Of late, I’ve been reading (and listening) to the many varied viewpoints about the recent decision by the NFL to suspend anyone within the organization who has been charged and/or convicted of domestic violence. Being a survivor of childhood abuse (plus relationship domestic violence as a younger adult) this is one headline that I’ve definitely been paying attention to.
I must admit though, I’ve found some of the public’s reactions to be shocking; not to mention offensive. However, I choose to believe that this is mainly due to ignorance versus a mean-spirited attitude. This is why I’ve also chosen to provide some insights regarding abuse.
In watching as this NFL story further unfolds, the first thing I noticed is an immense irritation from quite a few football fans with regard to the indefinite suspension of Ray Rice. I certainly acknowledge the frustration these individuals feel over the two game suspension ruling; which later turned into an indefinite suspension while Rice’s case pends further review by the league. And of course, let’s not forget the deactivation of Adrian Peterson (with pay) until his “legal proceedings are resolved.”
Yet I cannot understand the reasoning behind other of the public’s complaints. In certain cases it seems that an individual is only upset because his/her favorite football team is now not doing well, or because his/her Fantasy Football team just took the equivalent of a huge nosedive off the north rim of the Grand Canyon.
In all honesty, I, too, am a huge football fan – a fan of the game itself. And that, right there, is the thing that throws me for a loop…
Football is a game. Abuse is a life.
I completely understand that to the suspended player, football is a game – as well as the way in which he makes the money for his life. However, it is also the abuser’s decision to be an abuser and not the victim’s.
No girl-friend, fiancée, spouse or ‘significant other’ ever starts her day out by saying:
“Honey, it’s that time of the month, so if I get moody and bitchy would you just knock me out?”
No child ever says to the parent(s), or guardian(s):
“My bruises are all gone, but I quite liked the purplish-green color of them. Would you mind getting upset and beating the crap out of me today?”
Ludicrous statements aren’t they? And yet when I read some of the ignorant commentary, that’s exactly what I think. I’m certain that other abuse survivors must have similar thoughts.
So, let’s talk for a moment about why women stay with abusive men. From the outside looking in, one can speculate a myriad of reasons. I wonder though how many actually hit upon any of the ‘real’ reasons…
(Please note: there are relationships where women abuse men. While I’m certain that their reasons for staying are similar, or the same, for ease of typing/reading, I will discuss the female victim/male abuser dynamic versus using a steady stream of him/her, her/him and him or her, etc. combined references).
Robert Plutchik theorizes that there are eight ‘basic’ human emotions: joy, sadness, trust, disgust, fear, anger, surprise and anticipation. Much like a primary color wheel, these eight emotions can be spun around and mixed together to form additional, and more complex, emotions such as: love or contempt.
I liken most abusive relationships to being a trifecta of the following powerful emotions/motivators: joy + trust which equals: love, either anger or disgust, and anticipation + joy which equals: optimism (aka hope).
Continuing on to my point, most people are certainly aware that there are those who pretend to be someone, or something, they’re not in the start of a relationship; in order to win the other person’s love or affections.
And what is one of the most common statements made by the neighbors, friends and/or family members of serial killers?
“Oh, but he was such a nice person!”
In other words we, the chosen ‘romantic interest,’ can have no inkling because he (the abuser) has learned how to hide this personality aspect from view. When the monster (that is domestic violence) finally does arise from the depths, we are floored. We are hurt; both physically and mentally and we don’t understand.
But the kicker of it – is that we now love this person. It also doesn’t help matters when the abuser comes to us crying and ashamed over his actions.
“I’m so sorry!” we are told.
“It will never happen again!” we are vehemently promised.
And so the powerful emotions of joy, trust and anticipation combine within our minds and we choose to believe… (Or, we have been continuously threatened and now fear for our lives).
The other thing that I don’t think the general, non-abusive public realizes – is just how charming and believable an abuser is. (“Oh, but he was such a nice person!” is also the same comment made by neighbors, friends and family members when the hidden horrors of abuse have been revealed).
Yes, we the victims will generally (eventually) leave this bad-for-us-situation (after all, self-preservation is an ingrained survival instinct), but remember that people can only leave these situations at their own pace (or the pace that is allowed by society).
As a child I ran away for the first time at age twelve; again several months later. Society can never knowingly allow a minor that young to live in a world unattended; consequently I was always returned to my parents. Finally, upon seeing physical signs of abuse, Child Protective Services was contacted; yet my parents still had the ability to disappear into the woods – effectively falling off the ‘grid.’
At age fifteen, I again reached out to law enforcement for help; seeking to escape from a life of almost daily abuse. Sadly, even with the eyewitness account of an incident that involved my father hitting me with a professional grade cordless Makita drill, l was still returned to my parents. And again, we picked up and disappeared…
Is it any wonder that my love relationship life began with abusive men? How many other women have become involved in an abusive relationship for the very same reason?
Once, while still embroiled in an abusive love relationship, I was asked why I stayed when the guy would physically hurt me. Didn’t I see it was wrong of him? The combination of this woman’s questions made it click for me.
Coming from a household of abuse as a child, the subconscious ‘warning’ signs meant to alert me to the wrongness of abuse/domestic violence were damaged to the point of being non-existent. Furthermore, how could something be ‘wrong’ when it was the accepted mainstay of the first sixteen-and-a-half years of my life?
Do not prejudge the woman living with the abuser – she may be just as horrified as you. Instead, try to offer her hope (and the knowledge) that there can be a better life for her; one without the tribulations of abuse.
Do not feel sorry for the abuser – when he, or she, is an abuser by choice. Do not ‘justify’ their actions. Instead, embrace them with whatever support they need/require to seek help. Be there for them while they work out (and overcome) whatever demons and/or life choices put them on this hurtful and oft destructive path.
Finally, never fault the many individuals who come together and put their collective feet down in order to declare:
“Enough is enough!”
“There will be repercussions for the inhumane actions/treatment of others!”
And, since I’m being honest with you, the young child in me (the one who had no one to protect her) was ever so grateful to learn of the NFL’s new ‘no tolerance for domestic violence’ stance.
Our world continues to move forward into more ‘enlightened’ times. As we do, one of the tenets of this ‘new’ world is the need to protect those who cannot protect themselves.
We should also remember that these abusive actions are found within many different fields; in some instances, right down to the law enforcement officials we entrust to protect us.
Religious teachings aside, each of us knows ‘deep down’ that domestic abuse/violence against others is wrong.
When exactly did we begin to revert to the more prehistoric time of the caveman – where physical strength and intimidation were the tools for survival and leadership? We would do well to remember that it takes much more than just opposable thumbs and the ‘ability’ to reason for humanity to evolve.
And … for those of you who still can’t, or won’t, understand the detriment of domestic violence? Let’s look at this in a different light. Put yourself forty years into the future – imagine if the woman knocked unconscious and then dragged from an elevator was your daughter. Mommy or daddy’s ‘little girl’ and the light of your life… How about your granddaughter?
Mayhap then (with this vision) we can stop the sometimes cavalier attitude about the epidemic that is domestic violence; not to mention the actual injustice of the crime.
And perhaps then, obviously ignorant and callous statements such as: “Obviously it’s not that bad because she’s still with him” will be a thing of the past.
Charline Ratcliff is a writer, reviewer, and interviewer. Some of her interests include: travel, learning about other cultures (past and present), and enjoying the beauty of nature. She also strives to help others by sharing her personal experiences; seeking to raise awareness, and to provide hope to those who feel there is none.