By Rosaland Tyler
New Journal and Guide
The 20th Million Man March aimed a spotlight on domestic violence, an old dark issue that often hides behind closed doors.
Still, Nation of Islam Leader Louis Farrakhan raised the issue on a warm breezy fall day while thousands of men carried signs, listened to speeches and songs in Washington, D.C. at the National Mall on Oct. 10. Farrakhan raised it while vendors hawked T-shirts, signs and posters. This means an issue which strikes one in three women and one in four men but often occurs, in the dark behind closed doors briefly saw the light of day.
Black men and women should forsake foul language and violence against each other, Farrakhan told the crowd. If things don’t change, participating in the Million Man March is just “vanity.”
But vanity is not (exactly) the problem. According to domestic violence experts such as Dr. Toby D. Goldsmith, the real problems are anger and the abuser’s need to control.
“Abusers may feel this need to control their partner because of low self-esteem, extreme jealousy, difficulties in regulating anger and other strong emotions, or when they feel inferior to the other partner in education and socioeconomic background,” Goldsmith said.
But other experts point to a long list of dysfunctional traits such as low self-esteem, the lack of impulse control, antisocial tendencies, substance abuse, learned helplessness, psychic numbing, and identification with the aggressor.
And as the nation celebrates Domestic Violence Awareness Month, statistics show the need to control an intimate partner is still a dark issue but lurks in the shadows in low-middle-and high-income neighborhoods. This means it remains hidden, concealed, and out of sight because domestic violence is still widespread.
For example, Floyd Mayweather, who is worth about $400 million, allegedly struck his daughter’s mother in the face with a car door, and punched her in the neck before fleeing the scene. This was around the time Mayweather flashed a $100 million check to reporters soon after he defeated Manny Pacquiao on May 2.
In 2011, Nicholas Cage was arrested for domestic violence after being accused of pushing his wife in public. Meanwhile, Mel Gibson was charged with battery against then-girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva in 2010. And Columbus Short made headlines in 2014 after he was charged with attacking his wife in front of his children. Short, who choreographed Britney Spears’s Onyx Hotel Tour, was fired last year, from the hit TV show, Scandal. Short was charged with battery for allegedly attacking and threatening to kill his wife.
Oh yes, don’t forget Ray Rice. After the pro football running back was shown in a video punching his then fiancée Janay Palmer in a hotel elevator in New Jersey in February of 2014, he said, “I should have never put my hands on her.”
This means a violent domestic situation that happened behind closed doors in a dim elevator was calmly discussed in the light of day before hundreds of cameras and bright lights. In fact, Rice said in an Aug. 25 interview in Forbes, the decision to lay a hand on his now wife was the worst of his life.
It all sounds, well, familiar because partner violence accounts for 15 percent of all violent crime, according to the National Coalition for Domestic Violence. In fact, an intimate partner has severely beaten one in five women. And on a typical day, more than 20,000 phone calls are placed to domestic violence hotlines nationwide, including The YWCA South Hampton Roads.
“I receive daily reports on shelter vacancies and on any given day there are no vacancies,” said Janice (Jay) Johnson, who has served as the interim director of the YWCA South Hampton Roads since Sept. 18.
“So that means there are not enough spaces or the problem is greater than we want to think about,” Johnson said.
And while experts such as Dr. Goldsmith blame habits, this means abusers learn to control others. In time, the lesson becomes a habit.
“Abusers learn violent behavior from their family, as they grow up, Goldsmith explained. “Children who witness or are the victims of violence may learn to believe that violence is a reasonable way to resolve conflict. Boys who learn that women are not to be valued or respected and who see violence directed against women are more likely to abuse women when they grow up. Girls who witness domestic violence in their families of origin are more likely to be victimized by their own husbands.”
Johnson nods her head in agreement at her desk in the YWCA in Norfolk. “We have employment problems for minorities in this area so if we connect what is happening economically around us. All of these things are factors (unemployment, evictions, addictions, and individual backgrounds).
“The abuser is saying a crazy kind of thing to the victim,” Johnson said. “The abuser is saying, ‘This (violence) happens because I cannot support or help you so I beat you up.’ And it becomes a type of vicious cycle, a pushing away where I cannot do what I really want to do, so I push you away.”
“What has changed is that the victim is freer to leave an abusive situation,” Johnson said. “The public is more accepting of public abuse – before people would say, ‘It is not true. He is a good guy.’ Now, people are more reticent about hiding the problem and that enables us to provide support. The YWCA does a fantastic job.”
This means when an abuse victim reaches out. The YWCA Emergency Shelter program provides an array of services including a safe place and crisis intervention. Each year, it helps hundreds of individuals secure shelter, food, clothing, child care, transportation, intensive case management, and support services, according to its website.
To help victims become independent, the YWCA quickly moves the victim through the shelter and into permanent housing. This approach has been known to reduce homelessness recidivism.
But, wait? Is the YWCA fueling a problem that lurks behind closed doors? That is, if homes headed by single women unwittingly teach lessons, the type that smolder and spark domestic abuse later in life, as experts say. Does it mean domestic violence is a vicious cycle?
Johnson said, “No. We have to help women understand that they don’t have to try to be two people in their child’s life. You do not have to make up for the dad not being there. No, you don’t. And I’ve seen it over and over. Where guys are pushing baby carriages with their chests stuck out: ‘I made a baby.’ But there is a fading off when it is time for him to take responsibility.”
“We need to help him and her at that point,” Johnson said. “We need to help them get some parenting skills. When the child is about age 5 or 6 that is when a parent needs to develop parenting skills and common sense. We have to help women who are single parents realize they cannot be the male and the female.”