A Look At War Machine’s Suicide Note And The Mental Health Of Abusers

War Machine, or Jonathon Koppenhaver — the MMA fighter who beat his ex-girlfriend/model/porn star Christy Mack within inches of her life in August this year — tried to commit suicide by hanging in his jail cell last week. TMZ obtained a copy of the suicide note he left, and MMANews transcribed it (h/t Gawker for the links).

In the note, Koppenhaver claims that “society has killed men.” Robyn Pennacchia at Death and Taxes points out that what constitutes “men,” to Koppenhaver, is rapists: He claimed on Twitter that he raped Mack, and that “Real men rape.” The feminist bitch inside me is itching to say this, so I’ll just give it air: Men’s Rights Activists or Red Pill-ers, I would never claim that “real” men rape, or that all men are rapists, or that any sexual act with a man is by default rape, or that all men want to rape, or that all men should rape. No, that’s one of your own making that claim. If you want to hate feminists because you perceive us as stereotyping men as rapists, go ahead and hate yourselves, too.

All right, now it’s out of my system. Personally, I can’t get behind Pennacchia’s enthusiasm, or, I don’t know, lack of caring for his suicide attempt. I’m never going to call suicide cowardly. I think it’s sick that he thinks there’s nothing wrong with beating someone bloody because you don’t like them or what they’re doing, and I think it’s sick that he endorses rape in a way that seems to be unironic, and I think it’s stupid that he truly believes that holding men accountable for their violence against women counts as “oppressing” men. I think Koppenhaver’s ideology is cowardly and pathetic, but I don’t think it’s truly frustration with a world that “oppresses” men that drove him to suicide, or wanting to cop out of the charges against him that he believes are wrong (even though they are factual, legally viable charges).

Because, I don’t know, I’ve tried to commit suicide a handful of times in my life, and the place that you have to get to emotionally to feel like suicide is a viable option — the feelings of desperation, worthlessness, uselessness — I’m just not going to celebrate that, even if it is a horrible, violent, misogynist criminal who advocates for rape. I don’t want Jonathon Koppenhaver to die. I want War Machine, the character, the misogynist, to die. The guy has probably taken a lot of head injuries in the course of his work, and there’s distinct links between head injuries and trouble managing anger and depression. Pair that with working in a culture that is pretty through-and-through misogynist and see if you get any other outcome. Koppenhaver’s suicide isn’t going to eradicate sexism, misogyny, and abuse in MMA, or in the NFL, for that matter. Koppenhaver needs more than imprisonment. He needs treatment. He’s not going to get it in prison, which isn’t to say that he shouldn’t go to jail, it’s to say that if we’re going to treat him like a real human being, it’s not going to do society any good to just stick him away somewhere and hope the problem disappears.

But I still feel conflicted, because I want to grant him the basic respect for life that I think everyone deserves, but I hate him. It’s lines in the note like these:

“I’m a good person with a huge heart and everyone who knows me knows that, especially Christy. I don’t know what has happened to her but I’m not gonna watch the woman I love go on the stand and tell painful lies about me.”

“To Christy, my one: I truly love you and planned on being with you forever. I know that I had many flaws and wasn’t the best BF at times.”

“Finding what I found that night was devastating to me. More than you will ever know. Not just the unfaithfulness, but the way U cared for him and protected him.”

“Maybe you still loved me enough to end that fling and re-commit to me… I’ll never know. I forgive you, please forgive me, I love you.”

It’s the places where he addresses Mack that you see the total lack of perspective: That night was devastating to him? He doesn’t know what happened to her? He “wasn’t the best BF”? He forgives her?

I can’t help but turn back to e-mails my ex sent to me over the course of our relationship, wrought with self-pity and entitlement, completely lacking in empathy, prescriptive of who I was supposed to be. “I love you more than ever” came out plenty even after I sent him the divorce papers and hadn’t spoken to him in months. There was one night when I was trying to negotiate with him over the phone that he started getting riled up and talked about “The vows we took before god,” and when I told him I’m an atheist he short-circuited and started screaming into the receiver. He wrote me psychotic, pages-long letters and sent them to me in boxes of odds and ends I’d left at our apartment — mostly reminders of our relationship that I didn’t want and had thought he’d just throw out. He talked about how yes, he might have hurt me, but I hurt him too, and he forgave me.

There’s the e-mail exchange from the day I decided I wanted a divorce: The backstory is long, but the gist is that he had acted rudely toward me and I asked him not to contact me for a few days so I could think about things. He proceeded to e-mail, text, call at work, call at my mom’s house, call my cell phone, obsessively, over and over. I couldn’t get a break. He told me he needed to “know what’s going on” — he could not be out of the know for even 48 hours while I went to work and went to school and lived my life and thought about my dead marriage and what I was going to do about it — and that he could come by my mom’s house. “DO NOT come by the house,” I told him. His response: “this is a serious breach of trust, love and confidence. i am going to leave you alone now. i deserve better than this.”

It was this exchange that crystallized everything for me: He was stalking and harassing me. He was being possessive of me and my time and the minute details of my life, as if everything I did, every thought I had, needed to pass his approval. He had been doing it for seven years, and viewed it as a personal attack if I asserted myself as an autonomous human being. War Machine went uninvited into Christy Mack’s home, found her asserting herself as an autonomous human being by hanging out with a man other than him, and decided to beat her almost to death because he viewed her ability to make choices independent of his approval as her depriving him of something that was his to control.

I don’t think my ex is any better of a person today than he was two years ago. The last time I saw him was when we got divorced in January, and he still pulled dramatics and told me how he had a girlfriend but he really loved me and was never going to get over me. He said that I should remember who I am, who I really am — in his mind, the person he forced me to be in order to appease him enough that he wouldn’t hurt me.

I don’t know if he’s changed, and I don’t know if he ever will. It’s only his lack of physical strength that kept him from really doing serious damage to my bodily person. So while I want to believe that a man like Jonathon Koppenhaver could be treated medically and psychologically to help him cope with his anger and figure out his anti-social attitudes about women and masculinity and aggression, it’s hard to put any real stock into that belief, from a victim’s point of view.




[Death and Taxes]





[NY Times]

[Image via Twitter]

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