So last night I had the honor of being a panelist at the Girl Talk event held each month at the Moca Lounge. So because the topic was sensitive in nature and would stir various levels of emotion, I wanted to be thoroughly prepared. My intent was to address the issue from a male perspective; so if you know me of course I had my notes, iPad & iPhone. I wanted to be sure I was properly dressed for the occasion so I put together an ensemble that appeared appropriate. I'm geeked, I'm ready to roll. Then "Redwritinghood" sucked the air out the building with her powerful piece and I'm like, "Damn!!!! I haveta follow that sh*t!" I knew what I had to say wouldn't be endearing to the audience, nevertheless it needed to be said. And though I was able to "get in my car" for a minute, the conversation never came back to a place where I could interject more information because of the tenor of the dialogue. So this is all the other information I wished to point out in relation to domestic violence and its understanding from a male perspective.
Innerstand that violence of any type is a learned behavior. It isn't an innate characteristic which is embedded in our DNA. WHAT IS DOMESTIC VIOLENCE (DV)? Domestic violence is the willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behavior as part of a systematic pattern of power and control perpetrated by one intimate partner against another. It includes physical violence, sexual violence, threats, and emotional or psychological abuse. The frequency and severity of domestic violence varies dramatically. Re-read that definition carefully. In some form, we've all been the victims of or perpetrated the spread of domestic violence in some fashion. DV isn't gender specific; it's abuse that happens in a personal relationship. Therefore, fighting (physically, psychologically) with your children, siblings, parents or grandparents is DV. The only difference legally is that when you discipline your child, it's deemed as Child Abuse. Nonetheless, it's still the same. This indoctrination, either as a victim or a child begins at an early age. When you threaten to spank your child for misbehaving or poor performance in school, by "definition" that qualifies. When you change the tone of your voice or give that "stare" to encourage a different outcome, by definition that qualifies. Now when I made this point, there murmurs of disagreement but picture this. When a child witnesses that same behavior exhibited by their parents, is that not the same thing? Again, violence just like racism is a learned behavior. Like characteristics and mannerisms duplicated by children, they can take on the attributes of the aggressor or the helpless. And similar to images seen by children on television, read in books or in real life scenarios, they a have tendency to mimic those actions. Example, why does your daughter want to mimic her favorite artist; your son his favorite action hero or athlete? If you disagree, I ask you this, why do you discipline (beat/whip) your kids? That too was a learned behavior passed through generations which was first given them (possibly) by their oppressor. I digress. It'll be foolish to think that our behavior doesn't stem from our childhood interactions. Children who live in homes where DV occurs are more likely to have depression, anxiety, poor school performance, behavior problems, trouble sleeping, or chronic health problems. They are also likely to be the victims of or perpetuate DV. So now that we have a foundation, let's dig deeper.
Though we know what DV is, let's review it's characteristics. The abuser may use fear, bullying and threats to gain power and control over the other person. He or she may act jealous, controlling, or possessive. These early signs of abuse may happen soon after the start of a relationship and might be hard to notice. After the relationship becomes more serious, the abuse may get worse. Emotional abuse (making threats, calling the other person names, slamming doors or breaking household items); physical abuse; mechanisms of control (make violent threats against the person's children, other family members or pets); Financial abuse (withholding money to make the person feel weak and dependent). So let's be real. You mean to tell me that these traits, as defined, aren't displayed by women as well; many of you reading this post. GTFOH! Just like Anthony Cockfield mentioned when he spoke, you can smell the rain coming; winds blowing and all, but people often times don't take the necessary precautions needed to protect themselves from getting wet. So we see the signs but dismiss them as a part of being in a relationship. Things like embarrassing put-downs, looking at you or acting in ways that scare you, controlling what you do/who you see or talk to/where you go, stopping you from seeing your friends or family members, making you ask for money or refusing to give you money, making all the decisions, telling you that you're a bad parent or threatening to take away or hurt your children, threatening to commit suicide, preventing you from working it going to school, or acting like the abuse is no big deal or is your fault/or even deny doing it, then the rain has come.
Then why do people stay?
Conflicting emotions - Abusers use verbal, emotional and physical violence along with apologies, promises, and affection to control their victims. A victims may hold on to hope, a theme expressed by many women at the event, that the abuser will change. With painful times there may be loving moments. The abuser may also be the only one providing financial support for the family. Others include: shame, safety concerns, lack of money and resources, depression & isolation, cultural or religious pressures, and custody worries.
Forgiveness was addressed but solutions weren't offered; and I'm sure that was due to time constraints and the delicate issue of the topic and dialogue which was transpiring. Number one: Of course seek help. There are a number of resources and advocacy groups available for victims of DV. In the South Florida, for women this includes Here's Help and Women In Distress amongst others; for men, not so much, but I'll explain that next. The Florida Domestic Violence Hotline is (800) 500-1119. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is (800) 799-SAFE (7233). Both are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, in English, Spanish and other languages. Secondly, know your legal rights. Third, seek counseling. When anyone experiences a tragic event, a death at the workplace, a horrific event like 911 or the Sandy Hook shooting, therapy is recommended to deal with any lingering and underlying issues that may've resulted as a cause of their involvement. Why wouldn't this be the case with regards to the victims of, or the children that may've witnessed these occurrences. Releasing the tension to an unbiased, independent third party is therapeutic and beneficial to the healing and recovery process. Lastly, reawaken your dreams. The recovery process can be long and hard, but life doesn't stop and neither should you. Don't allow those incidents to drown out desire and reduce your passion. Continue to follow your dreams, it's never too late.
What about the men?
“In almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons… who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind.” (Propaganda by Edward L. Bernays – the father of modern advertising, 1928). During this month, in the celebration of Domestic Violence Awareness, every website you go to will highlight the women being the primary victims of DV. Which in many cases is true. But when you dive into the numbers, the statistics are startling. In 2013, 13% of documented contacts to the Hotline identified themselves as male victims. Although they make up a smaller percentage of callers to the Hotline, there are likely many more men who do not report or seek help for their abuse for a number of reasons. Men are socialized not to express their feelings or see themselves as victims. Our culture still clings to a narrow definition of gender, which was a point I attempted to share. According to Dr. William S. Pollock in the Department of Psychiatry at the Harvard medical school, "Although boys have the same emotional potential as girls, their emotional range is soon limited to a menu of three relates feelings: rage, triumph, and lust." Anything else and they risk being seen as a sissy, says Dr. Pollack. Male vulnerability and our need to act like men can be deadly. Young boys are taught not to express their emotions, to "suck it up" and "be a man." When asked if the American man was an endangered species, Dr. Herb Goldberg, the author of The Hazards of Being Male, replied, "Absolutely! The male has paid a heavy price for his masculine 'privilege' and power. He is out of touch with his emotions and his body. He is playing by the rules or the male game plan and with lemming-like purpose he is destroying himself emotionally, psychologically and physically." Men may feel discouraged to talk about what's going on in their personal lives, or they feel like no one will believe them. They may not even realize that they are being abused, or they might assume they should just deal with the abuse on their own. Secondly, pervading beliefs or stereotypes about men being abusers, women being victims. The majority of DV stories covered by the media are about male perpetrators and female victims who are typically in heterosexual relationships. In the society we live in that speaks volumes with abuse occurring in the homosexual, bisexual and transgender communities. This might make many victims feel like they don't have the space or the support to speak out about their own experiences and seek help. Third, the abuse of men is often treated as less serious or a joke. The example I used was the footage of Solange attacking Jay-Z and Sophia beating up Harpo. Why were these incidents celebrated while the inverse is deemed deplorable? The cases of Hope Solo and Kelly Brooks are easily forgotten when placed side by side against their male counterparts. In the case of Brooks’, she admitted to punching both of her past boyfriends in the face, wrote a book about her transgressions and laughed about it when questioned.
Now the numbers
1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have been physically abused by an intimate partner. 1 in 5 women and 1 in 7 men have been severely physically abused by an intimate partner. 1 in 7 women and 1 in 18 men have been stalked. Stalking causes the target to fear she/he or someone close to her/him will be harmed or killed.
SAVE - Stop Abusive and Violent Environments
National Study: More Men than Women Victims of Intimate Partner Physical Violence, Psychological Aggression
SUMMARY: According to a 2010 national survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Department of Justice, in the last 12 months more men than women were victims of intimate partner physical violence and over 40% of severe physical violence was directed at men. Men were also more often the victim of psychological aggression and control over sexual or reproductive health. Despite this, few services are available to male victims of intimate partner violence.
More men than women were victims of intimate partner physical violence within the past year, according to a national study funded by the Centers for Disease Control and U.S. Department of Justice. According to the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (hereinafter NISVS) released in December, 2011, within the last 12 months an estimated 5,365,000 men and 4,741,000 women were victims of intimate partner physical violence. (Black, M.C. et al., 2011, Tables 4.1 and 4.2) 1 This finding contrasts to the earlier National Violence Against Women Survey (Tjaden, P. G., & Thoennes, N., 2000)(hereinafter NVAWS), which estimated that 1.2 million women and 835,000 men were victims of intimate partner physical violence in the preceding 12 months. (One-year prevalence “are considered to be more accurate [than lifetime rates] because they do not depend on recall of events long past” (Straus, 2005, p. 60))
If one adds in rape (606,000 victims) the total is 5,427,000 women-but there is an issue of double-counting of an incident as both rape and intimate partner physical violence. 2 Of the lifetime rape victims, 82.8% were also victims of physical violence. This suggests that a sizeable portion of the 606,000 rape victims are included in the 5,427,000 physical violence victims. But even if one ignores the double-counting of rape and physical violence, the number of female victims of rape and/or physical violence is 5,427,000 for women, contrasted with 5,365,000 male victims of physical violence, so it is safe to say that about half of the victims of physical violence are men.
There is a significant difference between the NVAWS and NISVS surveys, in the number of victims of physical violence (4,741,000 vs. 1,300,000 women and 5,365,000 vs. 835,000 men), for which I have no explanation. In the 2001 NVAWS survey, some 38% of the victims of intimate physical violence were men, but in the 2011 NISVS survey 53% were men. This is consistent with earlier studies showing that between 1975 and 1992 (Straus and Gelles, 1988, Straus, 1995), between 1998 and 2005 (Catalano , 2005) and between 2009 and 2010 (Truman, 2011, Table 6) violence against women dropped but violence against males stayed steady. (As a point of reference, Statistics Canada (2006, 2011) reports that 45.5% of the victims of present or former spousal violence were men. The 2010 National Crime Victimization Survey (Truman, 2011, Table 5) shows only 407,700 female and 101,530 male victims of intimate partner violence: for women that’s less than a tenth of the victims reported in NISVS.)
In researching this topic, there no male shelters in the tri-county area to solely house male victims of abuse; most are joint facilities. An attempt to find information via the Florida Men's Resource Center resulted in no information when going to their website. According to the NISVS data, 99.32% of shelter clients were women, with audio indicating that men were marginalized when they attempted to seek assistance.
Despite all the numbers and testimonies, the bottom line is, treat everyone with the courtesy, dignity and respect they so richly deserve. Love is an action word, yet doesn't take physical action or emotional interaction to show and reciprocate that in return. Keep your hands to yourself. Oliver Adderley made a great point. Women don't understand the power they possess by the use of their tongue. They can both create and destroy kingdoms. We come together as a unified front to establish and maintain the Black family. I thank Zakeya Fowler for the opportunity and appreciate those that approached me afterwards and wished I contributed more. The Girl Talk initiative is a wonderful event and I encourage more people to attend. They say "we" don't support each other and have the "crab in the barrel" mentality. Well if you know anything about crabs, you're aware that the sea and the sand are their natural habitat. The question must then be asked, who created the barrel and placed us in it? Though long and detailed, I hope this information was helpful. One! - Brandt Edwards