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Let’s turn the collective outrage over domestic violence into a lasting campaign

REUTERS/Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
For any of the women being abused in this country at any time, it may not matter much if the NFL’s commissioner is forced to resign or if Ray Rice’s career is over.

Like many people, I’ve been thinking a lot about the domestic violence tragedies involving Ray Rice, Greg Hardy and the women in their lives. Not to mention the Vikings’ Adrian Peterson and his disciplinary switch.

Mary Stanik

While doing this thinking, I also thought about how I cannot remember when domestic violence received so much deserved, reasoned attention. And, pleasantly shockingly enough, much of it coming from MEN who are publicly saying it is not a man’s inherent right to physically and/or emotionally abuse women and children.

Then I thought about the mostly female victims of domestic violence. The ones not getting punched out in elevators by their professional football player fiancés. The ones who are not the subject of countless news stories or recipients of mass sympathy and/or criticism.

For instance, there’s the factory worker’s wife who prays until her knees blister that her husband’s team doesn’t lose the game he watched while getting blotto with the grocery money. Because if the team loses, or if his friends told him he throws darts like a girl, or if she cooks the roast beef she got on a big sale and not roast chicken, his fists will once again blur the distinctions between her nose and eyes. And she has no money in the budget he dictates to buy concealing makeup so her co-workers won’t see her husband is still beating her up.

Or perhaps the girlfriend of an investment banker who tells her friends her guy is so incredibly stressed out from his mental job that he does things like slamming her against the wall if she’s wearing Armani instead of Gucci. Her friends’ husbands know he’s openly chasing other women on Facebook and at clubs selling champagne for thousands per bottle. He’s told some of these men he does what he does because the allegedly money-hungry, Armani-clad girlfriend just makes him so damn angry that he cannot help himself. If these women are following the Rice and Hardy stories, I pray they are doing so in ways that might even stump the NSA.

A welcome disapproval

Because as unwelcome as it is to learn about yet more famous, influential men abusing women, it is welcome to learn that lots of people (including many famous, influential people) don’t think this sort of behavior is manly or acceptable. No matter if the perpetrator is a famous football player or a frustrated factory worker.

Which brings us to the question of how this burst of outrage might benefit society. For any of the women being abused in this country at any time (U.S. Department of Justice figures indicate some 665,000 mostly non-celebrity American women were affected by domestic violence in 2012 alone, with about 1,000 of them dying at the hands of such violence during that year), it may not matter much if the NFL’s commissioner is forced to resign or if Ray Rice’s career is over. Unless their husbands or boyfriends care a great deal about the commissioner or Ray Rice.

But what may matter a great deal is if, for example, people were to move beyond temporary outrage and actually do something about domestic violence. For one thing, it might be useful if the careers of abusers who are not professional athletes could be at risk. Maybe Hollywood could embrace domestic violence as a worthy cause, perhaps with black and blue ribbons in the style of those used to demonstrate support for AIDS or breast cancer. We know about how much influence Hollywood can muster when it decides to put its glitter behind a cause. Of course, there is the tiny matter of the films and television shows that glamorize domestic violence. And the stars who have been properly accused of domestic violence.  

NFL: sincere or lame?

All the same, even the dimmest among us know the NFL and other organizations are likely to do something about domestic violence within the current news cycle. It remains to be seen whether the NFL’s actions will be sincere and helpful or will represent the lamest sort of public relations balms meant to mollify the many women who are football fans or are representatives of major sponsors. Although many women and men were massively encouraged when the famous James Brown, host of “The NFL Today” on CBS, made a forceful statement on the matter. “Wouldn’t it be productive,” Brown asked, “if this collective outrage, as my colleagues have said, could be channeled to truly hear and address the long-suffering cries for help by so many women?”

Indeed it would be productive if this rage could be channeled to hear and address the cries for help. Because even as I write, women involved with men famous and ordinary are being beaten in elevators, bedrooms and just about anywhere you can imagine — beyond the help of the best concealing makeup.

But perhaps not beyond the collective help from men and women who care beyond a temporary burst of collective rage.

Mary Stanik, a writer and public-relations professional, lives in Minneapolis. She is the author of the novel “Life Erupted.”


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Comments (2)

  1. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 09/16/2014 - 10:22 am.

    And SOME Men (and Boys) Are Being Beaten By Women

    The problem of abuse is a very serious one. The question is, how do we address that problem?

    The kind of severe punishment: loss of career, loss of status, loss of income, Ms. Stanik proposes does NOTHING to help an abuser change his or her behavior, nor does it, in any way, assist the victims of that abuser who are, far too often, still dependent on that person for parenting, livelihood, etc., and in need of help and healing, themselves.

    In fact, the desire to take revenge on those who have been perpetrators of abuse arises, more often than not, from the dysfunctions programmed into those who have been abused, themselves, by their abusers as a natural side effect of being on the receiving end of that abuse.

    There are better approaches than those which would leave us all “toothless and blind,” or, as the old Chinese proverb advises us, to “dig two graves.”

    The classic scenario which creates an abuser is described by all those who make the claim “I am a better person for the very sever way my mom or dad punished me when I got out of line.” No, you’re not. You’ve been WOUNDED in ways that mean, under circumstances which trigger the behaviors buried in your psyche as the result of suffering abusive punishment,….

    no matter how much you promised yourself you would NEVER do that to your own child or spouse,…

    you will do EXACTLY that without ANY control over what you’re doing.

    Then after you’ve shifted back into your normal personality, you’ll tell yourself, and your victims, and anyone else who asks, that it was your victim’s fault: “If THEY hadn’t done that, I wouldn’t have,…

    yelled at them,…

    pushed them,…

    hit them,…

    punched them,…

    choked them, etc,…

    It’s very hard if not impossible for most abusers to admit that, when they’ve been triggered into the personality shift under which they explode and do damage to those they love,…

    they are NOT in control of themselves.

    because to admit this makes it sound as if they are insane.

    But the truth is, when they have been triggered, they ARE temporarily insane.

    That “insanity” is part of ancient defense mechanism buried in EACH of psyches, a defense mechanism that locks up whoever we were being and whatever we were doing when we have an experience which causes us a level of pain that seems to threaten our lives.

    This is the case whether it’s physical pain or emotional pain – this mechanism is too primitive to discern the difference.

    When mommy or daddy (or any other person) punishes or hurts us in ways designed to “teach them never to do that again” our psyche locks away the child, adolescent, person, we were being and the behaviors we were demonstrating in an internal exile. Thereafter, we no longer have access to those pieces of ourselves.

    This locking up can be avoided if there’s someone around to love us up in response to what we’ve suffered (which is why not every person who is abused becomes an abuser),…

    but if there’s no one else around, or if those around have been forbidden by our abuser to provide us love, comfort, and support, we lose who we were, what we doing, and what those aspects of our personalities would have enabled us to be and to do as we moved through our lives.

    Furthermore, reaching out to someone who would normally love us up after we had been hurt and having them refuse to do so because they’ve been forbidden is usually so painful that we lose another set of personality aspects in response,…

    specifically the ability to experience or express empathy and compassion or to offer those things to anyone else. The possibility of doing so simply ceases to exist in our behaviors and our perspectives on the world and people around us.

    The most common situation which creates an abuser is a child whose parents respond to a typical childhood tantrum by beating that child into silence (which is likely where their OWN mommy or daddy did to them).

    Later when that abused person finds him or herself in a similar circumstance,…

    i.e. with their own child throwing a tantrum, the MOST problematic aspect of this ancient defense mechanism comes into play:

    because they survived the first life-threateningly painful circumstance by using the behaviors that were then locked away in internal exile, that defense mechanism does a personality reversal,…

    the adult is locked away and the locked-away child, in angry, full blown, irrational tantrum, is released and takes over until the crisis seems to have passed.

    When the adult returns, he or she really has NO IDEA what happened and is left to make up excuses for that fact that they had completely lost control over their own behavior and could think no more clearly than a small child in the midst of a tantrum.

    It is a great tragedy that we have created a situation where no one who has been guilty of perpetrating abuse in this way, or who fears they might be likely to do so dares talk to a counselor about it because counselors are absolutely required to report all such things to law enforcement/child protection.

    Far too often such people, if they do try to seek help, will do so without telling their counselors what’s really going on with them.

    In considering my original question, what can we do about this?…

    there is a fairly simple and straightforward way of DE-programming the dysfunctions this ancient defense mechanism has created in so many of us.

    First and foremost, however, it is often the case that doing so seems to express unacceptable disagreement with or violate the requirement to love and respect our parents that so many of us grew up with (which may also be difficult because we’re missing the personality pieces we’d need to do so).

    If that’s the case, it’s vital for those who need to heal experiences they had the hands of their parents to acknowledge that their parents were doing the very best they could do,…

    that they were only human and, as all we humans do, they made mistakes and if you are in need of healing you’re not disrespecting your parents nor are you violating your parents’ beliefs but only adding to your parents’ efforts to try to raise them to be healthy, well-adjusted, functional adults.

    The healing process is quite simple (although it may need to be applied to many separate remembered experiences). Because of the very primitive nature of this defense mechanism, it only responds to experience or imagined experience. It’s not enough to talk about and become aware of the circumstances in which you might have been wounded, nor is it necessary to re-live those experiences.

    Experiences that need to be healed generally leave memories that stand out as signposts scattered across our earlier days. It’s generally best to heal the earliest first.

    Seek a quiet place and quiet frame of mind (quite music may be helpful if it’s not too distracting). Now simply imagine the beginning of the day on which the painful experience happened, then using your imagination as deeply as possible, move through the day in ways that make it impossible that the abuse COULD have happened.

    The only requirement is that the day, as re-experienced, must be made up of circumstances that would have been possible at that time. You generally can’t change your own behavior unless you made a bad choice that you could just as easily have made differently.

    You can’t bring in people who could not possibly have been there, but you can bring in people who MIGHT have been there, but were absent on the original day. You can make yourself absent from a certain time and place, or have others be absent, if that would normally have been possible. Just move through the day (or night) in a different way than the original, then imagine yourself falling asleep that night.

    If you find that your psyche is seeking to create a different set of circumstances than those you had in mind, go with those. The subconscious part of your psyche often knows what needs to happen better than your conscious mind.

    (If a healing experience misfires, which is VERY rare, nothing will happen.)

    It’s important to realize that, although you can heal painful experiences that sometimes happen in conjunction with and complicate death and grief, you can’t remove the reality that someone you loved has died using a healing exercise. Grief, itself, is a reality of life and can only be moved through and expressed in order to be discharged.

    Each healing experience will be followed by a period of mental dullness and fatigue as all the psyche’s energy goes into re-programming the brain’s complex systems to incorporate the personality pieces that have been recovered (which will come into play in forms that reflect that maturity that the adult has achieved in the rest of his/her life).

    That fatigue will be followed by a sudden shift to higher energy levels when the new and more complete personality comes on line, which will be followed, in turn, by a return to feeling “normal.”

    That new “normal” however, will be far more capable, and far less likely to be triggered into dysfunctional behaviors (which is often noticed by others before the one who has been healed, because after you’ve recovered personality pieces, you simply feel normal, without realizing that this new normal is a better version of yourself).

    It’s helpful to keep notes, however, because as you move into the new normal period, you will tend to forget that you ever created a healing experience for yourself.

    Just a side note, you will not forget what originally happened, it will just fade into the background with all your other memories of that time and lose its signpost quality.

    In my experience, no more than two experiences should be healed in any given day. It’s also wise to wait two or more days before healing additional experiences.

    If each of those who have been abused or wounded in other ways could be led to perform these kinds of healing exercises for themselves, we could stop being such a nation of dysfunctional, easily-manipulated, angry, violent, addicted and addictive people,…

    people who base our behavior and thinking on our “true beliefs” rather than evidence and logic,…

    those “true beliefs” seeming true to us only because they mesh with the only perspectives we are able to hold as the result of having major pieces of our personalities missing.

    If each of us were given the love, support, and care we need,…

    given love AND appropriate limits in equal measure,…

    by at least some of those who raised us,…

    this ancient defense mechanism would almost never be triggered in the first place,…

    and our world, our families, our communities, even our communities of faith would be very different, much healthier places.

  2. Submitted by Maureen Cannon on 09/16/2014 - 11:46 am.

    Greg Kapphahn’s wonderful, insight response

    Thank you, Greg Kapphahn, for speaking up with knowledge, insight and providing a plan. This information needs to be taught over and over again and to those in need.

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