Saturday, September 13, 2014

Domestic Violence: Inside a Man's Head

We cannot decrease domestic violence without first getting inside men’s heads.  I do not condone physical violence of any sort, but until we understand the abuser, we cannot change the pattern.

I am not defending men’s actions. It is always wrong to hit others, but our culture also contributes to this problem.  Our country fights other countries in the name of freedom and liberty, politicians fight, and boys fight on the playground. Women may learn to fight with their words more than with fists, but boys and men are often taught to fight back physically.

A man leaves work, a bad day.  His boss told him that his job may be cut.  He is the primary breadwinner, having agreed that his wife stay home with their 3 kids.  If he loses his job, what will happen, what about their debts?  One of his few enjoyments in life is going to the neighborhood bar on his way home, drinking a beer, or six.

His wife texts, asking where he is. He texts her that he is at his mother’s and will be home soon.  Later, as he walks in the door, his house is a mess, the children are loud, the baby is crying, and his wife looks like a homeless woman, trying to cook amidst this chaos.  He growls, throws down his jacket and grabs a beer from the refrigerator.  His children shrink away and go to their rooms.  His wife asks him again where he has been, claiming that she called his mother who hasn’t seen him.

A flood of shame and rage assaults him both from his wife’s shouting and from inside his own head. He is not hallucinating but he loathes himself while hearing these phrases: “You good for nothing drunk!  Why can’t you make more money, we can’t live on your pitiful salary!   If you were a real man, you would ask for a raise.  What’s wrong with you?”  He feels like a failure and has always been told he would never amount to anything.  His wife’s voice colludes with his own internal voices: “Why are you always so mad, why do you drink so much?”

The man finishes his beer and tries to drive away in the car.  His wife pulls his arm, begging him not to go, that he might get a DUI. He doesn’t care, he might as well be dead instead of live one more moment making himself and everyone miserable. No one cares about him except for his money.  His wife won’t sleep with him anymore, and his kids look at him with fear and hatred. All he wants to do is say “STOP!”  But, that isn’t manly, it’s shameful and weak. He lashes back not with his words but his fist.

What can we do to help this man and his family?  What services or interventions might change some of the variables that create this perfect storm of domestic violence? 

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