By Royal Shariyf
In a random, highly unscientific sample of male opinion solicited for the purpose of this article, here is what some men offered as “triggers” to male aggression against women
[Note: None of the men sampled endorse these views]
To off-set a perception of weakness in the wake of a dominant, aggressive woman.
To fend off an open challenge, and/or public criticism he views as attack against his manhood.
To counter a lack of verbal agility against a highly verbal woman.
Reaction toward emotional outburst of a woman.
Reaction of a physical attack by a woman.
According to Kenneth Bedell, a licensed social worker, even in the face of a physical attack by a woman he takes high exception. Hitting of women by men under any circumstances is a definite no-no. Bedell gives strong advice to any man being physically attacked by a woman “to refrain if necessary and evacuate immediately. You cannot and should not ever hit a woman,” he argues.
QUESTION to a male: “In your thinking, is there ever a circumstance when hitting a woman is the right thing to do?”
While your answer to this question may be extremely obvious — to you, some men (and some women, too) don’t quite see it your way. It may not come as a surprise, they will conjure various scenarios and offer telling rationales they suggest give sufficient rise for a legitimate use of force by a man against a wife or girlfriend. Why are you not surprised?
Bedell looks to a lack of proper role models as a cause of domestic violence. Many men today were deprived of them as boys. Years ago, as a boy himself, Bedell recalls hearing the sage advice of an older male relative, happily married for many years. Bedell took it to heart: “Learn to handle any conflict or frustration caused by marital conflict like water off a duck’s back.” But for some, that is vastly easier said than done.
Domestic abuse in the Black community and in the nation overall is on the rise. Not just between men and their girlfriends and wives, but also between men and their mothers and sisters. Not just bad boys and roughnecks abuse women. But older, established, well-educated men with steady incomes do it, too.
Humans are social beings. We imitate what we see from those around us. We learn more by deeds than by words alone. Thus, men and women alike repeat those patterns of abuse experienced as children. With the influence of alcohol and drugs, these are key factors that spur abusive behavior.
Cheryl L. Holder, another social worker with twenty years experience, has come to see domestic violence as a sign of longstanding illness within a family. “I think of cycles. It is what people are used to, and many are not even aware.”
Not necessarily physical abuse she adds, but verbal and emotional abuse, as well, are root causes. “It is a real sickness similar to drug or alcohol addiction. Some can step out of the cycle. But most cannot do so without help,” she contends.
Timothy Godfrey, a COGIC-ordained elder who is part of a men’s young adult ministry in California, cites the following reasons why many men hit women in his view.
Lacks a positive-self portrait
Broken or highly dysfunctional home
Godfrey suggests an abusive man is often trying to break the confidence of woman because he has such a low opinion of himself. Generally, neither party in an abusive relationship, at the root, feels they are good enough, he adds.
“A lot of Black men struggle with their identity and self-worth in this society. They have been put down verbally early, some even from their own mothers. When they grow up with all the unresolved issues, all the pain of past relationships, the pain of everything just comes out. You can also see it in their career pursuits — or lack thereof,” according to Godfrey.
Then how do these men get better, grow beyond domestic violence, become healed? Most agree, by some form of counseling. “When they learn to start taking responsibility, they understand their wife or girlfriend is not a punching bag. You will respect her and see her as your equal,” he says.
Godfrey also wants to know what is the man’s spiritual connection? “We need something instead of just ‘being out there.’ We all need to be accountable to some code of standard.” Most abusers are not connected to any spiritual guidance, he contends. “Or if they are connected they do not adhere to it.”