I’ve been getting lots of calls and emails in the past two weeks with people asking me what I think about all the recent domestic violence incidents in the news, from the latest NFL scandal http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2014/09/19/bombshell-report-alleges-major-cover-up-by-nfl-ravens-in-ray-rice-domestic-violence-scandal/ to Hawaii’s own video-tape controversy that implicates a Hawaii police officer of domestic violence http://www.hawaiinewsnow.com/story/26582201/hpds-handling-of-domestic-violence-cases-criticized to the revelation about an Alabama federal court judge being excused from punishment for abusing his wife http://act.weareultraviolet.org/sign/Fuller/.
What do I think? My answer is the same for all stories because all of these stories are the same.
HOW could these stories all be the same? Because the cover-up process/procedure of them is the same – the only thing that’s different this time around that I see is that these stories are all receiving extraordinary media attention which is finally shining a light on what really goes on “behind the scene” of DV incidents.
I’m asked, “Are you surprised at who (the professional and social standing of) the abusers are?” No, because an abuser’s employment, title and likeability don’t dictate or define who an abuser is. The only thing profession tells me is the expertise, the level of expectation and responsibility bestowed upon that person, nothing more.
Abusers abuse (that shouldn’t shock anyone) just as bullies bully – what’s always shocked me is what happens once an abuser or bully’s been identified because that’s the bigger problem from where I sit.
In a professional “chain of command” we trust and entrust a supervisor and superior to do the right thing – how many times in your life have you had to ask for an employee’s supervisor or have advised someone to “take it up with” his/her supervisor? What do we teach our children? To “Say NO, then GO and TELL” when they’ve been wronged or go tell the teacher, right?
We go up this chain of command to seek assistance, support and/or corrective action because whatever the matter, we’re looking for justice. By virtue of their role, anyone who is in a leadership, supervisory, advisory or position of authority has a higher level of responsibility and is expected to do the right thing; what everyone seems to be realizing the hard way through these DV accounts is that those who’ve been entrusted with much have done very little to right the wrongs that everyone holistically deems unacceptable. What’s proving to be the case across the board is that evidence of wrongdoing existed, was brought forward and either ignored, minimized or actively covered up NOT by the abusers mind you, but by those who are in leadership, supervisory, advisory or positions of authority. When this process/procedure of covering-up is the current and ongoing administrative SOP across the board, do you seriously expect that anti-abuse advocates, committees, campaigns, task forces, awareness events, laws and legislation can do anything to actually stop and prevent abuse?
PLEASE hear this: If a victim of abuse could stop the abuse, he/she would BUT he/she can’t so it falls to third parties to step in and do something about it!
When these third parties (ie: police, commissioners, judges) fail us – no matter who they are or what role they play – we are all ultimately failed:
- Abusers go without consequence and worse – they feel they are untouchable and beyond punishment which means they’ll continue with their abusive tactics so someone you know or love can be a future victim
- Victims realize it’s pointless to even try to escape
- Survivors learn it’s useless to make noise or report and
- Those third parties gain empowerment as masters of their domains, having successfully pulled the wool over our eyes, manipulated or “outsmarted” us for their own ends
Is THIS the kind of world you want to live in? If not, we need to act because as any DV survivor can tell you, the above is what we’ve got.
In all my years of working in abuse, nothing is worse than those who know better choosing self-preservation and looking the other way or thinking that they can “play God”. Again, it’s NOT the abusers who are the real problem (if you notice, some of them have done the right thing by turning themselves in and/or reporting themselves) it’s those third parties who have chosen to minimalize, marginalize, excuse, ignore, deny or actively cover-up an abuser’s wrongdoing. What I don’t get is if a leader or supervisor’s ethical judgment has been called into question, WHY are we still turning to that very same person for justice and/or corrective action?
Aside from the “What do you think?” question, the next most popular question I’m being asked is “How do you think we can make it stop?”
First, I can tell you that we’ll be going down the wrong road in all these stories (NFL, HPD, judge) and nothing will change for the better if the “fair and equitable” card is played or worse, the victim’s role is put on trial to act as a diversion. Mitigating abuse – referring to acts and incidents as “playing around”, a misunderstanding, a joke that got out of hand, an exaggerated or inaccurate account, etc. – is nothing more than a defensive tactic* and as such, descriptions such as these need to be seen for what they are: tactics. (*Want to clarify here that these are tactics only when third parties say them; when victims call abuse these things they’re typically trying to avert more abuse or appease an angry abuser.)
Making all of this (the abuse, the corruption) stop will take a sustained effort by all of us, and I mean everyone in every capacity. We have to hold each other accountable and that doesn’t mean we have to be all angry and mean-spirited about it – true discipline is done with love and compassion.
Good parents know to call attention to their child’s bad behavior, if not actively correct it, and to not spare their child the consequences of his/her own bad behavior.
Parents actually harm their child when they minimalize (“It’s not so bad!”) marginalize (“She’s only 5”) excuse (“He didn’t mean it”) ignore (“I didn’t see anything so I can’t say anything”) deny (“My son/daughter would NEVER do something like that!”) or actively cover-up (“Don’t say anything, we’ll just get a new one and they’ll never notice”) their child’s wrongdoing, so as with every effort, making abuse stop has got to start at-home and then be supported in the schools (ie: Zero Tolerance = zero tolerance, not “three strikes you’re out”) – consistency is key – and can be accomplished in a loving and compassionate matter.
Correction doesn’t have to include anger, disrespect or humiliating someone and it doesn’t have to mean punishment; sometimes correction is education, prevention, diversion, support, therapy, rehabilitation, redirection, mentoring, volunteering, meaningful activity, even prayer – but notice that ALL of it is hands-on, not hands-off.
The world we live in is what we collectively make of it and what we collectively allow to happen. If domestic violence is truly outrageous and unacceptable to all parties then let’s make and act on it like it is. One day we’re going to figure out that we’re all accountable to each other; the sooner that lesson is learned the better for us all.