Excuses aren’t apologies, and no men are monsters

I briefly covered Veitch’s apology in my criticism of the Herald, but I wanted to come back in more detail here and mention what really bothered me about the way he issued it. Veitch as a presenter ought to know about the power of words, and his apology was not the words of a man who has faced up to what he has done. They were the words of a man who has tortured himself about it and never properly closed off the matter.

While he obviously wants to move on from the incident and seems to have resolved to not do anything similar again, (as much as it is possible to do so) he is still excusing his own behaviour1, even though he clearly knows it was wrong because he said just one sentence beforehand that his behaviour was “inexcusable”.

Veitch also talks as if his ex-partner was hardly even present at the time. There is little mention of the impact on her, it’s well buried into his statement, and he does not discuss the extent or facts of his violence.2

Many have questioned whether Veitch should be employed in broadcasting at all. I think that the apology is good evidence that he’s just not ready for a high-profile career yet, and has work to do with his demons. While I firmly believe that men who have been violent in the past and regret it deserve a chance to build a good life for themselves, just like all people who commit crimes or make poor choices in life, I think that the best way for them to do that is by working to mitigate the effects of domestic violence or even trying to prevent it from occurring in the first place. Women’s Refuge seems to agree.

I sincerely hope Veitch will use this as an opportunity to really face up to what he did, not just avoid it the way he has for the last few years. I hope he’ll remind men that violence harms the perpetrator, not just the victim, and that’s why self-control is so important. And I hope he’ll let men know that even men who dislike violence in general can still lash out at people they care about. We all have a darker side to us that we have to control. Every man has within him the potential to be an abuser, a rapist, a repressive and controlling partner. Or we have the potential to teach others the self-control, sympathy, empathy, care, and understanding they need to avoid those mistakes. Veitch’s statement made it clear that he lost control because he didn’t didn’t know how to deal with extreme feelings without lashing out. Many men don’t, and that’s a problem we as a society need to put urgent work into.

I’ve touched on this before- but one of the good things to come about from this story will be increased awareness that men who abuse women are about as “normal” as you can get. Veitch might have been a high flier, but he clearly had no psychological imbalance, doesn’t seem to have any exceptional anger problems- all he had to compel him to this course of action was the male privilege of being bigger and stronger, and of not being constantly pressured to control your urges to physically harm in the same way women are. And sadly, that is enough.

1Being stressed, exhausted, and perhaps upset or emotionally tired after a breakup is no excuse for the level of abuse that Veitch has been accused of. It certainly explains something about the nature of what made him do what he did, but it’s nowhere near an excuse.
2Probably for legal reasons.

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2 Responses

  1. > men who abuse women are about as “normal” as you can get

    Several years ago I was involved in a date-rape discussion program at a Nth. American university. The material we created was targeted at the jocks and frat-boys — partly because we had volunteers from those groups, but also because we couldn’t find convenient handles for starting conversation with the English-major types. They already deconstructed their own (public) speech, and knew how they ought to be seen to behave. How did we get past their properness to the hard-tacks reality that sexism has been taught to us since birth?

    Now that I have returned to my nice, professional job I feel similarly ill-equipped. I can be shocked by how the immigrant at the dairy revealed the blunt sexism of his culture, or what the construction workers across the road say, but how do I expose sexism within my own community? My office is large enough that I can be certain somebody is either violent or suffering violence at home — how do I support the abused, challenge the abusers, and offer each a hope for real change?

    All I can think of is to keep speaking up in-the-moment as sexism rears its head by word or deed. This is the hardest work for me, because I am examining myself. Probably I should recruit an ally who is in the same milieu, so that we can sharpen each other’s perception.

    Do any readers (or Ari) know of resources specifically discussing the white collar world?

  2. Do I know of feminist books specifically relating to white-collar abuse? Umm, I’m afraid my feminist readings are a bit more generalistic than that, but yes, I have read a bit on abuse.

    Sexism is a bit off-topic on this post, but I’ve actually got something in my draft queue on that subject that I’ll get to soon that might help prod some instincts. Reading about feminist issues here will give you an instinct to go on, and on the easy stuff that’s often enough to avoid privilege. As always, the most important tip is listen to women.

    Here’s the general gist of what I’ve gotten from what I’ve read on abuse:

    * Abuse is more about being controlling than just mindless violence. It often masquerades as discipline or attempts to curb perceived misbehaviour.

    * Victims aren’t always aware they’re being abused, even when told so by trusted friends or family, especially if the abuse includes emotional control. As many victims still really care about the people who abuse them, it’s hard for them to reconcile those feelings with the way outsiders view the situation.

    * Abusers are sometimes not aware that their behaviour is actually abuse. Discussing acceptable ways to treat partners and kids is one way to change people’s minds, and works better as it’s not directly confrontational. Sometimes saying “it’s not okay” is the first step.

    * We have to be willing to get nosy and make sure things are fine if people make us suspicious. If we really want to end abuse, the first step is to stop buying continual excuses about people falling off ladders.

    * Identifying abuse isn’t enough- we have to be willing and ready with support for victims and to rehabilitate abusers where necessary.

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