There now exists a new publication titled "victimology." The victim industry has grown large enough to require a trade publication and, in America, where there is a well-heeled need, there is an enterprising vendor to fulfill it.
According to Ann Blackman of the Associated Press, who gets credit for alerting the world to the birth of victimology, a new class of victims has been identified. To social workers, head shrinkers, counselors and social and psychological researchers, the discovery of a new category of victims is as important as the sighting of a new star to astronomers or the finding of a new particle to high-energy physicists. It is an occasion for congratulations, applause and remuneration.
The new victim is the battered husband. Husband beating takes the place of child beating as being "the most under-reported crime in the nation today." It is generally a good idea, when announcing the finding of a new and very large group of victims, to declare at the same time that the crime that oppresses them is seldom or never reported to the police. This explains why no one else but the intrepid social scientists know about these shocking and alarming facts; it also allows covens of quickly hatched experts to define the problem as one of gargantuan dimensions without fear of contradiction.
Thus, for instance, an estimated 12 million men are physically abused by their wives at some point during their marriages. Assuming that there are only 110 million males in the country, and presuming that close to half of these are too young, too old, too crazy, too sensible, too sick or having too good a time to be married, we can suppose there are only about 60 million males living in wedlock. The idea that 12 million or 20 percent of them have been physically abused by their wives is pre-posterous. But you can get away with asserting it if you also insist the crime goes virtually unreported.
Perish thought that the crime goes virtually unreported because it goes virtually uncommitted. Last year incest was "the most under-reported crime in the nation today." It still may be the most unreported but after months of pummeling by the victimology industry it is no longer the least talked about. Until 1976, most Americans thought it was a practice limited to hillbillies and Oedipus, Electra and certain other kinky figures of Greek antiquity. Now we are informed the family life of seven out of 10 American suburban homes reads like it was scripted by Euripides.
The official announcement of the promulgation of a new victim group is the occasion for a great deal of activity. The new experts, the only ones who may discuss the subject with authority, spread out across the country hitting every television talk show and every call-in radio program. This is called educating the public and alerting government officials to a problem of this sickening magnitude.
Soon the talk shifts to what is delicately called "the need for greater resources" and the necessity for "funding." Words like money, taxes, tax rates and taxpayer are never used in discussing "how we as a society are going to respond to this gnawing need," which in this case are the 12 million shamed, beaten and intimidated husbands hiding in their dens wondering about the integrity of their personhoods.
All victim groups get the same treatment. First the TV talk shows, then seminars, then task forces, after which comes 24-hour-a-day hotline centers, coordination, referral agencies, legal aid and offices manned by representatives of other professions in critical oversupply. To legitimize the victim group, the Advertising Council floods the airwaves with 60-second commercials telling us about this new social problem and inviting us to "find out what you can do" by writing for a free pamphlet to HUBBY, Box 1978, Washington, D. C.
Then it's a question of mounting the annual public relations campaign just before budget time. The theme is the same every year: We're making progress but the problem is large and complex. And since the problem was invisible, who's to argue if the progress on solving it is equally so?
Younger people need not fear that with the discovery of the blattered husband, the great bull market in new victim groups has topped out. Remember, every victim is a potential victimizer and every victimizer is a potential victim. Battered husbands open up the possibility of battered parents and what about battered pet owners? There is nothing more pathetic than to see a man abused by his goldfish.