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We bear witness

Stop Violence Against Women


Thomas Toolan, Juan Diaz, Greg Easton, and Lorenzo Fain.

I spend altogether too much time reading the Inquirer and Mirror.  I spread out the paper on the kitchen table and take it all in.  I count the classifieds, count the pages in the real estate section and read the article “January is a Great Time to Clean Closets.”  I even do the crossword. 

Thomas Toolan, Juan Diaz, Greg Easton, and Lorenzo Fain.

The Inquirer and Mirror exists in a world that faded fifty years ago off-island.  It encompasses the news on island, although it doesn’t always write about the most interesting stories.  As is true in most other papers, the interesting stories are buried in the classifieds, the real estate sales, and the police calls.

Thomas Toolan, Juan Diaz, Greg Easton, and Lorenzo Fain.

In the last month, these four men appeared in the court report.  All four of them are accused of assaulting women who loved them.  All four of them got dressed up by their lawyers, stood in front of a judge, shook their heads, and were sorry.  I have no doubt that they were. 

Their worlds have exploded in shit.  The problem has stopped being kitchen sized; nobody cares anymore about bills, a late night with the guys, or a little something on the side. Now, the problem has ambulances, doctors, hospitals, lawyers, bail agreements, and restraining orders on the first day.  The problem has blown up the house.  Your photos in the paper, your life is burning, burning, burning and your boss tells the reporter that “You were a good worker.”

Every act of violence is a failure of imagination.  Every act of violence is a cheat.  When the blood clouds your eyes and the pounding echoes in your head, lawyers, ambulances, and consequence fades.  In the moment when the club goes back, the world shrinks to a simple answer.  If only she would stop talking... If only she would get out of my way....If only.... The simple solution floats up in the privacy of the bedroom.

Only saints haven’t thought this.  The rest of us have considered the slap, the spanking, and the shove.  We have looked down into the abyss and the abyss has looked into us.  But the rest of us have taken one step back.  The rest of us have looked up into the cold sky, felt the wind, and walked away.  No solution is simple.

Thomas Toolan, Juan Diaz, Greg Easton, and Lorenzo Fain.

For a moment, they thought it would be okay.  For a moment, they thought that nothing bad would happen.  They would apologize and buy some flowers and it would all work out.  Their problems would be their own and nobody else’s business.

Perhaps that’s true in New York, or Springfield, or Mississippi.  Somewhere out there are hundreds of thousands of people who won’t look twice, who won’t interfere, who will mind their own business.

Nantucketers don’t do that well.  The island gathers at your door and peers in your windows.  We gossip, and we pester, and we ask questions.  We mind your business as you mind ours.  In exchange, we bind you to us; the net brings you to work, to housing, to football games and cold beers and pea soup.  We watch and we judge and we support.  And we bear witness.

We bring the victims into our hearts and our homes.  We soothe, we bandage, we bake.  We wind them into a chrysalis of our love and help the healing for as long as we can. We watch the bruises fade and the scars heal.  We hold them in our safe place.

Thomas Toolan, Juan Diaz, Greg Easton, and Lorenzo Fain.

They attacked our sisters, our daughters, our students, and our friends.  They attacked people we know; from the Boy’s and Girl’s Club, from school, from the Brotherhood, from the gym.  We know these people.  We know them well.

They have left bruises and they have left bodies.  They have produced blood and tears. They have sliced and beat and kicked.  We have seen this.

We see the wounds and we judge.  We turn our backs.   We cut the cord that bound you to us. 

We have born witness.

And we have seen enough.


Bob Barsanti's first novel, Milestone Road, appeared in summer, 2012.  Sand in My Shoes, his book of essays, was published in 2008.


Don't know if you are aware that I did a photo story about local survivors of domestic abuse which resulted in an exhibit last October .

The purpose was to bring awareness of this problem to the community and to help survivors  change their lives.

Susan, I remember hearing about the photo story.  Where was it published?

PS  It is not just women who suffer abuse!!!!

Article was in Inc & M. Exhibit was at South Warf Gallery Studio.

I would like to extend this project!