Through March 8 (International Women’s Day) True Stories Well Told is featuring special-focus posts on the problem of violence against women, including guest essays exploring how the abuse of one affects us all. The following essay was written by fellow APH member Steve Trainor.
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I’m not perfect.
I’ve never hit a woman – if fact my wife would be mortified by my telling you that she has hit me during an argument or two.
She, of course, feels terrible later…. but I sincerely told her that I understand I made her so angry by my inability to comprehend what she was telling me… and she struck me out of frustration. Fortunately I wasn’t hurt, just shocked. I mean, it certainly got my attention but I’m sure we all agree there are better ways to do that.
Why do men hit women?
I have the advantage of having been a long-time television news reporter. I’ve done many a story on domestic violence (crime/police reports), usually under the umbrella of a bigger story (homicide, for instance, including the woman killing the man).
To this day, 24 years later, I’m still proud of a series of stories I did, calling it “Violence Hits Home.”
I learned that many people (women included) grow up in families where “hitting” is how you win or at least get attention or solve a problem. A psychiatrist told me that some men view their women as their “property,” and a police officer said that abusers don’t stop hitting until at least someone bigger than them (with a badge and a gun on his hip) tells them to stop. Usually prison-time is required before such assailants learn behavior modification.
How did they get this way?
As I get older I’m learning that ‘some people are just wired this way or that way’ (politics, for instance). But I believe parents have a lot to do with it.
Especially the moms.
I don’t know if they want their sons to grow up to be “great” or “popular” or “rich” or the moms are so needy that they want their son’s unconditional love (vs. what they may be getting from the dad…), but from what I’ve seen, a majority of mom’s give their sons a free ride. They’re not as hard on them as they are on their daughters and I think we can agree – in this age of the single-mother – that mom’s do most of the child raising.
Did I mention I’ve been a long-time Advisor to a youth group for boys? Boys age 12 and up come to me undisciplined, again, for the most part.
I think many moms let their sons pretty much do what they want early in life so that by the time the mom realizes she’s created a monster, it’s too late to turn him around. He can verbally, if not physically intimidate her and he knows that. Or he can pout and make life hard on the mom, especially if she’s raising him pretty much on his own. It also seems to me that young men are more independent and prefer to be out on their own, away from mom’s positive influence, as much as possible, maybe being influenced by others their same age who also aren’t being “guided.”
I think this is starting to happen less, but still way too often.
So, when you have boys & men who believe they ‘can do what they want,’ you have takers instead of givers. These are men who are used to getting their own way and expect it with each new relationship or situation.
I’m speaking, too, about the sexual traumatizing of women.
This won’t turn around until moms demand higher standards of their boys and don’t settle until they get it.
This won’t turn around until women of all ages state upfront their high expectations – their way or the highway.
I can personally say I ran into a few women during my dating days that put their foot down about how they expected to be treated, what language or humor I used, much less regarding intimate relations – and it was up to me to change if I really wanted to spend more time with them.
Please understand that boys and young men should be respectful of others and honor boundaries. Most know the right thing to do, but as the song goes, “You’ve got to be carefully taught.” In the absence of that — by moms, dads, and family — yes, I believe men will push the boundaries to first see what they can get or control until or unless expectations and rules are laid down.
There will always be violence and trauma, but we can’t lessen the probability of it all until we start now. Generally…generally you get what you expect. Be strong and upfront about it.
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I encourage you to support your local women’s shelter. Consider offering the toiletries you bring back from trips or offering second-hand items to help women start new lives. From my experience, THEY NEED EVERYTHING. Once they find the courage to leave, they may have nothing but the clothes on their back.
– Steve Trainor