What did you say to me??

The-way-we-talk-to-our-children-becomes-their-inner-voice1“You are just like your father!” Unfortunately, there are no fonts that can indicate whether a statement is sarcastic (please create that someone!), excited, critical or shocked – or possibly a mixture of all the above.

How did you read it? Depending on your childhood, this statement can bring pride or shame.

During a question and answer period of a recent DVSD Survivor Impact Panel, one of the audience members (a 21 year old offender of domestic violence who was in a batterer intervention program) asked the panelists (survivors of domestic violence) if they thought that there was something hereditary about domestic violence. The question was puzzling at first, and then he said it…. “I never knew my father, but my mother said that he was very abusive and whenever I acted up, she would always say ‘you are just like your father’ so, I just wonder if I ever had a chance”. One of the survivor panelists responded in such a kind manner. “Your mother should never have put his sins on you. His are his and yours are yours. You have the power to be who you want to be”.

I had seen the quote “The way we talk to our children become their inner voice” from Peggy O’Mara years ago and thought it was a good way to explain why some survivors of domestic violence felt that they were trapped in their relationships. If someone grows up being told that they do not deserve a high level of treatment, then they are more willing to accept abuse. Being raised with the burden that they do not have the power or ability to rise above their situation, can guarantee a greater chance that they will not.

In the case of the 21 year old domestic violence offender, the inner voice that haunts him is the voice of his mother pushing the acts of his father onto him. She may not have known that this was being instilled in him… perhaps she was making the statement as a cautionary tale… but the words resonated within him and the results gave him a sense of powerlessness.

The way we talk to our children DOES become their inner voice and this voice can contribute to future behaviors. With intervention, those voices can be replaced. Much of the focused domestic violence work is on the survivors. Survivors of domestic violence obviously do need love, care, support, empowerment, education and healing. Offenders of domestic violence are in need of the same gifts from society, but these gifts are not given easily.

Words and comments shape who we become, how we see ourselves and what we believe is possible for ourselves to achieve. Where did your inner voice come from? Should you be listening to it?

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Every Two Minutes

Imagine if the AP News app on your phone alerted you EVERY TWO MINUTES for just ONE hour with the following news:

“A woman in Detroit was just abused by her husband” 2 minutes later “A mother in Tallahassee, Florida was thrown out of a car by her boyfriend” 2 minutes later “A woman was found unconscious in her kitchen in Austin, Texas. Boyfriend suspected” 2 minutes later “A man just found the windows of his car smashed  by a jealous girlfriend” 2 minutes later “A woman and her 4 children fled their home to find shelter when husband threatened them with a gun” 2 minutes later “A man was just rushed to the hospital with a stab wound to the leg inflicted by his wife in Portland, Oregon” 2 minutes later “Man who stalked his wife for four months is sitting outside of her house and she is terrified to go to work in Portland, Maine” 2 minutes later “Woman is crying quietly because her husband just told her again that she is worthless and lucky that he puts up with her stupidity in Nashville, Tennessee” … and that’s just the first 15 minutes of the hour.

Would you look around the room to see who was around you that could possibly be next on the list? You should.  Would you be shocked and wonder if this is an epidemic? You should.

Every two minutes someone is abused by their partner. It is in your social circle. It is an epidemic.

You can get involved. dvsdprogram.org/whattodo

Not in my back yard… Oh hey, what’s that in my yard?

When the press gets a hold of a story that highlights domestic violence in a certain genera. The initial response it to point out how that are has always had a problem.

For example:
* Ray Rice brought out the statistics on DV in the NFL…
* Greg Odom brought out the problem in the NBA….
So the conversation is “well, professional sports obviously has a problem”….

What about:
* Judge Mark Fuller of Alabama is accused of assaulting his wife and is urged to resign…
* Former police officer in Colorado killed his wife and then himself in February…
So the conversation is “well, the government obviously has a problem”….

The NFL has a problem. The NBA has a problem. The Government has a problem… basically… WE have a problem.

Because national attention is being paid to very high profile cases, awareness is rising. Next month is Domestic Violence Awareness month. Are we aware of what is in our own back yards?

Reckless and Minimizing… Ray Rice’s impact on the media.

It amazes me that in 2014, so many broadcasters are having a difficult time knowing how to properly report on Ray Rice hitting Janay Rice (fiancé at the time of this assault and now his wife) so hard that he knocked her out. A few examples:

Fox and Friend’s morning hosts joked yesterday that “I think the message is to take the stairs” followed by “The message is, when you’re in an elevator, there’s a camera,”. On this morning’s show, Kilmeade stated “Comments that we made during this story yesterday made some feel like we were taking the situation too lightly. We are not. We were not. Domestic abuse is a very serious issue to us, I can assure you.” And the viewing public is supposed to know that how? Was that an attempt at an apology for the minimizing and reckless remarks? Fail.

ESPN’s host Stephen A. Smith made comments indicating that in some domestic violence cases a woman can provoke a man. To his credit, he did make a true apology “My words came across that it is somehow a woman’s fault. This was not my intent. It is not what I was trying to say. Yet, the failure to clearly articulate something different lies squarely on my shoulders.” He said that he talked to and read information by DV advocates that helped him clarify the way that he was wrong and dangerous.

Further, the media decided to release the video of the video this morning. Why this was released 1) 7 months after the incident is troubling – TMZ was able to get their hands on the footage but somehow the NFL Security could not find it? and 2) what exactly did anyone think happened in the elevator… we all saw him dragging an unconscious woman out of the elevator… did the world really need to see the violent details?

Janay Rice was not a famous person. She has been thrust into the spotlight for being a victim of a horrid crime. The media is now pushing her further into the limelight and showing a horrible night in her life. Over and over and over.

Reckless reporting and minimizing adds to a domestic violence situation. I am not going to judge Ms. Rice and her choices to stay with her husband. My hope is that she has support around her and that she has access to all of the resources that she needs. My hope is the same for Mr. Rice. He is not to be thrown away, but he needs help. From his statements released lately, it sounds like he is in counseling and really delving into how to change his behavior. Abuse is learned and with support, abusers can change.

I am, however, judging the media outlets. Stop showing the video. Stop making jokes about domestic violence. Stop minimizing the acts. Stop disrespecting victims of violence. Just STOP.

Do-gooders should be able to do good… safely.

A Phoenix woman was teaching convicts in prison in order to help them obtain their GED’s. She was stabbed and rapped inside the prison bathroom by a convicted sex offender. She was a civilian who was left unattended for a very long time which gave the rapist time to attack her without any officers coming to her aid.

“State prison officials, however, dismiss the concerns. They say the assault at the prison about 60 miles southeast of Phoenix is a risk that comes with the job of overseeing violent prison inmates.”

This is ridiculous comment. For those of us who believe in change and that many (I am NOT claiming all) who are convicted of crimes can find a new path, not having the support of an administration in the pursuit of reducing criminals — and thus victims of crime – is atrocious. There are those who are not going to change and, of course, there are psychopaths housed in the prison system. However, those in the system that want to change should be able to have access to programs — which is beneficial to the common good — and those who are supplying the programs should be able to do so in a secure environment.

It is not unreasonable for those of us who work with offenders of violence to receive support and help from prison and community corrections officials in our endeavors to seek out the offenders who can be changed.

If we change the behaviors of just 10% of those in prison, the positive effects on society when they are released is immeasurable. In the case of domestic violence, offenders can move on to new, positive  relationships. The domino effect of the positive behaviors they can learn is huge. Not only in their future relationships, but also the learned behaviors that they can teach their children. They can break the cycle.

I do hope that other counties speak out against this prison and their practices and encourage the use of programs, such as DVSD, that make a difference in behaviors which leads to less victims and thus, a better society as a whole.

I do hope…

Forgiveness is a gift

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Nelson Mandela was an amazing man who lived by example. Even after being imprisoned for years, he forgave those that wrongly put him there. In his book, “8 habits of Love”, Nelson Mandela introduced a forgiveness and reconciliation agenda when he took his place of leadership in South Africa.

Anyone who had committed a crime in the prior regime would be forgiven. But they had to confess it in court before their victims.

For example, a police officer in South Africa killed an innocent man. After his widow testified in the trial and identified that officer who had murdered her husband, she said to the officer “I forgive you”. As she crossed the floor to give the killer an embrace the officer became so overcome with emotion that he fainted.

Forgiveness is a powerful emotion. I see this daily in my work with men who have abused. During DVSD dialogues, I have witnessed survivors say to an offender “I can see that you are working very hard to change your life. I hope that you have forgiven yourself for what you have done so that you can move on”. The emotions that take over the men are powerful.

Just as hate and domestic violence are learned behaviors, learning to forgive others and ourselves is also learned. It is a gift that can change a life.

Rest In Peace, Mr. Mandela and Thank You.