Proteus - February 10, 2015

Eight months ago, Dan let everyone who would listen know that he’d rather have gone to jail than to Carson’s Proteus Batterer’s Intervention Program. The thing is, Dan didn’t think of himself as a guy who abused his wife; he was not one of those guys. Those guys are mean and dangerous and out of their minds. This was different. Dan had never been in trouble with the law. Everyone has their problems in relationship. It was just because he was drinking that things had gotten out of hand.

Dan was going to prove his Proteus group facilitators wrong. When the facilitators told him that the drinking might fuel his abusive behavior, but not cause it, Dan went to his first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting out of spite. He was going to prove that once he was sober, there would be no more relationship problems. Besides, why wasn’t anyone focusing on her? It takes two to tango, you know. If she would just not bait him, nag him constantly, then things would go smoothly.

A few months into his sobriety, his Proteus facilitator, Robin, was trying to teach Dan about an idea called “male entitlement in relationship”. Robin was saying that many men learn that in a family, basically, things should go their way, and that if they are challenged by their partner, they can become bullies to get what they want. It just didn’t ring true to Dan. The other facilitator, a woman named Yvette, was nodding in agreement. So were some of the other men in the group. Dan couldn’t stand these people sometimes. They just didn’t understand.
“Take Rita,” Dan said. “Why isn’t she in this group? I don’t threaten her. Sometimes I wake up at two in the morning, I wake Rita up and tell her to go make me a sandwich. There’s no “intimidation” like you guys are saying. But she’s a total bitch to me and she shoved me, but she’s not here.”

“Why do you wake Rita up to make you a sandwich?” asked a guy named Tom from across the circle.
“Because I know she’ll do it.”
“How do you know?” asked Raoul. Raoul had been in the group for three months longer than Dan. This was his second time around, too.
“Because she does it. I don’t have to do anything about it. She just does it,” said Dan.

“Look, Dan, think about this,” said Robin “What would you do if when you woke Rita up at two a.m., Rita said to you, angrily ‘Who do you think you are, Dan, for waking me up?! Make your own damn sandwich!’ How would that go? What would you do then?”

Dan turned red. His hands were shoved in his pockets, but his entire body hardened and tensed. He looked like he could easily tear Robin’s head off of his body.

“Rita is already afraid of you. She knows what you can do and what you have done. You don’t need to say your threat out loud each time. She knows that you expect things to go your way, and if she shows you any anger or doesn’t do what you want, you will, at the very least, frighten her, or tear her down,” said Robin.

“And,” added Yvette, “you are sober.”

“But then, what are you saying? That I have to do everything her way? That I have to be perfect? I’m not like these guys here. I never broke any bones. I just moved her out of my way a little because she was getting in my face and pushing my buttons and you know no one cares if she’s abusing me!”

Raoul looked at Dan. Last time he’d been in this group, he’d said all the same things. “Dan, you are full of it. You are not afraid of Rita. This is what we do to get our way, man. You keep it up and you will lose everything. You gotta own it, admit it first, to change it,” he said.
And that was the night Raoul can look back on and say that after that, he never made Carmen afraid again.

By JAC Patrissi