October is National Awareness Month for Domestic Violence. Yet, it has been weeks since I have heard anything about Ray Rice, Greg Hardy, Ray McDonald, or any of the other NFL Players that have “allegedly” abused their wives or girlfriends. I am sure when you watch a football game this month, you will see many of the players sporting pink socks, shoes, helmets, gloves, etc, in order to spread awareness for breast cancer. Will anyone be wearing the color purple? Sadly, it seems that there has been another missed opportunity to make something good out of something bad. The incident with Ray Rice and his wife, for instance, could have been the springboard to get everyone talking … really talking, not just for the first week. It could have been the beginning of laws being changed, educational programs launched, national support groups launched, etc. Instead, it is back to business as usual, and “real men” are wearing pink for breast cancer awareness.
Before you start writing in the comments box, I am not bashing the Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign. My own sister is a breast cancer survivor; this is a very important campaign. Thank God there is so much more awareness now and so many women are getting treatment and surviving. However, I have my theory about why it is popular and trendy to wear pink in October, and why men, women and children all participate. Aside from being an excellent cause and something that touches the lives of many; it is not threatening to support breast cancer awareness and prevention. Unlike with domestic violence, the “bad guy” is not anyone’s son, brother, husband, boyfriend or friend. With breast cancer, the “bad guy” is cancer. We can speak out against some-thing … it does not take the same kind of courage as it does to “take on” a cause that involves a perpetrator; someone we may have to point our finger at and say, “Your behavior is NOT acceptable. I don’t care who you are.” Interpersonal confrontation is a whole different ballgame. It will require us to “get in each other’s business”. This may go against the way we live our lives. Yet, that is exactly what needs to happen if we are going to put a stop to domestic violence.
It takes a village to step up and stop the cycle of domestic violence. We do not realize the seemingly innocent ways we perpetuate abusive behavior in our society. When a boy pull’s a girl’s hair in 3rd grade or knocks her school books out of her hand in 5th grade. Parents and teachers may respond by dismissing the behavior as ” boys will be boys” or “he is doing this because he likes you” . It is time we educate our communities on more self-honoring responses and take a zero tolerance stance on disrespectful behavior. Teaching girls is one thing; we need to teach our boys as well. Life does not come with a manual, so many of us do not know the ingredients of a healthy relationship. we tend to exist, blindingly accepting behavior that does not honor “us”. The education has to touch everyone. It is not enough to teach adolescent girls what the signs of a healthy relationship are. We also need to reach out to young men and to our boys and teach them what it means to be an upstanding young man. Along with this comes teaching our boys how to handle conflict, how to identify their feelings, how to be willing to express their feelings in a healthy, appropriate way. We need to teach our boys how to channel their anger and how to cope with life’s frustrations. This requires men to step up. Men have to be the ones to teach boys and to challenge their peers to behave appropriately.
A couple years ago, my husband and his buddies were at a Yankee game in New York and witnessed another spectator abusing his girlfriend. My husband and his friends intervened and ended up getting the police involved. This sent a very powerful message to the victim, to those watching the game around them, and most importantly, to the guy that was being violent to his girlfriend and had no shame behaving that way. This is about men holding other men accountable and holding other men to a standard that involves zero tolerance for violence against women.
So, I wonder, as we move into the month of October, if I will see more of the color purple around on and off the football field. Will you be one of the first to step up and speak out against domestic violence? I think purple and pink actually match nicely.
Go Within with Christina Jones,LCSW and lead your best life!
Christina Jones is a psychotherapist, consultant, author, blogger, wife, and mother.