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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Peer Relationships: Opposite Gender, Conclusion

     “It doesn’t really matter, Mom. He won’t play that hard again. Look, they are nearly all well now.” Sojourner’s pleas lost all potential they might have had to influence her mother away from the phone when she just could not bear the pain one moment longer. Climbing down to sit on the closed toilet seat, Sojourner’s tears began to flow. “Oh, Mom, it hurts so much. I did not sleep last night and I could hardly stand it all day today.” Sojourner was in full sob mode now, shoulders shaking.
     “Did you do anything to anger him, Honey?” She was smoothing the ointment carefully over the wounds before wrapping them. In truth, it would not have mattered to Sojourner’s mother. Ronny had no right to injure her child. Through her tears Sojourner tried to answer.
     “He said I didn’t do anything. Why did he do this to me, Mom? I don’t understand why boys would play like this?“ Again, Sojourner’s mother demanded to know his name. Working hard to stem the tide of falling tears, Sojourner pleaded with her mother.
He didn’t mean to hurt me, honest Mom. Please don’t call his parents.” But mother would have none of it. With much regret, Sojourner gave up the name of the boy.
     As was common in those days long ago, Sojourner’s mother called Ronny’s mother and told her the story. To his credit, Ronny confirmed the account and, alas, his father beat him pretty good. Therein ended Sojourner’s relationship with Ronny. In truth, while she was a bit sad, Sojourner was also a lot relieved. At ten years old Sojourner had already begun to learn about the abuse so many women suffer at the brutal hands of men with anger issues. Sojourner never had the trauma of another such incident, in childhood or as an adult, but this one experience clearly demonstrated the elements of just how a woman can be subjected to this abuse over and over. Had Sojourner’s mother not intervened, she might have been the target of Ronny’s underlying anger issues again.
     Sojourner thought that this was just Ronny’s way to show her his affection and that he was an innocent party to the abuse. Her assumption had been that she must have done something wrong that gave him a reason to physically hurt her. There is never a reason for a man to hurt a woman as a part of their relationship.
     Equally apparent in this real life example of peer abuse, Sojourner voluntarily gave up her entire support system to protect Ronny. She was hurting emotionally as much as physically; yet, she did not tell her friends, sisters or parents about her pain. She had questions as to the cause of his actions, but did not feel she could even ask her friends because she did not want them to think badly of Ronny.
     Next, when Ronny was confronted, he reacted in the same way adult men do: It is the woman who was in the wrong and will be the one hurt most if she tells on him for hurting her. Ronny made it sound like Sojourner had taken her mother’s pen rather than reminding her that it was an innocent matter that the pen had been in her pocket all along and her mother would not be mad at her for that.
     Then, Ronny let her know that Sojourner, herself, would be the one getting in trouble because, not only had she taken the pen, she would return it broken. Well, he is the one who broke it. Sojourner was not focusing on that but on the fact that she had her mother’s pen and could not account for it. She feared getting in trouble, herself, if she told anyone about the assault in the cloakroom.
     Intimidation and humiliation are other elements of how the woman is deceived by the man, or boy in this case. Name calling is not uncommon--baby, tattletale. Sojourner was not a baby to be afraid or hurt under such circumstances; it was justified. The implication was that Sojourner was a baby if she told anyone, rather than to realize that she was just a child and should tell an authority figure of the abuse. It did not make her a baby.
     Lastly, Sojourner was experiencing her first boy-girl relationship. Her friendship with Butchy had been quite different; yet, with Butchy, they had never intentionally hurt each other. Sojourner was not sure what she should expect of this relationship with Ronny.
     Fortunately for Sojourner, her mother stepped in. She set the standard for her daughter as to what was acceptable and what was not, what was play and what was not. Then, she took the role of adult and did not expect young Sojourner to take care of herself and just let it go. “Stay away from him” and that was all. It would take more than that and Sojourner’s mother was not afraid to get involved.    
     Sojourner had a lot to learn about boy-girl relationships; but, an extremely important lesson was learned from this first one: She should expect the boy to respect her and not hurt her.

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