Aug. 6th, 2011

lazy_hoor: (Drunk Victorian Brummie)
VIRAGOS, and the WIFE-BEATING ACT.

A " shrewish-looking woman," and  "a strong good-tempered looking man" appeared at the Thames Police-court on Thursday, before Mr. Yardley, in a matter which proves, what we have long suspected, that the Act for punishing wife-beating is occasionally perverted, and made use of by viragos as a means for wreaking vengeance upon their husbands. The husbands who give their wives a sound thrashing are not invariably such brutes as are supposed; and sometimes they are more deserving of sympathy than the wife. A man may be provoked and aggravated by a worthless, drunken woman, to a pitch which leads him to inflict personal chastisement upon her, and then, she turns round upon him and invokes the penalties of the Act in the certainty that her mischievous and revengeful object will be gained by the man's committal to prison. Sho is then for a time her own mistress, converts the household furniture into gin, and while the husband is expiating his offence in gaol, she is leading uncontrolled a life of disgusting profligacy and dissipation.

In the case in question, the woman, after spitting in, her husband's face, struck him, and gave him a black eye, saying at the same time.-—"I'll make you hit me, and then I'll give you six months of it." The woman pointed to her own blackened eye, which she accused her husband of having produced, saying that " it was not the first by many." But fortunately he was enabled to refer to one of the officers of the court, who confirmed the statement that she had got it in fighting with another woman. But for this fortunate turn in the evidence, the man might have been punished instead of the woman. He said:—"I avoided striking her, Sir, as I knew what the consequences would be. I lead a dreadful life through the violence of her temper." No doubt of it; and if he had administered a little wholesome correction to the tigress, the public would probably have applauded the sentence which deprived him of his liberty for a few months, taking but little account of the provocation he had endured. Mr. Yardley, who, as a magistrate, is better able to appreciatethe hardships of such a case, said:—" This is one of the many instances which, I am sorry to say, are too numerous, in which women avail themselves of the provisions of the new law to irritate their husbands, by which the law is converted into a means of encouraging women in misbehaviour; and I wish there was some other enactment to counteract that tendency."

The woman was fined £5, and, in default of payment, was committed for two months. At the same time, the Act of last session seems scarcely to have abated the abomination of brutal acts of wife-beating; and there seems little hope of its having this effect, as the offence is usually committed in moments when the husband is excited by drink, and perfectly reckless of consequences. It may be that, when the sentence has expired, a different course is pursued, and the enforced forbearance may produce more domestic harmony. At all events, cases brought up for a repetition of the offence do not seem to occur. It would be interesting to learn the precise influence of the penal effects of the law.

-Editorial in The Era, June 11 1854

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