In the past weeks and months, I have been as guilty as any other American in being swept up in the raucous politics of our current Presidential election cycle, but I haven't been so distracted that I have forgotten how important the month of October is for reasons other than campaigning.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
I wrote the following post last year for another blog... I dusted it off and re-present it to you because I think that this is an important subject.
In the United States, October is recognized as Domestic Violence Awareness Month. All across America, worthy organizations and movements like the Clothes Line Project and the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence are speaking out against domestic violence and violence against women. This is a praise-worthy thing... but the world is changing my friends, and it isn't just organizations that are speaking out, Bloggers are speaking too, and this is where I come in.
A couple of days ago, I was contacted by Gina from What About Our Daughters?, A blog dedicated to combating the destructive portrayals of black women in popular culture. Gina asked me to help her out by posting something about Domestic Violence, and I agreed.
While mulling it over, I first thought I would talk a little bit about domestic violence (DV) from a statistical standpoint, and mention that fact that although black people make up thirteen percent of the U.S. population, black women make up twenty-eight percent of the reported victims of DV.
I thought about it, alright, but I decided to take another route.
Instead of raw numbers, I am going to talk about DV from a personal viewpoint. You see, I know a wee bit about the subject. I witnessed it as a child.
My dad was a wife-beater.
An early memory for five year old Gunfighter was my father coming home after working the late shift at Hamilton Air Force Base, California, and getting into an argument with my mother. I have no idea what it was all about, but I remember the shouting turning into screams. Screams coming from my mother, punctuated by the fist-on-flesh thwacking sound that no child should hear coming from his own mother's body.
After scooping my older sister from her bed, my mother ran into the bedroom that I shared with my brother, herded us into our car and drove off into the night. We drove around for a few hours, finally parking on the side of the road, somewhere in Marin County. I am certain that sometime that night, I must have slept, but I remember being awake, as the new day was dawning, seeing my mother just staring blankly out the window.
It was 1968, my mother was 29 years old... and she had nowhere to go.
I'll bet you know what we did next.
If you guessed "you-waited-until-your-dad-went-to-work-and-then-you-went-back-home", you get a cookie.
My life changed that night. That night put me on the road that I travel today... the road that leads to responsible fatherhood. The road that leads to marital respect. The road that leads to being a true man.
That beating wasn't the only one my mother ever got from my father... but it was the worst, and the last. By 1969, my mother had divorced my father, and we moved to New Jersey to live with my Grandmother.
The following years were good for my father. He got help, he remarried, had another child with his second wife (who died in a car crash in 1981), and became a better man than he had been in his dark days. All of this is covered here, so I'll press on.
Like I said... I know a little bit about DV.
I'm fortunate... I didn't repeat the cycle. I don't smack my wife around. I have never hit either of my children (I have two daughters). I would rather stick my hand in a food processor than do those things.
Scientists and Sociologists have opined deeply about the causes of DV, and I suppose that they may be right... but to me I have to say that I believe that spousal abuse is a learned behavior. A behavior passed on from person to person, sometimes father to son.... sometimes passed on by pop culture images or even hero-worship.
I could take this particular moment to go on about the damage done by many of the images in the hip-hop sub-culture, but that horse is dead, and has been beaten by myself and others thousands of times in the past few months. No, I'm not going to blame the rappers specifically (not that they don't share some blame), because there was DV a looong time before the first violent rap lyrics ever showed up.
When dad beats mom, he teaches his son that it is ok to beat women. When dad beats mom, and mom stays silent, she teaches her son that it is ok to beat women, and teaches her daughter that quiet acceptance is alright. When popular athletes, entertainers, members of Congress, or pastors beat their wives, and their supporters close ranks around them and protect them, society teaches boys that violence against women is alright, and teaches girls that even if they speak out, they will be ridiculed, scorned, devalued, and even BLAMED for the violence visited upon them.
Domestic Violence is a social disease and your friend Gunfighter is going to lay down the cure, right here, right now.
There is a cure for Domestic Violence. Here it is: The Man of Character
The Man of Character, is a pillar of strength for his family. They KNOW they can always depend on him to do the right thing.
The Man of Character is a pillar of his community.
The Man of Character isn't a social sponge, sucking up all his community has to offer while giving nothing of himself.
The family of a Man of Character is never afraid for their safety in his presence.
It is the responsibility of men of character to end this cycle of violence. Men of character must lead by example. Men of character must be sterling role-models to their sons. A Man of character must be the kind of man that his daughters will use as their ideal when the time comes for them to think about life-partners. Men of character vote in all elections, men of character are men of personal values.
When a man loves his wife and children in such a manner, all things are possible, and violence has no place. In that sort of environment, a family is doing the best thing that they can do to break the links in the chains of domestic violence.
Men: Don't do it.... ever. If you see or feel yourself going down that road, GET HELP.
Women: Don't put up with it... not even once. Rescue your children and run!
DV is a learned behavior, 'tis true, but one good thing you can say about learned behavior, is that it can't be learned when it isn't seen or heard of.
To some, my answers may sound trite, but it's all I have. If anyone has more and better ideas, I'm all ears.
****ADDENDUM**** It should be noted that domestic violence is not restricted to heterosexual couples. This sickness doesn't have any hangups about same-sex couples/marriages/unions... my message here talks about men of character, but is truly meant for all persons of character.
****NOTE**** When I am King, wife/spouse beaters will be taken to the wall and shot. No clemency. No appeal. No bullshit.