THE WAY THINGS ARE
By Colette NiReamonn Ioannidou
The above is a phrase at times said but not meant by people stressed by behaviour that has irritated them beyond patience. I’m not a violent person, but I say it occasionally to my stubborn old female canine, when she single-mindedly chases a whiff of attractive male, pulling my old bones sharply in a direction I don’t want to go. Or my sweet-looking cat – Satan’s spawn in disguise – who insists on dashing unobserved between my feet, seemingly hell bent on making me crack my head on the patio slabs.
Yet in real life there are people who say that and mean it: the jealous lover, the abusive spouse, father or brother, the man who believes a female member of the family has dishonoured his name. The parent of an abused child, or one viciously tortured before being killed as emotions overflow when the murderer, arrested and charged, shows no remorse and smiles as though reliving the pleasure that performing the criminal act gave him.
So often on our screens we watch staged, depicted violence, and at times are guilty of finding self-righteous glee in cheering on the hero who gives the bad guy a really horrible end. Served him right! We know it’s only acting. There is a big difference, however, between watching staged blood-letting and two men in real life who have reached a point in a quarrel that brings them to use physical force with their fists, or a make-do weapon such as a broken bottle or a length of wood or metal when passions run high and unpremeditated death may ensue.
Perhaps no one is the good guy when you are observing two males beating each other up. You can hear the resulting crack of bone on bone and see flesh tearing and blood seeping, hear the grunts of exertion or pain, smell the fear in the sweat pouring off their rigid frames. Film can allow a body to take a good deal of extended punishment and recover quickly from it, which in normal life is unrealistic. Psychos kill and feel no sorrow or compassion, they are incapable of it.
Then there is the other sort of kill, the one that destroys the security of thinking nothing bad will happen to you until it does, and leaves its shadow hovering behind you for a long time. Like the young mugger who came at me in London with a wicked knife to my throat and had me looking over my shoulder on a dark street, even in safe Cyprus, until the memory lost its potency. Or the violent response of my upstairs neighbour in London to whom we had shown nothing but kindness, when my husband who was studying for final exams asked her politely if she could lower the volume of her record player, the noise of which pounded through every room in our flat. Furious at this infringement of her rights, she waited till he went out, came down and, in front of my terrified small son, wrecked the kitchen and our evening meal as she laid into me, leaving my face the colours of the rainbow. I didn’t defend myself; I had my reasons. When the police came the perpetrator was obvious. Her beautiful little girl often bore the brunt of her explosive temper and she paid no heed to my attempts to stop her leaving the imprint of her fingers on the child’s tender cheek. I told the police of her violence towards the girl; I hope they took action. We left London shortly afterwards so how the girl and her tiny brother fared, who can guess.
Physical abuse of a child is one of the worst crimes. One girl I know of had a narrow escape from a paedophile. She had been warned of the usual modus operandi used: tempting with sweets, being lured into a car by a driver asking directions. Her attacker was smarter. He approached her carrying boxes saying he couldn’t open the door to a building where he had a delivery. The next step was, as his hands were full, could she get into the lift and press the floor button. He then dropped the boxes and took her on the roof to the space used to repair the lifts. He threw her down and was about to rape her when someone started up in the lift. He fled, warning her to stay until he called her to come down. What followed was traumatic for the family with a child terrified to be left alone. The girl gave two sympathetic policemen a description and, after several men were interviewed, a procedure the frightened child had to attend, the criminal was found: he perfectly matched the description and was known to the officer as a married man with a family. The mother didn’t press charges telling the officer she would not publicly hurt the paedophile’s family; it was his duty to make sure that man never harmed another child. She also wanted to spare her daughter a court hearing. I asked what would she have done if the girl had been raped. ‘I’d have picked up something heavy to hand and knocked his bloody head in.’