Let’s Talk About Domestic Violence

by Rachel Baker on September 19, 2014

Yup, I’m going there. I’m going to jump into the fray of every other media outlet that wants you to be outraged that a bunch of guys who resemble the gladiators of old, are getting caught for committing acts of (domestic) violence. Further, I’m not going to mention that said gladiator-like men have scantily-clad women jumping up and down cheering them on and exulting the crowd every time they do something particularly violent on the field. And I’m not going to mention the symptoms of concussions (irratibility and changes in personality); and I’m not going to mention that these guys get paid massive amounts of money to…wait for it…be violent. Because, why? Its way more outrageous if I just talk about the fact that they didn’t learn their mamma’s lessons about not hitting. Oh and…I’m not going to mention that Charles Barkley basically just justified that whole addage about violence begets violence, by making the generalizing statement, “Whipping — we do that all the time. Every black parent in the South is going to be in jail under those circumstances.” I’m also not going to bring up the idea that he stereotyped his whole race in a way that will allow any cop to shoot a black guy in the South because said black guy was violent. Way to think that through, Chuck!

Here’s the thing, this is not just about black athletes or black parents in the south, but that’s all that the national networks are talking about. To hear them talk about it, the NFL is a black sport – which is weird, since a third of the NFL is white, and only black parents beat their kids. They did find a white guy to focus on who beat his wife…one white guy of note…great. And, there was that whole Aaron Hernandez thing where he just allegedly murdered someone (and apparently, that’s a thing also in the NFL), but no one is really outraged about that, so we probably shouldn’t point out that violence is violence whether its a man, woman, child or even dogs…I think it was Shakespeare that said something about it – “a rose by any other name is still a rose…” right?

Last year, the New York Times did a report about domestic abuse among police households, not because they just wanted to piss off the cops, but because its a thing. And military domestic abuse…well, that’s damn near impossible to get a good number for. Of course, all research shows you have to consider a large number of domestic violence incidents aren’t ever reported. Approximately 50% of white women never report incidents of domestic violence; and in some places, white women aren’t even part of the conversation. Isn’t that a stunning development? Shouldn’t that make the media outlets venture past the black athlete archetype of domestic violence? Shouldn’t it make them start to actually talk about the issue and the challenges rather than the newest slew of football players who are beating (and sometimes killing) their wives, girlfriends, kids, and other dudes? And how come we never actually talk about the women who commit these acts of domestic violence – beating their kids and husbands – or are women immune to the idea that they can be domestic abuse violators?

In my lifetime, the overall conversation about domestic violence has always been shallow. Its been about the specific event that caused outrage, not the cultural reason for the event – and no, the NFL is not the kind of culture I mean. I mean the sociological events that people 500 years from now who are studying that “old united states civilization” will look at and say, “well, no wonder they had so many problems, they completely disregarded all the violence in their history as a detrimental thing to their psyche; and in some cases, they celebrated it.” We will never find a solution if we don’t talk about the actual horrors that cause the deep-seeded issues that cause someone to think hitting someone else is the best option. If we can’t talk about it, we can’t fix it. If we don’t talk about where it comes from, we can’t break the cycles.

Let’s begin the conversation with a look at the history of violence in households in our country – and really…let’s start in the South – since Charles Barkley went there. There’s a reason why people in the South (even the white people) say things like, “boy, you gonna get a whuppin'” …because it means something in the South. We really shouldn’t fool ourselves in thinking it isn’t a holdover term from slavery – its not the same, but even little white kids in the south know you don’t want to get whipped – because you are going to get hit across your back, your butt and your legs, with a switch ‘from the big ol’ tree out yonder’. We have a whole engrained history of Domestic Violence that can very easily be traced back to some of the most despicable events in our nation’s history. I know, I’m sure I have stepped over the precipice of what’s allowed for anyone to say in proper company, but frankly, I wonder how can everyone else not recognize the history of domestic violence and try to address it from that point. Because really, why is anyone still “whipping” their kids? Its not a socio-economic issue or NFL players wouldn’t do it; and its not a black thing, because white parents whip their kids too. What makes this hold-over something the south can’t let go of? That’s the question we should be asking…even if the context is really difficult to discuss.

Let’s also look at the history of women in our nation and then, let’s look at the roles they played as early as our grandmothers and great grandmothers – they were supposed to be June Cleaver – quiet, humble, agreeable – all the tv shows fed men and women that image…it really wasn’t until the 60s and 70s that women on TV didn’t make you want to throw up in your mouth with the niceties which they deployed in the face of disaster and difficulty. Its no wonder that half of all women don’t actually report domestic violence. We are just now really on the precipice of figuring out what the identity of women are in our society – we went from one extreme to another and now we are trying to find the common ground of both. And while that’s where we are at, we also aren’t very far removed from a generation of women who never ever would have said anything to mess up the illusion of a happy marriage.

There are a whole lot of horrible things in our nation’s history that we have a difficult time talking about, but which has had a very real effect on our society even today; and we are astounded when something comes out that (for generations) we turned a blind eye (the easiest being the effect of concussions). Yet, we expect to be able to solve all the problems by threatening advertising dollars, and suspending team participation, revoking tenures and permanent positions; providing “extensive training” on the issue, and shaming both the abuser and the victim publically. We can’t just get up on our soapboxes with faux outrage and demand answers and justice, and not be willing to go back and look at the real historically cultural challenges that our forefathers created. We can’t throw it all under the labels of gender politics, or gun violence or race politics, or civil rights, or any other area we like to think will result in a solution…we have to roll up our sleeves and talk about the things that are incredibly uncomfortable, no matter how dirty and disgusting it makes us feel.

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