The right question

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Remember back in 2014 when Ray Rice, ex- NFL player, hit his then fiancé, Janay Palmer, in an Atlantic City hotel so hard it knocked her out cold? That video is hard to watch as he drags her unconscious body out of the elevator.

I remember everyone kept asking Janay, “how can you stay with him?” She tried to answer that question, but I wonder if anyone, publicly like they did with her, asked him, “Why did you beat Janay? What made you believe that it was ok to hit her? Why did you use your strength against a woman?”

Still, we look at the abused woman, as if she’s got a horn growing out of her head, and ask her, “How can you stay with a man like that? I wouldn’t put up with it.”

I think the most important question is, What causes men to abuse women?  It’s important because if we have the answer to this question and can address it effectively, I believe we can eradicate intimate partner violence.

There are some who suggest that it’s low self-esteem, drugs, alcohol, a bad temper, stress, an abusive childhood or a myriad of other factors that cause men to batter women. But I and professionals who work extensively in the field of domestic abuse say that it is primarily a learned behavior. It is due to learned cultural attitudes. Lundy Bancroft says on his website, “battering is primarily a cultural problem, not a psychological one; that is to say, battering is a learned and socially reinforced behavior used to exert power and control in an intimate relationship, tightly linked to the history of male domination.”

How can we know this? Look at other men you know that battle drugs or alcohol. Do they all abuse their mates? What about men you know who had abusive childhoods?  Do they all beat their partners or call them “fat bitches?” What about men who have stressful jobs? Do they all come home and take a hit on their wives to “release their stress”? And a man who abuses his wife or partner would never dare lash out physically or verbally, as a pattern of relating, to his boss or the guys on the basketball court or around the poker table. He knows he’d get his ass kicked. It’s a choice he makes to go home and unleash a campaign of power against the most vulnerable person in his life.

Men who batter believe that they can exert power and control over their intimate partners. They believe they have that right and they believe that “right” is supported by the church. They believe they’ve been treated unfairly, so they are entitled to special treatment by their wives and children.  These attitudes and beliefs clearly hurt women and we must do all we can to keep women and children safe from violent men. In addition, these attitudes keep both men and women from experiencing true intimacy and lasting love.

 

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