Domestic Violence: A New System to Repair the Pain

The Ray Rice video has put a renewed spotlight on domestic violence. The Department of Justice reports:

  • Every 9 seconds in the US a woman is assaulted or beaten.
  • Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women, more than car accidents, muggings, and rapes combined.
  • Everyday in the US, more than three women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends

Everyday somewhere in America, newspapers report on men hitting women. Courageous women tell their horror stories of abuse routinely in open court, as witnesses testify to the terror that occurred. Yet the legal system in this country seems to follow the adage, “Boys will be boys.” Many other professions are equally dismissive. A doctor sews up her stitches, but rarely offers up support. Attorneys give a range of options, but their high fees only send women back into the tormentor arms. These professionals didn’t go to school for this.

We need a system for repairing the pain that encourages ‘little boys’ to be angry at the female gender. A small boy may have had one negative female in his young life, but that can easily become generalized to the whole female population. His antagonistic influences trigger him to behave destructively as an adult. He may develop a negative outlook towards himself. As time goes by, he may come to think to himself “I am the victim of women, and I am entitled to get revenge, to victimize them as they victimized me. That’s fair.” He may only have scorn for a woman who is “weak” enough to love him. This mindset can be replaced with healthier, constructive perspectives if it is identified early on.

Self respecting people have a secret quality that disrespectful people do not have. This key quality is the power of choice. They can choose to hit their wife in the face or not. They choose not to because such a choice would be inconsistent with the type of husband they wish to be. They use their adult judgment to make more civilized choices, even in the heat of anger. They are also in control and making the choice, the choice is not making itself. They are not responding mindlessly to negative stimuli like a laboratory rat. These aspects of self respect enable men to solve life problems constructively instead of destructively. They never have to tell the reporters, “I hurt her because I loved her.”

As adults, as parents, as teachers, and rolemodels, we can do more than just tell a fourth grader to, “ignore it,” or, “don’t take it personally.” Young boys don’t know how not to. For example, lets say a little girl named Tanya says to her classmate Terrance, “You’re stupid,” the adult can choose to remind him that 1) It’s only nonsense and it’s not to be taken seriously, and 2) he is a lovable, worthwhile person no matter what anyone else says. If this girl says, “You’re a loser”, an adult can remind him, 1) “It’s only her opinion” and 2) “you are not responsible for correcting her mistakes.”

This approach will give young men some insight into what is going on. It will take the power to provoke away from the antagonizers and be less painful for the targets of their outbursts. It’s a power they shouldn’t have anyway. It will spare them the pain of a) feeling like a failure, b) confirming their own insecure feelings of inferiority and inadequacy, and c) anger at themselves for being such a wimp.

On the basis of this insight, the little boy won’t have to save face by defending his honor in front of his peers. He has some new choices open to him. He can choose to do the unexpected by: a) He can walk away as if nothing happened because nothing did it, was only antagonism. b) He can say, “I don’t know what to tell you.” c) He can say, “You got a real problem there.” These are examples of how to disengage from someone’s antagonism by doing the unexpected and using our sense of humor. That isn’t admitting anything, or “giving them the satisfaction.” It is disarming. It takes the sting out of it. If the child expects us to defend our innocence or our integrity, we can be a role model by choosing to do what he doesn’t expect instead: “It’s awful when that happens, isn’t it?” He is not our adversary, we are on his side. Having done so, we can go on to demonstrate how interpersonal problems can be resolved by securing positive cooperation in an atmosphere of mutual respect. If we say it with the right tone, we will see his jaw drop. That is a sign of success.

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Shared by: Aaron Karmin, LCPC, Contributing Blogger

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