To the Editor:
I read Jean West's column "First Person: Love Hurts" [March 17] with mixed feelings of respect, frustration, and sadness. I deeply respect Ms. West's struggle to come to terms with the best way to deal with her boyfriend-abused friend. I understand from my own experience how delicate and difficult it can be to confront a friend stuck in such a situation. Of course, alienating your friend by confronting her does not feel like helping. At the same time, I know how it feels to be on the other side, and I am deeply grateful to my brave friends who told me that being hit or slapped is NOT ACCEPTABLE in any way. Repeatedly hearing those words from another woman helped me clarify the offender's behavior.
My frustration with the column came with West's dilemma regarding her social relations with her friend's boyfriend and her concern that "I cannot publicly humiliate her." Again, it is not West specifically that disturbs me, but our collective attitude that rationalizes such thinking. If the boyfriend was guilty of beating an unknown, innocent victim, would his behavior go by unmentioned? Will it not be publicly humiliating for West's friend the day she ends up in an emergency room and has to create some explanation to the doctors? I imagine it would be publicly humiliating to West if her friend ends up dead.
I am sad that it is 1995 and numbers of women from all classes, races, and ethnic backgrounds are still at peril in their own homes. Yes, domestic violence is an unpleasant and socially upsetting conversation topic. But sweeping it under the rug allows women to be broken and die.
Gabrielle S. Kaplan