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December 02, 2009

Actor Patrick Stewart, A Child of Domestic Violence

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Actor Patrick Stewart, Captain Jean-Luc Picard himself, of "Star Trek" fame, recently published a very moving article in The Guardian describing how he was a child of domestic violence.  Stewart has been speaking out against domestic violence for several years, but I didn't know this about him until I saw a tweet about the article by Stewart's former co-star in "Star Trek: The Next Generation," Wil Wheaton (@wilw).

We like to think of our TV and movie heroes, especially if they're male, as strong and invincible.  We like to think of the actors who portray those characters in the same way.  Except most of them aren't.  They're just human beings like the rest of us with strengths and weaknesses and hidden hurts that we can only imagine.

Captain Jean-Luc Picard was always in strong, capable control.  Except of course when the Borg forced him to become their leader--but every other time, in strong, capable control.

But fictional characters are rarely as fascinating as the real thing and Stewart's article, without being explicit gives a complete picture of a child trapped in a world of fear, as his father took out his frustrations on his mother:

As a child I witnessed his repeated violence against my mother, and the terror and misery he caused was such that, if I felt I could have succeeded, I would have killed him. If my mother had attempted it, I would have held him down. For those who struggle to comprehend these feelings in a child, imagine living in an environment of emotional unpredictability, danger and humiliation week after week, year after year, from the age of seven.

Stewart also writes about his isolation:

No one came to help. No adult stepped in and took charge. I needed someone else to take over and tell me everything was going to be all right and that it wasn't my fault. I wanted the anger to go away and, while it stayed, I felt responsible. The sense of guilt and loneliness provoked by domestic violence is tainting – and lasting.

Stewart then goes on to describe how the legacy of that violence affects him to this day.  Be sure to read the entire article, it's worth it. 

Here's a video Stewart made about domestic violence in 2007 for Amnesty International.


Why did Patrick Stewart's article touch me so deeply?  Number one, because it was written by a man.  Men aren't supposed to talk about being frightened and helpless, even as children.  So Stewart sets a good example for other men to follow.

The other reason is because I was one of those frightened kids.  On the heels of seeing the movie "Precious," Stewart's article touched a raw nerve.  My situation wasn't as violent as Stewart's and didn't last as long, but the feelings of fear, anger and isolation were exactly the same.

Having to face kids in school the day after the police were called to your house by neighbors.  Fearing going to sleep.  Learning to gauge the temper of any situation so that you could be prepared for what was to come.  Being awakened in the middle of the night by violent crashes and screaming voices.  Feeling that your anger will consume you if you ever dare give voice to it.

All of us have heard many, in fact too many, stories of what domestic violence is like for women.  But we don't often hear about what domestic violence does to a child.

Patrick Stewart giving voice to that is a valuable public service.  And I'm not the only one who thinks that.

Lady Sharon wrote at Knights of the Pain Table:

So many suffer in silence over and over in their own homes.  The saddest part is the shame that intensifies the pain.  We pray that those who are being abused find the strength to find help, so that the children do not have to suffer anymore.

Amen to that.

Related Links:

Brown Sugar on Domestic Violence and African American Women.

Emily at the Feminist Looking Glass, CA Domestic Violence Shelters Forced to Close After Funding is Cut.

BlogHer writers have written extensively on domestic violence.  

BlogHer CE Suzanne Reisman just posted yesterday about the Hit the Bitch campaign in Denmark. 

Kim Pearson wrote a health care related post called, "Domestice Violence is a Pre-existing Condition?  Really?"

Laurie Writes did an interview with Maggie Dammit of Violence UnSilenced. 

A post by Nordette Adams from two years ago about domestic violence gives a list of warning signs that are still relevant today.

Cross Posted from BlogHer

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