Gloucester Daily Times has a midweek musing about The scourge of domestic violence.
Rev. Richard J. Simeone spoke of how for a number of years they have a brief ceremony proclaiming Gloucester a domestic violence free zone. They had the fanfare that most of these ceremonies have as well! As much as we would like to believe that these events lesson or stop domestic abuse we also know that they don't.
Rev. Simeone got a first hand experience it seems from a mocking of this sentiment that all to often happens:
At this year's proclamation ceremony, due note was given to the strides made over time in public awareness of the problem as well as concrete steps toward dealing with this public health disease.¬ Yet, it was also noted that we still have much work to do.¬ It made me think about a conversation I had earlier the day of the ceremony with an acquaintance of mine, to whom I mentioned that I was heading to the ceremony.¬
The other person made a scoffing noise, and I asked what it was about.¬ The reply was, "Oh, I have a neighbor who has one of those 'Strong Men Don't Bully' bumper stickers on his car, and all he does every evening is yell and swear at his wife."
The comment made me wince, yet also reminded me anew that as important as slogans are, as important as proclamation ceremonies are, they cannot carry the day unless you and I are committed daily to the hard work of living with civility and decency toward each other.¬ Doing so requires radical changes and a willingness to explore inner foundations of our tendencies to violent behavior.
That part I will agree with! I do think we need to change our mindset about this issue, and start recognizing habit patterns that society tends to have. I know even I can be included in that statement (blushing!). People do feel if you are not being strong armed, and physical attacked its NOT domestic violence. That is not correct, and that is how our education needs to change. Domestic abuse is a pattern of behavior, and the ones that mock the lists of behaviors must not know this. To me that shows an error on our education front.
The Sunday liturgies at St. John's Episcopal Church begin with a act of penitence commencing with the recitation of what is often called the Summary of the Law.¬ This piece of the Christian gospel recalls Jesus connecting two pieces of the Torah into a single command:¬ "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and mind, and soul and strength," and, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."¬ It is the second part which is critical to the topic at hand, and the operative words are, "as yourself."
Far too much religious teaching has focused only on the matter of loving our neighbor without consideration for the fact that we can only love the neighbor with the same measure of love we have for ourselves.¬ Neighbor in this context means anyone other than ourselves, be that spouse, partner, child, coworker, friend or a total stranger.
I do believe in my heart that abusers do truly have a self hate about themselves. I don't know how it is planted there, because I'm sure there are not just one source that is custom made for them. When I look at abusers in that light I often feel sorry for them. I'm not doing that as an excuse for the behavior, but to see them as this truly broken person. A broken person that often neglected by society if not as much - at times MORE so as society enables their behavior to continue. You can't heal what you refuse to recognize or acknowledge is there.
I agree with Rev. Simeone stating that we can only love he neighbor with the same measure of love we have for ourselves. In that way I wonder at times if they are capable of loving in any true form. They do wish us to believe they could, but someone that can't empathize and feels entitled to rage isn't showing that to me.
The foundations of violent behavior are laid in the wounding we have received, often at young and tender ages, which lead us to have a deep, if often unconscious, self loathing.¬ The psychological reality is that until we explore these issues in ourselves so that we no longer project our hurt and anger onto others, domestic abuse in its many and varied manifestations will not abate.¬ We need to remind ourselves daily that domestic violence encompasses the ill-spoken word toward another as much as the hand raised to do physical harm.¬ The man with the bumper sticker on his car probably believes what it proclaims.¬ Because he doesn't beat up his wife, he undoubtedly thinks he's not bullying her.¬ But, yelling and swearing at her are OK because, after all, isn't that the way his father treated his mother, and very likely him?
We do see very often this attitude of its just words. We look at James 3 in the bible, and we find that this also is a very serious matter in the bible! I think at times that saying we all grew up with Stick and stones may break your bones, but words can never hurt you? I think we believed the lie of that old wife's tale. It is a lie. Those children grow up as well, and learn to be come adult bullies that do much more damage. We were so naive giving such advice to our children at one time.
Here is a crucial aspect of the problem of domestic abuse: our range of definition is too narrow.¬ Domestic does not just mean the home.¬ It means any and all of the places where we carry on the business of daily living, from the local scene to the national landscape.¬ Yet we can never hope to really experience a diminution of violence in daily life until we look deeply at the roots of our own pain. Bringing it into the light where we may acknowledge it is the beginning of healing and transformation.
I know I have looked into the root of my own pain, and brought it into the light so that I may transform. It really HURT at first, and there was alot of anger there as well. I did work past this (most of it anyway...okay I hope! lol), and I know it was part of my past...but no longer part of me. Well! NOT like it was! As I educated myself on this I also had to learn some assertivness training in certain circumstances that otherwise I would be to afraid to approach in the past. I had to change this otherwise I may set myself up to be walked all over once again. It doesn't have to be just at home. It could be a my job, volunteering or just a friendship for example.
I often wonder at times if victims have a easier time of this because we had things jammed down our throat for so long. I have to think if our pain of the past isn't a tool that can make us stronger to face this portion of healing. Escape to me is just the first step, but as victims I feel that we need to do ROOT work ourselves. I used to beat myself UP once the realization of my life came, "How could I have been SO stupid!" I had to realize at the time I didn't have the tools I have today. I have heard people in the past mention that they had seen signs, but didn't realize how dangerous they were at the time. You didn't have the tools then. Its okay! YOU do now, and if you wonder about that part....do some of your own ROOT work! Its worth it!
Until we do this the scourge of domestic violence will continue to darken even the brightest day.¬ We will go on paying the price of domestic violence in wounded bodies, broken families, lost wages, children with diminished potential and communities where we feel unsafe and threatened.
It is time to move more intentionally beyond days of proclamation and well-intentioned and heart-felt slogans — as important as they are. It is time to do the inner work, with whatever professional help is necessary, to heal the inner wounds that afflict us, so that more deeply loving ourselves, we can more truly respect the dignity of every person including ourselves.
There are alot of things we hear when we grow up, and when things go down you realize the words sound good but people have a hard time owning them! We all hear how you never know what goes on behind closed doors, and I can't name a person that wouldn't agree with that statement. The problem starts when you realize they don't believe that could be true for them when a charming abuser comes into their fold. They don't know what happens behind closed doors, and the additional problem? They don't want to believe it either! I think abusers by the time they hit adulthood are pretty much professional con man (or women), and they have learned to play the human race very VERY well! That is why I don't believe they don't grasp what they do is wrong, because they wouldn't make such an issue over keeping it silence. They wouldn't have problems with people KNOWING their personal business. If its so ordinary and everyday - why the secrets? Why the intimidation to keep it secret? Why the threats towards others to keep the secrets? Its because they know, and they are not willing to change their brokenness. I'm sure it looks like a huge undertaking for them. Almost impossible. Just like the undertaking this author is asking for the world. I'm sure soceity feels this is TOO huge! It needs to be done in reality, and we all know it! Its a HUGE undertaking, but one that most will say they don't have a problem with...until it hits front and center in their own lives.
If we are take on the scourge of domestic violence there are changes we are all going to have to make. Its overwhelming, but I hope the world can at least start that charge to change! We would all be better off!
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