In case you missed it, there was a recent story about a TSA agent who snapped and assaulted a coworker after being humiliated for a year over the alleged size of his manhood. As part of routine training this agent passed through the new millimeter wave body scanner while his coworkers saw his genitals in sufficient detail on their monitor to form opinions.
The issue reminded me of the bizarre disparity between how physical and emotional assaults are viewed. I think too many have bought into the nonsense of the saying, "Sticks and stones will break your bones but names will never hurt you.
While I am entirely against any sort of physical aggression against another person, I think it's completely wrong to view physical actions as automatically more serious than emotional ones. And because the impact of emotional abuse is often so minimized by society, the people suffering it are often expected to simply tolerate or ignore it, which can lead to explosive physical responses. And I don't think we should blame the victim twice.
Quite frankly, if the story is true as it's reported, I think the humiliated man in this case showed great restraint in tolerating his coworkers jabs for a year. I don't condone this man's demanding an apology from his coworker under threat of a baton beating, nor the beating he gave when he didn't get it, but I understand it. And I think society and the courts should understand it. I think the courts should be able to say to the beaten man, in effect, "You brought this on yourself. We're not getting involved." As I understand it, there is a principle in the law where legal remedies are not available to resolve an illegal transaction; if person A buys illegal drugs from person B, and the drugs turn out to be powdered sugar, the law will not help person A recover his money. I believe a similar view should be taken of this situation. The victimizer is engaging in an illegal harassment of the victim, and thus he shouldn't be able to seek a legal remedy in the courts for the beating he ultimately receives as a direct result. The humiliated man should not have been arrested and should not be prosecuted. Or, perhaps an alternative that seems also fairer than the current one, the courts could prosecute both people, but they must view the emotionally abusive person as the more serious crime (based on the actual "damage" done).
Society and the courts need to recognize that things said are often far more destructive than things done, and that the damage often lasts far longer. We cannot as humans be reasonably expected to respond otherwise. I still cringingly remember awful and unfortunate things said to me when I was a kid, but a few fights with and bruises from school yard bullies? I remember them without any emotional pain at all.
Domestic abuse needs to be viewed in this light as well. Neither physical nor emotional abuse should be tolerated, and both should be considered abuse. The courts seem to feel even the most horrific verbal insult should just be ignored by the intended recipient while any physical contact in response (even literally a slap in the face) is criminal. (At least if what I've seen on TV in news and on Cops is to be believed.) This makes no sense. Acts should be deemed criminal based on the level of damage that act would cause to a reasonable person.