Enough Blame to Go Around

September 29, 2014

It’s football Sunday. Usually when I get a chance, I watch the pregame show to hear the analysis of the upcoming matchups and listen to the tips so I can make any last minute changes to my fantasy football team. But for two Sundays in a row, the first thirty to sixty minutes of the pregame show did not talk about the matchups or fantasy football.

The focus was child abuse & domestic violence (also known as intimate partner violence). Two prominent players Adrian Peterson (child abuse case and will not play until verdict of case) and Ray Rice (domestic violence case, suspended indefinitely from the NFL) are at the center of the discussion on violence and abuse in the NFL, sports, our community, our nation and the world. In addition to Ray Rice, two other players, Ray McDonald (case pending), Jonathan Dwyer (case pending and will not play until verdict of case) and Greg Hardy (guilty verdict in case and will not play) also have domestic violence cases.

At the heart of the debate on abuse and violence, most people want to assign blame. All these men deserve blame, except possibly two (Jonathan Dwyer & Ray McDonald’s cases are still pending). They have been convicted, been seen on video or confessed to their actions.

No one should ever experience abuse in any form. But unfortunately, the rates and prevalence of abuse forces us to accept that it is a more common experience than we should ever have to tolerate. For example, a report of child abuse is made every ten seconds in the United States (Childhelp, 2013). In addition, more than 1 in 3 women (35.6%) and more than 1 in 4 men (28.5%) in the United States have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner (CDC, 2013).

It is apparent that the men listed above should be held accountable for their actions, even if the first step of that process is awareness that they did something wrong. But who else deserves blame?

The truth is you and I deserve some of the blame as well. That’s probably not what you thought I was going to say. But it is far easier to assign blame to the men above while losing sight of how we contribute to the societal problem of abuse and violence. Advocating against abuse should not be left solely on the shoulders of those victimized by abuse. We deserve some of the blame because stopping violence & abuse is not a woman’s issue, a children’s issue, man’s issue, something for the victim to figure out or just something for the perpetrator to stop. Reducing abuse and violence is a responsibility we all share.

What can you or I do to stop abuse and violence? It is possible to reduce abuse and violence, even if we only see the results in our families. Here are some ways that you can be apart of the solution.

  1. Accept that you can make a difference in the fight against abuse & violence.
  2. Recognize the ways you might condone abuse and violence, including jokes and tolerating abuse and violence with children, family and friends.
  3. Be proactive in teaching your children and loved ones that abuse and violence are not acceptable.
  4. Support those who are victims by believing them, being there for them and listening to them.
  5. Encourage those who are perpetrators to get help to reduce their behavior.
  6. Reflect and change any abusive, demeaning and violent behaviors you might have.
  7. Learn new ways to handle conflict, anger, power and control.
  8. Protect your loved ones in the best way you can.
  9. Speak up for causes supporting the end of abuse and violence.
  10. Seek therapy to identify and resolve any abusive and violent tendencies you might have.

George James is a licensed marriage and family therapist who specializes in helping couples improve the quality of their relationship, reconcile conflicts and overcome intense situations such as affairs, lack of communication, parenting struggles and much more. He also works extensively with professional athletes, adult men and young adult men on various issues including defining manhood, career and work-life balance.