The overarching message, when a man assaults a woman in this way (again, the most common gender dynamic, according to numerous studies), is deeply patriarchal and misogynistic. He has shown her what he is prepared to do to enforce his will if she defies him — this being, in effect, the most basic form of patriarchal governance.
“I am the law,” Mr. Schneiderman was quoted as saying by one of his accusers, Michelle Manning Barish, as he yanked her across the street (to demonstrate he could jaywalk with impunity, ostensibly). The picture this paints is of a man who does not view himself as subject to the law, but as tasked solely with its creation and enforcement — or, as the case may be, pre-emptive over-policing to establish his authority. On both the right and the left in politics, and extending far beyond that, we find some such men who purport to be proponents of law and order. And so they are, in a way, but it is patriarchal (and also, in some cases, white supremacist) law and order, where he rules and others obey, submit and follow.
No wonder it is so difficult to persuade a victim of strangulation to testify against her abuser. Such testimony would directly challenge his social standing and moral reputation. And the very act of strangulation forbids her to oppose him, in this respect and others. She draws breath at his mercy, and thwarts his will at her peril. If she tries to bring him to justice, or end the relationship, he has shown himself willing to do what it takes to keep her quiet, and enforce her loyalty.
“I cannot fathom that someone who drafted the legislation on strangulation is unfamiliar with such concepts,” Jennifer Friedman, an expert on intimate-partner violence, said of Mr. Schneiderman in The New Yorker. How could he be ignorant of what strangulation does to the human body, and what it communicates to the victim?
Many will take this question as a puzzle, not a rhetorical lament. So perhaps this is an apt moment to point out a dark but important truth about intimate-partner violence: Some abusers are perfectly well aware of what they are doing, at least at a certain level. And that is why they keep doing it. They want to maintain dominance and exercise control over their female partners, among others. And that is why an abuser may resort to