Domestic Violence Ain’t Changed. Let’s Get Real–We Have To!

 

“Words may lie, but actions will always tell the truth.”

I would be remiss if I didn’t admit I struggled a little bit as to whether or not to tackle this issue since this is not the usual type of article I write about, especially as you’ll find out later– it literally hits close to home. However, that being said, I’m not one to shy away from controversy, or for that matter–reality and the truth, no matter how painful it may be.

Needless to say, I see patients virtually everyday who have been abused in every way imaginable. It’s unfortunate it takes a high profile figure like Ray Rice and others in the NFL along with the infamous video of abuse most of us have witnessed and has been broadcasted ad nauseaum around the nation to “help” put the spotlight on Domestic Violence (DV). A silver lining…

There was a time several years back when I attended a Domestic Violence (DV) conference held by experts in the field. At first, I went for the sole purpose of my professional interests, but after the talk began there was certainly a deeper personal level being touched upon. Here were the 3 key points:

*How to recognize domestic violence with your clients

* How to safely counsel domestic violence issues with your clients

* How and where to refer clients for further help while instructing them in how to stay safe

The keynote speaker was a woman who works at a local DV shelter in Central Florida and is a Certified Trauma Therapist. If anyone knows what DV is like on a daily basis and its direct impact, she certainly does. She bears witness to the worst of the worst case scenarios in real-time!

There were many horrific stories told about those she has helped, but still she emphasized remaining hopeful with promising endings and outcomes filled with courage and perseverance.

Her presentation was called Working Together to Recognize Domestic Violence (DV).

One story she discussed was about a 78 year-old woman who came to the shelter for help. Yes, 78! She was married to the same man since she was 14 years old. Everyday her husband carried a loaded gun, cocked it back, pointed it straight at her head and said “I better like my damned dinner.”…for over 60 years!

Do you know how many days it is to endure that kind of abuse? Nearly 22,000 days!

Do you know how she got out of it? He died of natural causes…

Do you know that as many as 22-25% of all women have been a victim of DV. That’s 1 in 4! Next time you’re in a group of 20 women, look around…at least 5 have been victims of DV and that’s not counting those raped or attempted rapes–that’s 1 in 6!

She also cited this from the local Channel 9 News posted back in 2009:

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. —

Last year was the worst year for domestic violence cases in Orange County, WFTV learned Friday. The Harbor House finished totaling its figures, and for the year between June 2009 and June 2010, it recorded a 20 percent increase in incidents.

The group blames the bad economy and unemployment.

A suspect runs his ex-girlfriend off Interstate 4 and then stabs her to death. Another man accused of shooting his wife is shot by police.

Serious cases of domestic violence in Central Florida are piling up.

“The cases that we’ve seen are much more brutal, much more frightening, and much more lethal than we’ve seen before,” said Carol Wick of Harbor House.

Carol Wick is with Harbor House of Central Florida. The group provides a 24-hour crisis hotline and a shelter for victims of domestic abuse.

Wick said after 20 years on the job, things have never been worse.

Counselors call it a perfect storm. Orlando has historically been a hot spot for domestic violence. Add in a rising unemployment rate, and you end up with record numbers.

Over the last year in Orange County, there was a 20 percent jump in domestic violence cases, a 40 percent increase in victims fearing they could be killed and a 100 percent increase in domestic abuse-related deaths.

“It’s getting worse because the economy is getting worse,” Wick said. “One of the most dangerous warning signs is when a batterer has lost their job.”

Wick pleads with people at the first signs of trouble to call for help.

“The research shows that people who call an advocate and get a safety plan are 98 percent more likely to survive that relationship than someone who doesn’t take that one simple step,” she said.

(You can go to the Harbor House of Central Florida’s website for more information)

Regarding the speaker’s clients, she reported 25 out of her 27 have been affected by DV.

Only 25% of DV victim incidences are reported to police.

1/3 are killed by their partners.

Believe it or not, women who are physically abused have an easier time recovering than being mentally or emotionally abused.

She gave many disturbing statistics on teen violence as well. Such as almost equally amongst teen males and females they believe it is the victim’s fault.

Regarding elder abuse, because of the generational way of thinking they tend to excuse the behavior and definitely have a harder time talking about these things. There way of thinking is, “You don’t make private matters public”.

Another disturbing DV case was where a teenage older brother stuck a powered up hot curling iron into his younger sister’s vagina.

These examples are not for the purpose of sensationalizing or for shock value. Although it should shock you and appall everyone that these things even occur to the point that something must be done to stop the madness!

She emphasized that one of the very first signs of an abuser is to smash/lose/destroy a person’s cell phone or check cell phone numbers. The presenter stated she has many old cell phone numbers stashed in her car and office in case someone needs it. The best thing is as long as it’s charged you can always dial 911–all phones have access to 911 regardless of owner or payment issues.

She stated she was also abused, in a marriage at the age of 20 and how anyone who knows her now would never think that because of her no nonsense style. She stressed how women need to bring their kids with them to a shelter along with any pets. They have finished building a pet shelter for this reason.

She showcased what’s called the R3 app on phones for people who are at risk that has buttons for: practitioners, begin screening, info, resources, videos, and to donate.

The R3 App was created by Harbor House of Central Florida for its Project Courage Initiative to encourage healthcare professionals and those at risk to Recognize, Respond and Refer (R3) to Domestic Abuse.

Lives can exponentially be saved when people can:

  1. Recognize the signs of domestic abuse.
  2. Respond correctly and effectively to those signs.
  3. Refer victims of domestic abuse to proper assistance

More statistics:

16-24 year-old women are 3 times more likely to have DV.

15 million kids are abused each year.

It is far more dangerous when the person leaves the abuser. 70% of those who do get murdered.

Now does everyone understand one of the main reasons why they stay? Their life literally hangs in the balance and can depend on it!

Whether we like to admit it or not, DV is something which happens to both men and women, children and the elderly everyday; not only in America, but around the globe and sadly it has been going on for countless millennia, perhaps since the dawn of man itself! Remember the biblical Cain and Abel?

And to think that casting the spotlight on the NFL alone and that only this 2014 group of NFL men are the first to do this would be well…you know….

That would be like saying the Iraq War was the first war to have ever happened in history. Totally ludicrous, right?

Remember how it took far too long for our humanity to overcome and win out on the atrocities of slavery? Lest we forget only a short while ago, it was just this past century that mindset has shifted…in America. This is not to say slavery has been totally abolished as sex trafficking/sexual slavery is running rampant–and yes in this country too for those “head in the sand deniers” out there.

I’ve personally dealt with, mostly women, who have been “stolen” from their home country, put in the sex trade business with those I’ve seen being “fortunate” enough to escape from their captors.

I’ve also had clients who have been prostituted out by their guardians or parents along with clients who have prostituted their own children out for money, drugs etc–and that’s right here in the good ‘ol US of A.

Abuse is abuse no matter how it’s manifested. So yes, bad things still happen to which we all would like to believe has remained in the dark ages. Unfortunately change can be slow…too slow.

We thankfully took a stand and shifted from those who were in power along with the masses to be in agreement that slavery was, is, and always will be wrong, even though it was considered commonplace or “the norm” to have and own slaves for the last several thousand years.

Like slavery, it is in the same vein in which we all must stand up as ONE with ONE voice and stamp out any DV no matter where it occurs or who the victims or perpetrators may be. When something is wrong, we know it’s wrong! Period! Slavery is wrong! Period! Violence is wrong! Period!

We know it when we are 5 and we know it when we are 65! The difference is do you have the courage to stand up for what is right? Or do you hide in the shadows and say, “As long as it’s not me or in my backyard”. If you don’t stand up for something, you’ll fall for anything as the saying goes. Time to stop falling, and start standing!

I often hear from clients and patients, “I don’t know what to look forward to or live for.” I say to them it’s not what you’re willing to live for, but what are you willing to die for?!

What is it in your life you stand by that you would fight to the death if you have to?

What is that something you believe in so strongly that you will take a stand on or will not tolerate no matter what– come hell or high water? Sadly very few people I know these days have nary an idea. They look at me stink-eyed and say, “What are you talking about. I go to work and come home and watch Pro Football on Sundays. What’s there to die for??

Exactly!

And these are the same people who often don’t have a purpose, meaning or clue about their life and what to do with their time except to eat hot wings on Sunday and say it’s a great day while they smack their dog, kid or spouse around after their favorite team misses a field goal.

There’s an old joke of how many people does it take to screw in a light bulb…?

Well, how many more horrific abuses does it take for us, not just as a country, state or city, but as all of humanity, to stand up and categorically and unabashedly admit DV is a problem that cannot be shoved under the rug any longer?!

Obviously for now, the answer apparently is…just one more.

As the saying goes those who idly stand by and do nothing are just as culpable as those who committed the offense. Yes, silence can be deadly!

And silence is a form of agreement by “saying”, it’s okay to physically, sexually, mentally or verbally abuse another human being–that is– maybe until it begins seeping into your backyard or until it happens to you directly and your on the receiving end of it.

We’ve all heard and seen the ads for decades where we say no to drugs, rape and other things. Where’s the “Just Say No” battle cry to abuse and violence of any kind?

What would our culture say to this? Hey…it’s okay to beat on a 5 year-old kid just because he spilled his milk? Oh, the public outcry of hearing that, of course! Forget about if there was a video to boot.

How long ago was Rodney King again….? The famous line of: “Can’t we all just get along?” Try answering that one to the 5-year old who just spilled his milk…

Remember what we were all taught? “Now, little Johnny don’t hit. It’s not nice to hit.” Since when was it ever okay to hit anyone at any age or put your hands on anyone in a threatening and violent manner aimed to subdue or overtake another whether in the year 2014 or 2014 BC?

Whether the age is 5, 15 or 50, it ain’t right! Whether you’re a girl, boy, man or woman, it ain’t right! A Mexican, Canadian, German, or Haitian, it ain’t right! A Muslim, Catholic, Hindu, Athiest, it ain’t right! It may have been condoned, accepted or the turn of the blind eye in 1914, but it sure as hell ain’t gonna be tolerated in 2014!

As much as some might quip and deem this to be trivial, I would like to see a first easy change in just the moniker of the words Domestic Violence.

As an example, no matter where your opinions may lie in regards to Global Warming. Warming about our Globe certainly sounds like a comfy, fuzzy word you just want to snuggle up to. Now, just try to tell that to the polar bears.

Words are powerful, have meaning and symbolize something behind those meanings and can absolutely change its meaning over time. The Swastika symbol didn’t start with the Nazi’s, but was an East Indian symbol from long ago meaning “Good fortune, Good luck and quite literally Good or Well-Being.” I imagine the Jews didn’t see that symbol quite that way.

Just take the word discrimination and it conjures up all kinds of racist and bigoted images. But it has the meaning of simply distinguishing between two things at it’s basic core. As the pen is mightier than the sword. Words and symbols have gigantic power.

In the same light, violence and abuse are just that– negatively powerful. The very word domestic has got to go! The name alone whips up a sense as if we are some sort of animal being tamed into submission through violence by being “domesticated”. Yes, it may be the physical location where it “takes place” and sometimes occurs in an actual “domestic household”, but anyone putting their hands on someone else anywhere on this planet without their permission is simply assault regardless of location or whether or not it’s considered to be just a “lover’s quarrel” in the kitchen.

This always conjures up the late, great stand-up comedian George Carlin and one of his stand-ups when he talked about this very subject. He and I have something in common as we both are veterans of the US Air Force and we don’t appreciate things that are sugar-coated and not in reality.

George Carlin:

“I don’t like words that hide the truth. I don’t like words that conceal reality. I don’t like euphemisms, or euphemistic language. And American English is loaded with euphemisms. ‘Cause Americans have a lot of trouble dealing with reality. Americans have trouble facing the truth, so they invent the kind of a soft language to protest themselves from it, and it gets worse with every generation. For some reason, it just keeps getting worse. I’ll give you an example of that. There’s a condition in combat. Most people know about it. It’s when a fighting person’s nervous system has been stressed to it’s absolute peak and maximum. Can’t take anymore input. The nervous system has either (click) snapped or is about to snap. In the first world war, that condition was called shell shock. Simple, honest, direct language. Two syllables,shell shock. Almost sounds like the guns themselves. That was seventy years ago. Then a whole generation went by and the second world war came along and the very same combat condition was called battle fatigue. Four syllables now. Takes a little longer to say. Doesn’t seem to hurt as much. Fatigue is a nicer word than shock. Shell shock! Battle fatigue. Then we had the war in Korea, 1950. Madison avenue was riding high by that time, and the very same combat condition was calledoperational exhaustion. Hey, were up to eight syllables now! And the humanity has been squeezed completely out of the phrase. It’s totally sterile now. Operational exhaustion. Sounds like something that might happen to your car. Then of course, came the war in Viet Nam, which has only been over for about sixteen or seventeen years, and thanks to the lies and deceits surrounding that war, I guess it’s no surprise that the very same condition was called post-traumatic stress disorder. Still eight syllables, but we’ve added a hyphen! And the pain is completely buried under jargon. Post-traumatic stress disorder. I’ll bet you if we’d have still been calling it shell shock, some of those Viet Nam veterans might have gotten the attention they needed at the time. I’ll betcha. I’ll betcha.”

You would be hard-pressed to convince me that names don’t matter and symbols don’t matter! And I’ll bet if we started calling DV something like, oh, I don’t know… Shock Abuse or Abused Violence it too would get the necessary attention it has deserved… I’ll betcha. I’ll betcha.

But no, this word “Domestic” conjures up images of a sweet little dog or cat in a comfy, cozy, home and makes it seem it’s half-way “OK” to commit the offense. Kind of like, “Awww, it’s just a husband and wife beating on each other, it’s none of our business; they always do that; that’s their ‘thing’.” It’ll all be okay tomorrow….Really?

How about another name that’s being thrown around lately: “intimate partner violence”.

What?! Really?

They got the intimate part right; when a fist goes into someone’s face–that’s about as intimate as you get! You see how words become this transformative language meme that can stick in our viral minds?! Let’s call it what it is and not dance around it anymore with “fancy” names–Physical Violence or Physical Abuse–Done!

You see how our human psyche tends not to like to deal with things–especially bad things that make us feel–icky. Say, for example….Reality! Especially when whatever it is doesn’t sound or appear as threatening to us.(that’s the good’ol limbic check system for ya)

Nearly every client or patient I have ever seen over the past 25+ years, I would estimate that 95% of them can and do find every conceivable possible way to not deal in reality.

Let’s do an experiment, shall we? Humor me and try it:

Say it out loud to yourself–Domestic Violence.

Now say this out loud– Physical Violence.

Kind of hits you right in the gut when you say Physical instead of Domestic doesn’t it?That’s the point. If it don’t hit you right where it matters, where it can hurt, how easy will it be for you to change something for the better and ultimately live with the truth and reality?

Naw Eric, let me get back to my football…

Humans are natural procrastinators and deniers as it is, and we will find any excuse or rationalization to get out of something if we can even by simply using softer, fuzzier words to Minimize our Reality!

Had a client just today come in and I gave him a task to help reduce his issues of anger. He stated he tried it out and said, “Yeah, it worked for two days.” I asked, so what happened after 2 days and why did you quit if it worked? He wouldn’t answer this directly, and finally after a long time of dancing around it by trying to avoid telling me his REALITY, he admitted he stopped because he just wanted to see if it worked and now that he knows it works to help his anger he got bored with it and quit.

Hmmmm–so he would rather be angry and frustrated, sit and stew then begone with his anger.

Hmmm…this begs the question so why does he stay? when he knows it works?Much in the same manner why people stay in DV relationships?

There’s a whole slew of psychodynamic issues that play out for this client and those dealing with DV–it can be complicated as you can tell–even after he tried it and it worked!

As with my client as well as DV perps, his reasons for keeping his anger has to do in large part with this: using abuse as a “reason” for power and control; anger, rage and fear with the little 5-year-old Johnny, throwing a temper tantrum, not having any other “tools” to deal with conflict, “not getting his way”, and “I will wear you down until you say uncle and any way I can to get my way.”

If you don’t submit and do my bidding…then the impulse is to lash out in order to protect and survive–in that brief scary moment.

But now, he’s no longer 5 years old, he’s a 25 year-old football player, a large-sized of a man to be reckoned with.

Now, let’s compare “Little” Johnny’s punch to “Big” Johnny’s punch. And here’s the kicker, Big Johnny forgets…he’s gotten bigger, faster, and stronger, but the “instinct” or rather the reinforced training of little Johnny is still trapped inside. Now it’s a life-sized Mack Truck comin’ at you instead of a toy Tonka Truck.

Nearly everyday I have clients and patients who have been abused sexually, emotionally, mentally, and yes, physically. I also see people who are theabusers/bullies as well. Unsurprisingly, I tend to see less of the victimizers and more of their victims, unless they themselves were abused also, which is often the case. That unfortunate legacy of the “Apple and Tree Syndrome”.

I see many children and teens too who have this issue where they take out their frustration and anger on their parents, their peers, their younger siblings and sometimes even on older and bigger, brothers or sisters. And yes indeed, younger little sister on big older brother. Think Napolean complexes here.

There are reasons why people on the victim side of things get into such relationships with bulliers, violent offenders and it can get dicey and very complicated such as that’s all they knew growing up, self-esteem, self-worth issues, money, etc.

It’s something like asking a stripper, a prostitute or a drug dealer why they do what they do when they could go work at 7/11 for minimum wage as a possible alternative. Benefits vs. Risks is all.

It’s not about right or wrong or casting judgment, here. It’s about how people equate life in their own minds, make decisions on those feelings and beliefs, and get certain outcomes that benefit them towards some intrinsic need. It can be as simple as economics on the one-hand, but it’s always complicated on the other with fear being the common denominator in both hands.

It is a travesty how that apple/tree legacy of learned behavior gets passed down from generation to generation. Much in the same manner as slavery and all the other abhorrent behaviors get “transmitted”. You want to know more about how that happens, and the power of our mental thoughts and memes? It will require you to think again about how you are in less control (for now) than you realize. Read Virus of the Mind by Richard Dawkins.

So what can be done? It is always on a case by case basis, but there is an easy starting point that I use sometimes that even a 3 year-old can understand.

Countless times I’ve handed out to patients what is called the “Power and Control Wheel”.

There are many variations which include children wheels, LGBT wheels, race/ethnicity wheels, etc., but the premise is always the same. Google search Power and Control Wheel, look at the areas and see if any of those apply or have applied to you or someone you know.

After I read off all of the slices of the wheel to those clients who I know are being or have been abused, on every single occasion without exception they state, “Yep I have all of them”.

I had to Baker Act someone recently because she was going to commit harm to herself. One of the comments she made was: “I will never harm my children because I don’t want to do to them what was done to me”. When I asked her about the abuse, she scoffed and stated “Abuse? What abuse? That’s just what everybody did.”

Yeah, kinda like slavery, it’s just what everybody did. Just because everybody’s doin’ it, don’t make it right! Anybody watch the clip on Chris Carter basically stating, “I love you mom and I know that’s what was done back then, but you were wrong! It was wrong!”

When you look at these wheels, here’s the thing, you don’t have to have all of them to be abused–all you need is just one. If you feel powerless in some way and someone takes advantage or capitalizes on that in any way, shape or form, and it is allowed to happen, it’s abuse–end of story.

Some of the slices include ways of being abused even without having someone putting their hands on you: coercion, threats, intimidation, minimizing, denying, blaming, isolation, money, etc. (stay tuned for another article on these more nasty stinkin’ thinkin’/cognitive distortions)

Although I am not a specialist in physical abuse or trauma per se, I see enough of its effects everyday, and help my patients and clients become more powerful and not remain in the victim mode.

It’s one thing to show people the reality of where they are with the power and control wheel to help break through their denial, and help in the reality and truth sink in, etc., but quite another when the next question always is, “Yeah, I know it, but now what do I do about it?”

Many people have no roadmap as to what to feel or how to operate in a non-violent lifestyle and have no past “template”, instilled role models or teaching to pull from, so they feel blind and helpless and fall into the same negative patterns they themselves grew up with.

I like to give this example: If you were born in Russia what language would you speak? Right, Russian. In the US? Right, English. Getting to understand how to live a non- violent lifestyle when all you know is violence is like dropping me in Russia and expecting me to know perfect Russian that same day. We humans don’t work that way.

Some people may never learn Russian and live there all their lives only knowing the English language, but living in Russia. Some will just get by knowing a bit of Russian, some will speak it fluently, but with an accent, etc.

The same goes for growing up in violence. Some will never change and bad things happen, some still have violent tendencies and still others will always have to deal with their “violent accent”, but they manage and move on with their lives. But to expect someone to just go from violence to non-violence without some serious work involved over time–ain’t happenin’.

Another tool to help in educating and turning the page towards feeling more whole, less broken or fractured for those in abusive relationships is called the “Equality Wheel”.

It is the opposite of the power and control wheel; a snapshot of what a healthy relationship looks like; one that makes you feel good and not trapped, powerless, alone, isolated or helpless.

As well, you can Google search this wheel. It has areas such as economic partnership, shared responsibility, respect, trust and support, etc.

You know… all those good and proper behaviors some of us take for granted and others have never had the privilege of ever knowing. It’s that whole golden rule thing, which I would like to believe most of us were taught at 5 years old to abide by…but following and adhering to this edict is another matter entirely.

After going through the wheel diagrams, because it doesn’t end there with simple awareness but it certainly is a good seed planter, I’ll go in this direction which all patients need to overcome eventually, but most avoid….

Here’s one of the rubs. What I’m about to say is not about blaming a victim, but understand this– for every bully there must be a bullied/victim to balance the equation. For every punch thrown there has to be a “receiver’s” face it’s thrown into. What I do is I help my patients become empowered by realizing the part they play in this equation. This is where people get into trouble and don’t understand the complexities when “smart people” say, Well, “why do they stay, why don’t they just leave?”

If you think that these victims don’t ask themselves this question everyday, you are highly uninformed and sadly mistaken. They ask this of themselves from the moment they wake up until the moment they go to bed–notice I didn’t say sleep. Anyone who has been a POW knows exactly what this is like–yeah, it’s a lot like that!

This is by no way an identical comparison, but on a small level, this is like asking somebody who constantly complains about their job, or life situation or where they live and yet they “choose” to not change anything about their circumstance. “I’ll just keep complaining.”

Go ahead, you’ve done it before, I know you have…So…you ask them, you’re just itchin’ to. “So why don’t you just leave your job, live somewhere else, etc?” Yeah, there it is again–those same old fears just played out on a different and more highly combustible stage with DV. Fear of losing control, what little you may have–fear of the unknown…

Just as in leaving a job or getting a divorce, this is a bit of an oversimplification model, but it is basically this: I stay and allow myself to be treated this way because the perceived or believed alternative(unknown outcome) is more scary and fearful than the one I’m in now.

“How do I survive this?” Sometimes it is the devil you know versus the devil you don’t, sometimes it is an upbringing of knowing nothing different or better, and other unmet needs and fears such as “I’d rather be beaten up by ‘a somebody’ than be alone with ‘nobody’. The list of “reasons” or fears are endless.

Here’s a little factoid for ya–Did you know that only 2-3% of our daily decisions are based on fact! Let alone, 90% of all our worries never come to pass. So are you living on fears or facts? Let that sink in for a moment…

It might help you question and rethink some of your long held beliefs and dogmas that you’ve snuggled up with and so close to for all these decades….or not.

The point is we all have reasons why we do or don’t do things regardless of the circumstances. And to judge someone without fully understanding “why they stay” because you’ve never been in those shoes is simply obtuse thinking. Hopefully I can help to change some of that.

Now, if you think that it’s only women getting beaten by men, you are denying another reality. Yes, the reported numbers are still women getting the brunt of it, but who talks about women on women? How about the not-so-talked-about women gang violence and all the girls “fighting like boys” nowadays? Gone are the days of worrying about your dress, makeup and nails.

Hell, even back in the70’s and 80’s when I was growing up, although it wasn’t common, I saw several girl on girl fights and it wasn’t just pulling hair–I’m talking about fists on face and those are only the one’s I witnessed in my little town I was raised in.

Then there is the classic man on man–even more glamorized with MMA and its popularity.

But the one that doesn’t get spoken of often or publicized is woman on man violence. There are those even in my profession along with government officials who see it this way: “When we ain’t got the man on woman violence under control yet, who’s got time or investment for women on men violence, right? Wrong!

This isn’t a man versus woman issue! It is not an us versus them issue! It is a human rights issue for everyone!

Reports indicate 15% of all DV is women on men. Remember, this is what is reported! We all know the stigma for men behind this. Unreported estimates have been increasing to the point it could be closer to 30-40% of the DV and that’s only in this country. Very similar to the reported cases of rape versus actual rapes. We don’t know what the “real” numbers are but they’re higher than the reported case, to be sure.

Anecdotally speaking, in my office the patients who report the abuse compared to those who don’t is about 50/50. Where this number begins to shift is in two areas: not surprisingly with my older patients being less inclined to report and those who are a minority. However, if you can call this a brighter side, at least those who are younger and have succumbed to violence are using their voice more, speaking up, “tolerating” it for less time– not 60+ years and reporting it more often! They are indeed standing up for what’s right by them, others and for future generations to come. (By younger I speak of patients in their teens, 20’s and 30’s)

“Bullies may be the perpetrators of evil, but it is the evil of passivity of all those who know what is happening and never intervene that perpetuates such abuse.” Philip Zimbardo

As you’ve already gathered and I’ve alluded to, this is a “hot button” for me not only on a professional or humane level, but on a personal level.

So what do I know about all this abuse “stuff’ anyway aside from my professional experience?

Sadly, I’ve also had an intimate relationship with severe abuse on a personal level.

Yes, believe it or not, I know it first-hand how abuse works. Why? Because it happened to me. As I sit here and write this, there have been only a few other people in my life who have known about it.

Further still, in many circles of my profession I’ve been advised not to discuss or disclose “these kinds of personal things”, or “I’m not supposed to not talk about it.” Really? That’s exactly the problem and what perpetuates the pervasiveness of DV. This deafly silence is how virtually all “bad things” start and snowball out of control in the first place.

Simply by not talking about it from and on a professional level can also be seen as another form of silencing.

But No! No, what I have not done and will not do as a professional, and I am not supposed to do is allow my personal experiences interfere with the therapeutic process of my patient’s and clients. If I disclose for the sole purpose of helping the client it is one thing, but if it’s to try to vent, etc. that’s crossing the line at best in being unethical!

I would vehemently argue, it can, in fact, help to disclose as long as the therapist has made peace with what has happened and can use it as an instrument of healing others and not as a way to turn the tables to where the patient becomes the therapist.

It is not entirely identical, but NA and AA leaders use this method as a healing approach on many levels. But I fully understand that sometimes the therapist can put themselves on the wrong side of the fence—again we are staying with the truth, reality, and no denial.

Here’s the point, my silence is what got me into my very own entangled mess of a relationship predicament in the first place. I didn’t talk about what was happening—to nobody. I thought I could fix it, make it work, change her, change me, just do something!

Toss in all the stories I had from growing up that were aplenty, “you don’t air your dirty laundry”, what would “they” think?, etc. And, I didn’t want to talk about it to nobody, anyway. Oh, the shame and blame towards myself as a failure in marriage, and to top it all off, the gift that keeps on giving–the guilt…what did I do, what have I done, what am I going to do, I felt it was nobody’s business, I can take care of it, it will get better, I’m a man, nobody would believe I was getting “pushed around” by a woman half my size, and “you never hit a woman”, “it’s okay if she hits you, you’re a man”, “you never get a divorce no matter what she does”, “you never get a divorce– period, you work it out no matter what, and on and on.

Really? This went on for 12 years while in my early 20’s to mid- 30’s, but that doesn’t make it any better or minimize what happened. Simply stated, it’s not okay no matter how long ago it happened, what gender, age, race, size, ethnicity or who is or was standing behind that fist. But it finally stopped–not one day longer.

Yes, I was physically, emotionally, and mentally abused by my ex-wife for many years. What I went through certainly shaped my life. How can it not? My point here in my disclosure is not to vent, cast dispersions, stir up an old wound, not to shock or seek any form of sympathy here. No, my entire purpose is to shed light on violence and it knowing no boundaries.

Some of the most famous names of those abused are Tyler Perry, Meredith Vieira, Oprah Winfrey, Maya Angelou and I’ve even read certain US presidents also had some “bad things” happen to them– and the list goes on and on of those we know and don’t know, in as much as the AIDS virus knows no bounds as to who it infects or kills.

DV happens in bedrooms to the board rooms, to rich and poor, to those in the United States to those in the State of Israel or Russia.

So not only do I understand this at a professional level, but I also know it first-hand what perps “do” to their victims and why victims get the judgment of others as to “why they stay”. I didn’t know it at the time, of course, but after awhile I knew why I stayed too.

If nothing has sunk in yet, if you really want to “get it” from one who knows and who explains it best as to why “they” stay, why anyone stays, and why I stayed as long as I did watch Leslie Morgan Steiner to give you the answer on Ted Talks. Here are 2 links:

https://www.google.com/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&rlz=1C1OPRA_enUS528US582&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=leslie%20morgan%20steiner%20ted%20talk

Ms. Steiner said something powerful that resonated with me. She said, “My husband was smart by creating the illusion of me being the dominant one in the relationship. At the beginning he seduced and charmed me and then steadily begin to isolate me.” “Even with my upbringing and educational background… I didn’t know he was abusing me.”

That was me…I was her…she was me…Leslie was talking to me!

As did I, Leslie finally broke through her denial and broke her silence as well and began telling everyone. I started telling all and tell everyone and didn’t stop telling. When people ask: Why do they stay– it is code for it’s her fault for staying. Abuse thrives only in silence. We need to shine a spotlight on it.

Any one of the millions of people who are abused truly knows exactly what Leslie is talking about and how it resonated with me and continues to resonate with my clients as I use her video as a wake-up call for those in denial. The denial of being abused is pervasive and until you cut through that you would never know.

Just like if you first met someone on a first date and they showed you all of their ugly side right off the bat or they punched you in the face, would you go on a second date. Of course not, you would call the police immediately and never see them again.

That’s not how this DV business works. It’s much more elusive and insidious than that. You get to a point in “the game” you don’t know you’re in and you get conned, bamboozled, manipulated and toyed with because we the “victim” also allow it for all sorts of reasons. It always takes two to tango…

And it always boils down to fear of some kind with nearly every victim I have talked to, it has been a fear of being alone that is at the core. I’ve personally never had issues of being alone. No, mine was all those big stories I held onto from generations long gone of never getting a divorce and you “must” always find a way to make it work, or else. Really? Or else what? When it don’t fit…it just don’t fit. That’s the reality we need to face!

There are 7 billion people on this planet. Do the math–never allow 1 single person to ruin your life–namely yourself. There are many others to choose from…

Others in my inner circle knew it, could see it, but they didn’t want to interfere. Immediately after, I wished they had–at the time. But as I later realized, my stories were far stronger than my acceptance of abuse. There efforts wouldn’t have mattered much because at the end of the day, until I saw it no amount of their interference would have helped, and it even may have been counterproductive.

For me, I felt it was almost like being blind-sided to what I certainly thought I would have “known” if it were happening to me. I egotistically thought and denied DV? Me be a victim of that? Never!

And of course naively thinking, I never would have tolerated any abuse, because I never did in the past. But, all it took was this one particular person who came along at the right moment in time in my life. Someone who I only thought existed in the movies. Oh yes, the red flags were there, but I ignored them. Think Glen Close in Fatal Attraction here. And no I am not the one who played Glen Close in the relationship just in case that crossed your mind.

What do you think happens when a 22 year-old goes traipsing around the world in the military. What does he know about life–heck that’s why I was traipsin’, so I would get exposed to the world…be careful what you wish for, Eric.

But no, I don’t regret a single decision I have made in my life, including my marriage, abuse, divorce, and my daughter as it has made me who I am today. That is not to say, I or anyone else deserves to be treated abusively. This was something that all the famous people I mentioned used to make them stronger. They chose instead to not allow it to break or weaken them. I have not allowed that since and neither should you or anyone else!

“One’s dignity may be assaulted, vandalized and cruelly mocked, but it can never be taken away unless it is surrendered.” Michael J. Fox

I used to look back and ask myself how did I get through that? Wow, how did I tolerate that for all those years? When I would tell others, they couldn’t believe it either.

But this isn’t about Monday Morning Quarterbacking, this is about how we can all learn from our lessons in life that we must go through. It never ceases to amaze me how much negativity and torture a human being can be put through and endure and allow ourselves to go through to not feel the fear of being alone or hold onto a story of illusion.

For many, it is far worse to feel alone than to get the feeling of being abused everyday. “Well at least someone is with me and he/she is beating me, but at least I’m not alone, Whew….thank God, beatings I can take, alone–NO WAY!

Then you start believing that’s all you are worth. Things never get better in abuse, they only escalate, get worse, and sadly, some die because of it.

It doesn’t matter what the abuse entails, if you are part of it, hear it, witness it–it needs to be reported–period! Don’t ever rationalize for any reason not to report it if it’s happening to you! As they say it is better to come from a broken home than to live in one.

Because silence begets more silence, and silence never changed the world. Speak up no matter what you fear the consequences are to you or others. Your or your loved one’s life may depend on it.

Ray Rice’s wife didn’t know and neither did he with the fatal blow at the time, but all it takes is that one punch to kill her. And rather than him “just” losing money and being in the headlines reading “Ray Rice banned from the NFL”, we could instead be reading “Ray Rice in Jail”. And his wife, a family’s daughter and sister would no longer with us. No amount of anything will bring her back or turn the clocks back. Lives can literally be altered forever in an instant.

If it weren’t for the video and him being a high profiled person no one would be the wiser. It would have been just 1 person walking by in the street saying to themselves–“there’s another one”, Wonder what happened to her?” and just kept on walking by. We can’t just keep walking by in silence and do nothing!

We must not and cannot allow DV to become back page news or be relegated to the annals of a “bad time” in NFL’s history in some video vault to be buried.

No! This is another issue we need to address as a culture, as a country and globally that I won’t allow to go away. Just as, women’s rights, minority rights, gay rights, jobs, wars and everything else should be on our consciousness to continue to fight for what’s RIGHT!

Our human rights and dignity for ourselves and each other is at stake here and one of those issues I’m willing to put my life on the line for and die for!

Sadly, at this time, there are no men’s shelters in Florida where I reside. If a man comes into a women’s shelter here he is sent to “other” facilities. A men’s shelter has always been something I wanted to create locally for those in need.

I certainly could have used one when I was locked out of my own house by my ex-wife one evening coming home from work, having only the clothes on my back, my bank accounts wiped out and only a few bucks in my pocket, and unable to see my daughter….Yes, it was the only time in my life that I was literally homeless for a week before I got back on my feet and into a place.

A person never forgets those kinds of life altering moments. It also has allowed me to appreciate any and all things that come into my life since that moment on.

Millions have been abused, are being abused, and will continue to be abused on all levels of society until more awareness is made around what many may find as a difficult to talk about topic.

With all my power, I will not allow my patients to ever surrender….and neither will I!

“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.” Khalil Gibran

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