the strategy of preventing the victim to form meaningful relationships with others, this is the recipe for the continuing cycle of abuse.

My son is buying it too. "Well, I didn't do my homework..." means "I am to blame for what my father did. I was bad, and he did what he had to do to teach me a lesson."

After writing all this, I know I have to find a better way to help him. I don't know what I will do, but this cannot continue.


ScienceWoman said...

I'm so sorry. I know your situation is complicated, but I would take the time to carefully document this incident (and, god forbid, any future ones) so that if you have to, you can go to the courts and ask for (more) restricted visitation.

And I'm sure you already have, but make sure that you talk with F1 about what would have been an appropriate response to not doing his homework (say, restricting his TV time) and explain that his dad's actions were not appropriate. You don't want to vilify his dad, but you also don't want him to think that such behavior is acceptable, because someday he'll be the man and he'll have a wife and/or a kid who doesn't do his/her homework.

Good luck and hugs.

EcoGeoFemme said...

I agree with sciencewoman. I'm so sorry that you and your son have to deal with this.

ScienceGirl said...

It's things like these that leave the worst scars... I hope you help your son understand what had really happened. So sorry you and your son have to deal with this...