Note from Publisher Mark Lerner: Nancy de la Vierra wrote this remarkable feature in the summer of 1992 for our Welcome to Planet Earth Magazine. Before we met in 1989, she had been married twice and suffered various types of severe abuse in both relationships. With the #MeToo movement now strong and pervasive in 2018, I am re-publishing her stunning insights from 26 years ago—insights that are both a testament to the centuries of degradation suffered by women at the hands of men and prescient about how our society is just beginning to wake up now to this hidden truth about rampant predatory behavior by the male side of the human species.
Seventy-two years ago, on August 26, 1920—after being denied the right to vote for 144 years—the 19th amendment was ratified, giving women the right to cast ballots. At this critical turning point in our past, the Sun, Venus and Saturn were all located in the sign of Virgo. Exactly 15 years later to the day, Geraldine Ferraro, the only woman to run for vice president in one of the major political parties, was born with the Sun, Mercury, Venus and Neptune in Virgo. On January 22nd, 1973, the right of women to choose to have an abortion was confirmed by the Supreme Court in the Roe vs. Wade decision. On that day, the Moon, symbolizing feminine issues on the broadest scale, was passing through the sign of Virgo, thus re-energizing the beginning of women's suffrage in late August 1920 with the Sun in Virgo. In this supposed "Year of the Woman," with large numbers of women running for political office, Geraldine Ferraro has returned to prominence in New York, running for the Senate against a conservative Republican.
Traditionally, Virgo is a receptive sign that represents the perfection of the feminine principle. In remembrance of the events of 72 years ago, I'd like to share some thoughts about an extraordinary book that extrapolates the abuses against women, both tangible and intangible. Susan Faludi, a Pulitzer prize-winning journalist for the Wall Street Journal, took on the Herculean task of documenting and meticulously researching the issue of the subjugation and abuse of women. Reading Backlash: The Undeclared War on American Women was personally illuminating. I was flooded with painful memories.
As a very young (20) and naïve wife, I recall being frightened by my husband's extreme mood swings. He would become violent without provocation—when intoxicated this quality took on nightmarish proportions. After the birth of my daughter, he deeply resented his new responsibilities and things began to further deteriorate. I remember vividly one night in the fall of 1973. My then husband had been "out with the boys," and was high on mescaline (he later confessed). I was awakened by him yelling and pummeling me. He was talking completely out of his head. He beat me so badly, I lost consciousness. The tenant in the adjoining duplex phoned the police, reporting that someone was killing someone "over there." When the police arrived, I was passed out on the lawn. My husband, completely unscathed, was reclining in his chair blowing smoke rings in the air (an activity that held particular amusement for him). When I came to, the police asked me if he (my husband) had done this to me. I had two black eyes, numerous cuts and abrasions, and my face was beginning to take on the dimensions of a basketball. I nodded dumbly, my face beginning to streak with blood and tears. Next they asked him, "Is this true?" He just leaned further back in his chair and responded by saying, "Well, she fell down some stairs and I roughed her up a little bit." First of all, we had no stairs, and why would I need roughing up? I had been sound asleep! The men in the room exchanged some completely irrelevant remarks about the weather, cars and other matters, as if I were invisible. The policemen looked at each other somewhat conspiratorially and stepped outside. A few pregnant moments passed in which my husband indicated if I even considered pressing charges, he'd kill me. The policemen asked me to join them on the porch. They stated that they could see what happened here; if I would file charges, they would arrest him. However, they would not be responsible for the ramifications of his actions when released or any retaliatory behavior on his part. I was in shock and totally bewildered, fearing for the safety of my infant daughter. I did not file charges, but packed up kit and caboodle that very night.
My daughter and I took up residence in a cheap, run-down apartment in one of the poorest sections of town. I had no money and did not wish to participate in the welfare system. With no experience in the field, I felt fortunate to quickly secure a position managing the front desk for three busy surgeons. For the purposes of this article, I will refer to them as Drs. A, F and S. I was a quick study and the doctors expressed pleasure with my competence. I was struggling against the seemingly impossible task of locating and retaining trustworthy daycare for my daughter, but felt this was a good beginning for us. From the start, however, I was disconcerted by the unwelcome advances of Dr. S. He was married and had three young children. At the onset, his comments were of a fairly innocuous nature, but they soon became sexual. His "sleaze" factor was apparently no secret; he was openly having an affair with his assistant. At that time, I did not believe sexual harassment was even an issue or articulated as such. My kind, but firm refusals only buttressed his resolve, and one day he cornered me in the lab room. I was working through my lunch and the office was deserted. Dr. S came towards me, saying that I had to know how attracted he was to me, etc., and shoved me up against the wall. I pushed him away; told him firmly I wasn't interested and to please leave me alone. He walked away, chuckling. I felt trapped and thereafter I avoided him as much as possible. He became surly towards me, finally cornered me coming out of the ladies room. He said he needed to make something clear. His tone was intimidating and stated that if I said anything to the other doctors regarding his behavior, he would tell them I was lying and they would believe him, of course. I told him I had no intention of "telling." He continued to make my work days miserable and my childcare disappeared for the second time. Feeling defeated and overwhelmed, I resigned. Doctors A and F attempted to dissuade me, but I felt they knew of Dr. S's unprofessional behavior and were choosing to ignore it.