Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Domestic Violence Awareness Month

In the United States, October is recognized as Domestic Violence Awareness Month. All across America, worthy organizations and movements like the Clothes Line Project and the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence are speaking out against domestic violence and violence against women. This is a praise-worthy thing... but the world is changing my friends, and it isn't just organizations that are speaking out, Bloggers are speaking too, and this is where I come in.

A couple of days ago, I was contacted by Gina from What About Our Daughters?, A blog dedicated to combating the destructive portrayals of black women in popular culture. Gina asked me to help her out by posting something about Domestic Violence, and I agreed.

While mulling it over, I first thought I would talk a little bit about domestic violence (DV) from a statistical standpoint, and mention that fact that although black people make up thirteen percent of the U.S. population, black women make up twenty-eight percent of the reported victims of DV.

I thought about it, alright, but I decided to take another route.

Instead of raw numbers, I am going to talk about DV from a personal viewpoint. You see, I know a wee bit about the subject. I witnessed it as a child.

My dad was a wife-beater.

An early memory for five year old Gunfighter was my father coming home after working the late shift at Hamilton Air Force Base, California, and getting into an argument with my mother. I have no idea what it was all about, but I remember the shouting turning into screams. Screams coming from my mother, punctuated by the fist-on-flesh thwacking sound that no child should hear coming from his own mother's body.

After scooping my older sister from her bed, my mother ran into the bedroom that I shared with my brother, herded us into our car and drove off into the night. We drove around for a few hours, finally parking on the side of the road, somewhere in Marin County. I am certain that sometime that night, I must have slept, but I remember being awake, as the new day was dawning, and seeing my mother just staring blankly out the window.

It was 1968, my mother was 29 years old... and she had nowhere to go.

I'll bet you know what we did next.

If you guessed "you-waited-until-your-dad-went-to-work-and-then-you-went-back-home", you get a cookie.

My life changed that night. That night put me on the road that I travel today... the road that leads to responsible fatherhood. The road that leads to marital respect, the road that leads to being a true man.

That beating wasn't the only one my mother ever got from my father... but it was the worst, and the last. By 1969, my mother had divorced my father, and we moved to New Jersey to live with my Grandmother.

The following years were good for my father. He got some help, he remarried, had another child with his second wife (who died in a car crash in 1981), and became a better man than he had been in his dark days. All of this is covered here, so I'll press on.

Like I said... I know a little bit about DV.

I'm fortunate... I didn't repeat the cycle. I don't smack my wife around. I have never hit either of my children (I have two daughters). I would rather stick my hand in a food processor than do those things.

Scientists and Sociologists have opined deeply about the causes of DV, and I suppose that they may be right... but to me I have to say that I believe that spousal abuse is a learned behavior. A behavior passed on from person to person, sometimes father to son.... sometimes passed on by pop culture images or even hero-worship.

I could take this particular moment to go on about the damage done by many of the images in the hip-hop sub-culture, but that horse is dead, and has been beaten by myself and others thousands of times in the past few months. No, I'm not going to blame the rappers specifically (not that they don't share some blame), because there was DV a looong time before the first violent rap lyrics ever showed up.

When dad beats mom, he teaches his son that it is ok to beat women. When dad beats mom, and mom stays silent, she teaches her son that it is ok to beat women, and teaches her daughter that quiet acceptance is alright. When popular athletes, entertainers, members of Congress, or pastors beat their wives, and their supporters close ranks around them and protect them, society teaches boys that violence against women is alright, and teaches girls that even if they speak out, they will be ridiculed, scorned, devalued, and even BLAMED for the violence visited upon them.

Domestic Violence is a social disease and your friend Gunfighter is going to lay down the cure, right here, right now.

There is a cure for Domestic Violence. Here it is: The Man of Character

The Man of Character, is a pillar of strength for his family. They KNOW they can always depend on him to do the right thing.

The Man of Character is a pillar of his community.

The Man of Character isn't a social sponge, sucking up all his community has to offer while giving nothing of himself.

THe family of a Man of Character is never afraid for their safety in his presence.

It is the responsibility of men of character to end this cycle of violence. Men of character must lead by example. Men of character must be sterling role-models to their sons. Men of character must be the kind of man that his daughters will use as their ideal when the time comes for them to think about life-partners. Men of character vote in all elections, men of characters are men of personal values.

When a man loves his wife and children in such a manner, all things are possible, and violence has no place. In that sort of environment, a family is doing the best thing that they can do to break the links in the chains of domestic violence.

Men: Don't do it.... ever.

Women: Don't put up with it... not even once. Rescue your children and run!

DV is a learned behavior, 'tis true, but one good thing you can say about learned behavior, is that it can't be learned when it isn't seen or heard of.

To some, my answers may sound trite... do you have any better ideas?


DJ Black Adam said...

Damn good article GF, damn good!

Lawyer Mama said...

Excellent post, GF. Excellent post.

I've seen a fair number of DV victims in emergency rooms and support groups, and talked to hundreds more on the phone. Children raised in a home where violence is accepted and expected are much more like to be abusers or victims themselves. It's an unending cycle unless you do something to stop it, the way your mother did and the way you did.

DV is also about control and disrespect and you've done a wonderful job of articulating that here. What I find heartbreaking, however, are women (women are usually the DV victims) who think that they and their children don't deserve any better.

Villager said...

From the heart ... I have a 7-year old son and we teach him to never hit a girl/woman. Period.

PT-LawMom said...

Fantastic post, GF! Good for you for breaking the cycle.

My husband's father is an abusive alcoholic and my husband has done a really good job of controlling any of those tendencies he might display. When he does have the occasional wild jealous moment (not abusive, just mentally irrational), I gently remind him of his father and it seems to help him regain control.

I think we need to teach boys AND girls that our hands are for loving touches, not violence. Many young girls are starting to act out with their fists and that's disturbing.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your story.

Momo Fali said...

GREAT post! Thanks for being a man of character.

Jen said...

Excellent post. I'm sorry you went through that as a young child.

Men of character should also speak out. As you have.

Also wanted to let you know that I've been down with a cold and therefore out of bloglandia for a bit.

Jodi said...

As someone who works in family violence I aplaud this post!

cathouse teri said...

The Road Less Traveled? Indeed it is.

I'm sad to say that I have a good friend who left her abusive husband, only to return to him this last weekend. So I'm sad.

She's sadder.

Her daughter, sadder still.

I hate this part.

Leslie said...

It's humiliating to admit, but this is the very reason my first marriage ended. I hid away money and planned, for months, my escape. Gosh, that sounds so awfully dramatic, but it's true. I'll never forget the day I decided I had to leave. Three months later, I did. I waited until he was gone, gathered everything I could load into my car and moved into a very secure apartment complex where I started all over. All the things I had worked for - most of the material things I owned were left behind. I had my clothes, my cat and my most treasured family keepsakes. I left everything else. I slept on a futon a friend gave me in an empty apartment for months. Thankfully, my first husband and I didn't have children together.

Gunfighter, this was a brilliant and inspiring post. It hit home with me and I'm so glad you shared.

Terri@SteelMagnolia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
dawn224 said...

Um. Yeah. That was significantly more powerful than statistics.

Heather said...

Yet another amazing piece Gunfighter. I'm sorry your mother and you had to go through that though. I'm glad you all got away.

Just an get abused as well. Not as often of course, but it does happen, as I'm sure you know.

PunditMom said...

Thanks for posting this. It's hard for me to think about or talk about. My first (and Ex) husband was not, shall we say, the man you are.

I was only 19 when I got married the first time and didn't have the confidence I needed to battle his actions, at first. Fortunately, for me, it didn't take me long to figure out I had to get out -- the night he pulled a knife on me. divorce wasn't easy in the state I lived in at the time, but I made sure it happened.

I'm not a particularly religious person, but I do pray to God often in thanks that we never had children together. And that I got out and found, much later, Mr. PunditMom, who is an amazing husband and father.

Redneck Mommy said...

Standing on my chair, applauding you!

I was lucky to not have much experience with this subject until I married into my husband's family. His sister married a beater and we've rescued her more than once. It is so painful to have to stand on the sidelines and watch someone you love deal with this.

Consequently, we've taught our kids (both of them) BOYS NEVER HIT GIRLS. EVER.

Flower Child said...

wow. great story. so what do you think about Dr Phil's Man Camp? He's trying to rehab men who are at least verbally abusive (not sure what else since I've pretty much avoided the show except for the ads) to their wives. As you can probably detect, I'm quite sceptical. Any thoughts on rehabilitating an ex-offender?

Anonymous said...

I'll be the hundredth person to say FANTASTIC POST, GF...and good on you for choosing a different way of life than what you saw growing up. I've said it before: You are a REAL MAN.

I've rescued my niece more times than I can count...her covered in bruises and trying like hell to convince me that it was her fault, he's sorry, and it'll never happen again. All while I'm telling her he's a piece of crap and I'd shoot him and smile as I stepped over the body. Her horrified expression that I could hurt someone she loves is maddening and heartbreaking. Someday she'll make the connection and get out. Until then, it's hard to watch, but all I can do is be her "soft place to land"...

Queen of the Mayhem said...

Great post! You are so right about it being a learned behavior.......I did my time in an abusive relationship and I am so glad I am out of that now! It serves to make me appreciate Mr. Mayhem a lot more!

It is sad that, when self esteem is completely taken from you, one can honestly believe that they are deserving of such horrific treatment.......I know....I've been there!

Teresa said...

Well said, man of character. And thanks for sharing what must have been a time of great personal pain for you.

I would only add that men are sometimes the victims, and when they are, they shouldn't feel that speaking out somehow makes them less of a man.

Gunfighter said...

Thanks for all of your comments and kind words.

I have to tell you that writing this post was really easy for me... and re-reading it was exceptionally tough. I try not to think too much about those days, but believe me when I tell you that I'll never forget them, and I'll always be marked by them.

It's sort of like being tattooed in a place that most others can't see.

Anonymous said...

I am writting a report and doing a speech on dv. I love this website. I was also a victim of dv for many years and my Mother was my soft spot to land. Now it is my daughters turn at being a victim and I will be her soft spot to land but this time I can tell her word for word what he is going to say to her and I can tell her that I know she will leave him she just has to get her courage up. I can tell her how to save some money and be making a plan and I can tell her if she is ready to leave now there is no way he can get through me. I know all the ropes now and I know she is listening to me, she just has to make that big jump now. Thanks for the support I need to here sometimes.