by Leslie Morgan Steiner
Unless you’ve been in a tree house for the past two weeks, you know that uber-golfer and sports idol Tiger Woods has confessed to cheating on his beautiful blond Swedish wife regularly throughout their five year marriage, during which time his wife gave birth to their two young children. The infidelity seems to have occurred with an indeterminate number of Manhattan, Los Angeles and Las Vegas cocktail hostesses and event planners Tiger met during his frequent golf and promotion-related travel, including times that wife Elin Nordegren was pregnant and about to give birth. Over Thanksgiving weekend – never a good time for family confrontations, it seems – Tiger and his wife got into an emotional fight which resulted in Tiger leaving his Florida home at 2:30 am barefoot and bruised, pursued by his wife, who carried a golf club and broke the back window of Tiger’s black Cadillac Escalade.
Perhaps predictably, late night comedians and email jokesters have had a field day with the permutations of exactly what Elin Nordegren was doing with the golf club. Now, no one ever deserves to be physically attacked by a loved one, no matter the provocation. Whether you’re pursued with a golf club, a gun or someone’s fists, violence is unacceptable. And it’s certainly true that men can be victims of domestic violence. In fact, roughly 15% of reported victims are male.
However, an isolated incident of rage such as Elin Nordegren apparently experienced does NOT constitute domestic violence. One transgression cannot compare to years of systematic degradation, humiliation, emotional manipulation and physical abuse. It's unfair to the millions of victims (men and women) to describe what happened between the couple as domestic violence.
This domestic battery accusation, whether a joke or serious, seems to me to be a cover for the real sin here, one that millions have experienced: male infidelity and society's judgment (or lack of judgment) towards men who commit it, plus what society considers acceptable reactions by a wife.
Society preaches spousal forgiveness in situations like this. Especially when the perpetrator is male, wealthy, and admired by the community. He’s only human, he’s a good provider, what do you expect of a man exposed to such unlimited temptation? The message to the betrayed wife: practice absolution and move on for the family’s sake. An eerily similar message used to be handed to victims of domestic violence: He was angry, he’s a good person at heart, take pity on him, give him another chance.
I have a different message to deliver.
Infidelity -- especially repeat incidents when the victim is pregnant and recovering from childbirth -- IS a form of abuse. When I was pregnant, I needed my husband’s fidelity more than anyone could have ever imagined or I could have put into words. I don't condone Elin Nordegren’s alleged attack on Tiger or destruction of his car, but I have tremendous sympathy for her emotional, furious reaction to having been lied to and betrayed by her husband. I suspect a lot of women share my empathy for how angry she must have been and must still be.