What Gives You The Right?

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. These scary facts according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV):

1. 85% of domestic violence victims are women.
2. One in every four women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime.
3. Boys who witness domestic violence are twice as likely to abuse their own partners and children when they become adults.

There are many articles written on why does the woman stay? Why doesn’t she do this or that? Some even take the slant that a woman deserves what she gets if she stays. These might be valid questions. But, unintentional though it might be, some of these articles come perilously close to victim bashing.

For purposes of this article, I’d like to focus on the men who abuse women. What gives these men the right to assault (physically, sexually, emotionally, or verbally) another human being whom they proclaim to love? And sadly, most domestic violence on women is adminstered by someone with whom they are intimately involved.

To start, let’s look at children in the earliest toddler stages. Observe a classroom of preschoolers or a group of children playing in the park. You will note that some of the boys play with the girls as equals. Some, however, show an early tendancy toward becoming potential bullies. I’m not talking about the boy who lightly tugs the ponytail of a girl he might have a crush on. I’m talking about the boys who push a girl down, and laugh as she starts to cry, mistakenly believing this makes him an object of admiration on the playground.

What gives these boys and later men the sense of entitlement that they can harm another? I submit that it is anger. I’m sure there are many reasons men lash out. They didn’t have a father in the home. The father they did have was abusive or emotionally absent. They saw their father or significant other in their mother’s life treat them badly. They are too young and too small to do anything about it, so the anger (accompanied by hurt, humiliation, and fear) festers until it spills over into acting out.

Now the boy is a grown man who swears he will never treat a woman the way he grew up seeing women treated. But life happens. Kids, bills, financial problems and relationship problems. What does he do? He reacts in the only way he knows. He wants to behave differently, but he has internalized, almost against his will, what he saw growing up. Looking at it objectively, this is understandable. I don’t believe that children are born abusers any more than they are born prejudiced or hateful. Most behavior is learned.

Is this an explanation? Yes. An excuse? To this I answer a resounding no!!! At some point, an abuser realizes he has a problem. He realizes that his expressions of anger are extreme. They know deep down that what they are doing is not acceptable. Otherwise why are these acts so often committed in the privacy of the home? Why the tendancy to isolate the woman from friends and family to whom she might confide?

Men need to stand up and take responsibility for their actions. Look in the mirror, admit that something is wrong that saying “I’m sorry” will not fix, and get yourself some help. Not only that, other men need to hold their brethren accountable. Don’t laugh when you hear a friend say he’s got to keep his woman in line, or in check. Let him know that she is a grown woman with the same God-given right as he to make her own choices in life. Tell him that if they can’t make it work, then they need to part ways.

Hear this loud and clear men, you do not, now or ever, have the right to put your hands on a woman the wrong way. No she did not make you do it. You are responsible for your own actions, and you are ultimately responsible for making a change. Stop it now. Our families, the very fabric of our society, hangs in the balance.  Come forward now and make the decision that the generational curse of domestic violence with stop with you.  And one man at a time, we will see a change for the better.

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