By now, you’ve likely seen the elevator video of NFL runningback Ray Rice punching his future wife in the face and knocking her out cold.
It’s painful footage to watch, in part because of its brutality, and in part because it is emblematic of a problem that we would prefer to ignore. Domestic violence, which claims the lives of three women each day and is the leading cause of injury to women, is disturbing because it is so widespread that only the naive can claim immunity.
Indeed, domestic violence is so ubiquitous that it demands an explanation from both women and men, victims and perpetrators. Sadly, as evidenced by the important #whyistayed movement on Twitter, we’re spending far too much time asking for answers from women rather than the men who brutalize them.
So, here’s the real big question that everyone seems hesitant to ask: Men, why do you abuse the women you claim to love? And men, what are you going to do about it?
I ask those questions with the knowledge that a single instance of domestic violence is never the beginning of the story. For men who abuse women, the stories often began in their own childhoods, when they were the victims or witnesses of family violence. As clinical psychologist Dr. Ben Michaelis explains, “One of the biggest influences on a man’s violent behavior is his upbringing. Children who experience violence are much more likely to use violence as a dysfunctional means of expressing frustration, problem-solving or fear of abandonment.”
Far from excusing unacceptable behavior, the role of family violence in creating a new generation of perpetrators ought to silence us. And the question then remains — particularly for those men who grew up in violent homes — how are you going to change this?
Get help. Get help for the child you were, the man you long to be and the woman you want to deserve.
“You almost certainly know if you have violent tendencies,” concluded Michaelis. “If you’ve tried to use violence to solve problems in the past, you may do it again.” Prevent it from happening by getting help from a therapist or substance abuse program, since remediation is possible if you seek help.
Let’s not gawk over Janay Palmer and #whyistayed unless we are willing to look at the reasons men abuse in the first place.