Family Secret?

“When is it wrong to hit a woman?” I asked a group of middle school students one Spring afternoon. The majority of the students were from poverty class neighborhoods and many hands went up. What followed was a litany of scenarios where it would be “okay” if a man hit a woman. That day’s discussion was in sharp contrast to a similar discussion I led at a private school in previous days. In this setting the majority of the students were from middle class families. They, almost 100% of them, answered, “Always!” Their overwhelming response was that it is “Always” wrong for a man to hit a woman. The contrast is stark.

The values of both groups were sharply opposed to each other. This article is not meant to address every domestic violence scenario and I most certainly do not suggest that domestic violence is only a problem in poverty class homes. What I am sharing with you are my observations. Over the past 26 years I have repeatedly asked this same question to scores of young men and the response has been consistent. We have a problem in our society.  It is very disturbing that some of our young men believe that it is okay for men to wage violence against women.

When I realized that I was observing a consistent trend I did what I normally do, I began my research and learned a lot about this subject. A friend of mine is a well-respected professional counselor. She has helped me understand about something called “The Cycle of Abuse.” An abusive relationship basically follows a cycle which consists of three phases: tension phase, the explosion/blow-up phase and the honeymoon phase.

The tension phase is where the victim finds themselves walking on eggshells. They are very nervous because they know trouble is coming. They are fearful of triggering an outburst. Next is the explosion/blow-up phase. This is when the abuse occurs. It can be in the form physical abuse, verbal abuse, sexual abuse, financial abuse or emotional abuse. In the third and final phase, the honeymoon phase, the abuse subsides. The victim sees the person they fell in love with, but the victim may be blamed for the abuse or even apologize for it. Sometimes the abuser will admit that they have a problem and may even make promises to seek help. This in turn gives the victim a sense of hope. Then the cycle starts all over again. Every time the cycle begins anew, the chances that the violence will escalate also increases.

In presenting the cycle of abuse I by no means intimate that the abuser can’t help themselves. My intent is to help a victim and or abuser see themselves and seek help. There is something very wrong with a society that would teach their young men that in some instances hitting a woman is allowed. Let me say this very clearly. It is always wrong to hit a woman! Yet young men are being taught either directly or indirectly that it’s okay to hit a woman. Medical science has identified the cycle of abuse. At the core of this cycle is a distorted desire to control. Therefore the cycle of abuse derives from selfishness not being wronged. Domestic violence hurts everyone in the family. I have met many young men and women who struggle of insecurity, depression and anxiety. They have coping problems, drug and alcohol problems, and many other serious issues that all stem from the violence at home. If you are in such a home, tell someone and keep doing so until help arrives. If you’re the abuser get help. This will not go away by ignoring it and it is not a secret.

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