Today, I seriously wanted to hit a woman.
I was walking toward the Independence Center, a clubhouse run by persons with severe mental illness, to meet with the adjunct instructor for whom I am a teaching assistant this semester. The Center happens to be located next door to Planned Parenthood’s headquarters in St. Louis. This is where, twice a month, anti-choice protesters gather in advance of a doctor’s arrival, seeking to harass and intimidate women who exercise their (shrinking) constitutional right to surgically terminate a pregnancy.
As a social worker, I would frequently get asked by people outside the human services field (and sometimes those within it) whether working with survivors of intimate partner violence was “depressing” or “sad”. (When I worked at a community mental health center in Michigan, I was frequently asked whether working with people with mental illness was “dangerous” or “scary”.) This question doesn’t usually bother me coming from people whose day job involves something so totally outside the realm of my own experience and interests that it seems genuinely curious. For instance, I often wonder how people who design websites can sit behind a computer for hours on end, every single day, typing and cutting and pasting little pieces of code into little windows. I’m further impressed by people who work in offices, sell real estate, or find fulfillment as a restaurant chef. The fascination is there because, well, the idea that your day job involves low pay and long hours with people who have been brutalized (and who can often be fairly brutal themselves) doesn’t compute for many people who went to school for marketing.*