The Hits Just Keep on Coming

Men are still beating women, and rock music is still trying to change the world

Elvis Costello sang about it. Not that he's any expert. But hearing the sloppy guitar tangle, the talkin'-to-God vocal intro, the drum blast, and those words spilled out, a mental image grows: "There's a girl in this address/There's always a girl in distress/She's just a shabby doll...she's just a shabby doll."

Here's another image: She's at a pay phone near a sleazebag motel. She had 30 bucks to hide herself, anonymous, safe there. And now she's reaching out. She puts the phone to her ear, but it hurts to press it against the pulsing bruise that is the left side of her face, still trickling blood from the corner of her eye. (Her husband has a killer right hook.) Teary mascara tiger-stripes her cheeks and she's not making sense and maybe not hooking up with what she needs. And what she needs right now is help, because her last $30 is now gone.

She has no idea what she'll do or where she'll go tomorrow, after check-out time. She calls all the right places, but the handful of havens for abused women typically turns away one-third of those in need. If all the lines at the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence are busy, callers get a recording that begins, "If this is an emergency, dial 911...," as if they might actually do that.

At the battered-women's component of the Salvation Army, called the Women's Lodge, there are 30 beds for women (and in some cases their children) chased from their own homes by violence. The shelter's Darlene Arroyo is quick to point out that those are double beds: "We can hold 60. And yes, we're usually at capacity."

The Salvation Army provides 24-hour sheltering, medical services, classes, and day care so the mothers can seek jobs and a new place to live. "Some of these women come with nothing," says Arroyo. "So we give them donated clothing. We get some United Way funding and FEMA, but we're always in need of money. The day care is important; it's rare that a shelter provides that, so the mother can work." (According to a 1989 study in New York City, one-third of sheltered women returned to their abusers because they could not find long-term housing otherwise. And Legal Reform Efforts for Battered Women reported in 1990 that half of the homeless women and children in America were fleeing domestic violence.)

Of course there is the obvious, the place where the trickle of blood can be stanched and stitched: the hospital. Allyson Kapin's mother works at a hospital and deals directly with the human remnants of shattered partnerships. Kapin is nineteen, a journalism/art history student at the University of Miami. "My mom is a social worker," she says, "and she deals with a lot of abuse cases. I hear about it every day and it really upsets me."

Six months ago Kapin began organizing a benefit concert to raise money and awareness for organizations that help beaten women. A major corporation tossed in some money A thousands of dollars, sources say, but Kapin refuses to give an exact figure A and national bands 7 Year Bitch and Babes in Toyland responded by saying, "Tell us the flight number and what time to be on stage."

But finding a venue was a problem, and things grew complicated. The show will take place at the Cameo Theatre on Miami Beach between 7:00 and 10:00 p.m. Friday because the room will be otherwise occupied after that. Such a tight schedule forced Kapin to drop one of the five bands scheduled A Demonomacy, the thrashing all-female trio from South Miami. "We feel slightly betrayed," two of the members say, speaking on a conference call. "We worked really hard for this show. All our equipment was stolen in a break-in, so we had to scramble to get our act together. Then we went to Y&T one day and saw the flyer for the show. Our name wasn't on it." Even so, the Demons plan to attend the event: "It's for the cause."

It wouldn't be surprising if you know a shabby doll. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, citing federal government and other reports, says that every year four million women are battered so badly by their mates, their "lovers," they require medical attention. Every fifteen seconds a woman is beaten somewhere in this nation, and only God knows how many slapping-arounds go unreported. For nearly 4000 women each year the abuse ends in death. The coalition's advertisement for their 1-900-786-7228 hotline (the ten-dollar charge funds the private, nonprofit organization) features this headline: "He beat her 150 times. She only got flowers once." Beneath the headline is a photograph of the flowers A on her grave.

"It's not black-and-white, not an either/or thing," says Valerie Agnew, drummer for the tough-rock Seattle band 7 Year Bitch, which will travel to Miami this week solely to play at the benefit concert. "Sometimes there are financial reasons and drug addiction and mental illness. But women have to take some responsibility. Get your shit together, figure out what you want, and take control of your life. Sure, women are part of it. It takes two. I'm not saying men can be absolved. But some women are afraid to leave the man because the change might be to something even worse. Sometimes children are involved. Plus there's that thought the man will come and find them and kill them."

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