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Just a Look: The Threat and Persona of Assault and Violence

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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This post is part of a collaborative narrative series composed of my writing and Chris Arnade’s photos exploring issues of addiction, poverty, prostitution and urban anthropology in Hunts Point, Bronx. For more on the series, look here.

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OBJECTIVES: This study estimated the frequency and correlates of intimate partner violence by type (physical, sexual, battering, or emotional abuse) among women seeking primary health care.

METHODS: Women aged 18 to 65 years who attended family practice clinics in 1997 and 1998 took part. Participation included a brief in-clinic survey assessing intimate partner violence. Multiple polytomous logistic regression was used to assess correlates of partner violence by type.

RESULTS: Of 1401 eligible women surveyed, 772 (55.1%) had experienced some type of intimate partner violence in a current, most recent, or past intimate relationship with a male partner; 20.2% were currently experiencing intimate partner violence. Among those who had experienced partner violence in any relationship, 77.3% experienced physical or sexual violence, and 22.7% experienced nonphysical abuse. Alcohol and/or drug abuse by the male partner was the strongest correlate of violence.

CONCLUSIONS: Partner substance abuse and intimate partner violence in the woman’s family of origin were strong risk factors for experiencing violence. Efforts to universally screen for partner violence and to effectively intervene to reduce the impact of such violence on women’s lives must be a public health priority.¹


Jen and Chino, Hunts Point. Courtesy of Chris Arnade.

Chino, Jen’s boyfriend, stands around the neighborhood, on the sidewalk or in the doorway of the liquor store.

When he’s out of jail, he deals coke and pills and stares at women. His eyes focus on their bodies, with a gaze that is cannibalistic or parasitic or without soul or any amount of adjectives with malicious intent enough to fulfill how he looks at you. He does it in a way that is violating. It feels masochistic to allow him to keep looking at you.

There is a single tree for shade on Chino’s sidewalk stroll. Jen sits under its small, leafed canopy with talk of the heat and of work. She works the streets when she needs to. While under the tree, Chino remarks at women passing by. He wonders if the stranger’s cunt is as tight as her ass.

Jen has bruises that are old yellow and fresh blue. Some are hidden and some find the hairline of her ponytail.

He used to be a boxer.

Indoors with the man is worse. You become aware of the walls, of room dimensions, of how he stares, stares, stares at you. You watch his movements.

Women around, women with addictions who seek a safe space to avoid police, get high, lie down, pass out. Alone with him.

Often, he sells them the drugs.

He hops from apartment to apartment, from room to room. Places someone lets him stay as long as he gives them a cut, places where so many people drift in and out that he becomes unnoticed.

When Jen leaves to rehab, Chino loses interest until she is allowed a weekend night away, when he can keep her in bedroom for hours and have sex with her. If she can make him money, he doesn’t mind keeping her around. Money and a fuck isn’t bad.

In his dealing, he pushes her coke and pills, pills orchestrating Jen’s return to the hospital. She can’t hold her shit. She’s naive.

He loses track of where she is — hospital, rehab — how long she’s been there, why she’s there. Things worth a shrug.

But he remains there on the street with eyes for you, with eyes on you, because you look good, baby.

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More Hunts Point Addiction Writing
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Cassie Rodenberg About the Author: I write on culture, poverty, addiction, and mental illness: I explore things we like to ignore. I also teach public school in New York City's South Bronx. Follow on Twitter @cassierodenberg.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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