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Tougher Abuse Laws are not Liberal - November 15, 1996

Richard Brian McCarty

Recently I was listening to a conservative radio talk show, (which I will leave not named), and on that show a caller whined and complained about the growing intrusiveness of government. Usually, I would agree and chime in with amens. But not this time. He was talking about tougher abuse laws in his state, both child and spousal. Federal constitutional issues aside, if a state chooses to make its child and spouse abuse laws tougher, then hooray. Conservatives should embrace such laws that go after the element of society that breaks the hearts of our families--the abuser.

It is the liberals of our society who want to understand the abuser. Perhaps he was beaten as a child. Perhaps he does not mean it. Perhaps he does not understand what he is doing. Perhaps he belongs in a swamp in middle South Carolina tied to a stump while the rattlers close in on him. Perhaps a big fellow ought to whip him hard with a belt and leave blood and marks.

For too long, abuse has been a taboo issue in our culture. For whatever reason, and it is not a conservative one, women especially have been expected to just endure husband's and boyfriend's physical and mental abuse. If a woman gets belittled on a regular basis in public, and/or physically hit, the liberal mentality of "he does not mean it," or "he can not help it," usually kicks in. And, with that mish mash that has been driven in our skulls since we were children, the women usually stay with the abusive boyfriend or husband.

And, when they stay, the viscous cycle begins. The husband (or wife in some cases, but in my explanation I will stay with the male on female abuse) beats and/or belittles the wife. Then, he becomes over-loving, buys her things, cries, etc. She takes him back, and the cycle starts all over again.

And, children born into such relationships are the ones who really suffer. They learn to lie. Mommy probably works at some respectable place, and so does daddy. So, when daddy gets crazy, the whole family makes up a story to explain things. Fear and intimidation also limit them in how they approach the rest of the world. Couple the two, and abuse tears at the fabric of a family. Consequently, the children are left to believe that lying is good, and they say anything to make things appear as they should be.

But even worse ,in my opinion, is child abuse. A child is trapped. He can not be expected to leave because daddy or mommy abuses him. It is kind of hard to pack your bags and leave at eight or ten when daddy puts out a cigarette on your arm.

I have seen that type of abuse. The burn marks were on a ten year old girl. I will never forget the look of her arm. There were several marks where her mother's boyfriend had put his cigarettes out. The child was hollow-eyed and scared. I did not want to know why he did it. There is no excuse. But the mama loved him. And she defended him. If the most liberal member of the South Carolina General Assembly rose up and proposed a constitutional bill to punish them more severely, he would have my support on it.

Perhaps the fact that we conservatives talk all the time about the constitution and rights, and not how things affect people, we get a bum rap. It is because I believe that every child should be free from fear and know that in America they can achieve, I support tougher abuse laws. It is hard for the little girl I mentioned to want to achieve, when she lives in fear every day.

I have also seen relationship abuse. As a resident assistant in college, I was called one night to a scene where a boyfriend was getting physical with a woman. She pressed no charges. She was back with him in a couple of days. I felt sorry for her family and friends. And I wonder how she can dare to live the American dream if she lives in fear of her man. There is no amount of tax relief or government downsizing that will help her achieve.

I realize that adults who are abused have to make the choice not to be abused anymore. No one and no government can do that for them. But we, as a people, through our local and state governments, can and ought to make a stand. Tougher statutes against abuse will strengthen our arsenal to fight against abuse and the terror it brings to families.

But, unlike the liberals, conservatives know it does not stop there. We need to, as individuals, make stands against it when it comes in our lives. If you know someone being abused, offer him help. Cries of "well, it is none of my business," will not help on judgment day. We should not cower from making it clear that the principles of Christianity, Judaism, and Conservatism do not tolerate such behavior.

As for myself, I keep in mind some friends of mine who I know are in and were in relationships that had abuse written all over them. But, I keep in mind a little baby girl, Savannah, who is the daughter of one of my best friends, and like a niece to me, or even more. I don't want her to live in a world where abuse is just the dirty little secret. I do not want her life's dreams to be smothered by fear. Sometimes laws are needed, and they are needed to be tough. Tougher abuse laws will strengthen families, and in doing so, make more children and adults safer to dream again. And that is conservative.

Richard Brian McCarty has worked on several political campaigns of conservatives. He holds a Juris Doctor from the University of South Carolina and a BS degree from Lander University. An experienced writer, McCarty's columns are written from a distinctly Southern point of view. He is sometimes Southern, sometimes conservative, sometimes humorous, and sometimes all three.

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