David Dewhurst has known adversity. As a child, he lost his father to a drunk driver. He worked his way through college, made and lost a fortune, and served in the Air Force and the CIA. He spent years in Texas politics and is no stranger to having microphones thrust in his face.
He was one of the state’s most powerful officials for more than a decade as Texas lieutenant governor.
But even the typically reserved, monotone former statesman was flustered this week when asked to see himself in a new light — that of a victim of domestic abuse — after his girlfriend allegedly assaulted him repeatedly.
Harris County prosecutors say that Leslie Caron, 40, kicked 74-year-old Dewhurst, fracturing two ribs, during an argument on May 13. A separate incident occurred days later, during which she allegedly threw a pot, scratched, and bit the tall, lanky man decades her senior.
She was arrested Wednesday after Dewhurst complained of chest pain and went to get X-rays, where the damage to his ribs was detected.
Dewhurst’s case spotlights the fact that although women are overwhelmingly the targets of intimate partner violence — with 1 in 4 subject to physical abuse in her lifetime — this can happen to anyone, and cases cut across gender, race, and income.
Sadly, so does the stigma.
“Any male who allows himself to be a battered male deserves to be a battered male,” wrote a commenter on the Houston Chronicle website. On Twitter, one user said Caron should be put on the “Murder Hornet Task Force” after she “single-handedly took down the 6’4″ former CIA man.” Dozens of other examples can be found.
Shame, fear, and humiliation are some of the reasons why domestic violence remains an under-reported issue, Maisha Colter, CEO of Houston-based nonprofit Aid to Victims of Domestic Abuse, told the editorial board Thursday.
In many cases, a victim will feel judged over why he or she remained in an abusive relationship or be blamed as if deserving of abuse. As Dewhurst is finding, gender expectations also make men open to ridicule.
“Domestic violence runs much deeper than the physicality of it,” Colter said. “Many men are trained by their upbringing to retreat when a woman is being aggressive.”
A man being the target of physical domestic abuse may not be as common, but Dewhurst’s reaction is commonplace for many victims, experts said.
“I’m not interested in filing any charges against Leslie,” he said in a written statement. “She’s a remarkable woman with many fine attributes. I wish her all the best in life.”
Regardless of the situation, victims should be supported, not mocked.
Knowing there is help is the first step to realizing that the situation can change for someone trapped in an abusive relationship.
“People need to know they’re not alone,” Colter said. “There are resources out there for everyone who needs them.”
Abuse comes in many forms and so do its victims. It appears our former lieutenant governor found that out the hard way.
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