by Ross Bishop
From the Pulse nightclub in Orlando to The Borderline bar in Thousand Oaks, CA . . . We have a problem.
From the Emanuel African Methodist Church in Charleston, SC to the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh . . . We have a problem.
For the thousands of women who will awaken this morning, black and blue from being beaten . . . We have a problem.
From the ever growing list of children murdered in cold blood in their classrooms . . . . We have a problem.
Regarding the 41 people who were murdered yesterday, . . . . We have a problem.
As regards the thousands of girls who were sexually abused last night . . .We have a problem.
When a “Unite the Right” white supremacist in Charlottesville smashes a car into a crowd, killing a woman . . . We have a problem.
Yes, we have a problem, and when taken in the aggregate, it’s a big one. All of the offenses listed above were created by violent men. The problem of male violence has always been there, festering beneath the surface, and perhaps we are only becoming more aware of it, but it seems to be everywhere today. Whether school shootings, church massacres, domestic violence, night-club shootings, wife beatings, road rage, gang violence, the KKK & white supremacist violence, sexual abusers, school bullies or animal abusers – all these are driven by men who are pissed off, out of control, feel powerless and are driven to lash out at a world that they feel has abused them (or is about to).
And few people in power want to touch the problem. Or, even if they are willing, they do not really know what to do about it. In their defense, solving the problem presents some sticky civil liberties issues, but we’re at the point that we can no longer avoid dealing with it. We’re talking about a small percentage of the population, (although some estimates do go as high as a million men), but the violence this group is capable of, whatever it’s size, is incredible.
Intimate partner violence is amongst the most visible expression of the phenomenon. Nearly one in four women report experiencing severe physical violence from an intimate partner. Three of them are killed every day. Two million injuries from domestic abuse are reported each year. Additionally, one out of six girls/women report beings sexually abused. (And a great deal of both goes unreported.) Forty percent of female homicide victims are killed by an intimate (usually male) partner. Ninety percent of all homicides are committed by men.
I want to clear up a misunderstanding. We are not talking about anger here, we are dealing with rage. And although the two are often confused, they are really quite different. Rage is not an expression of extreme anger. It is a completely different animal. Anger is an emotion, (it is a real response) triggered by an emotional hurt. It simply says, “You have hurt me.” Anger protects our sense of self as unique individuals.
Rage on the other hand, is the psyche’s way of trying to deal with a profound anxiety. It is a protective response – a self-preservation mechanism that says, “I feel powerless and fear that you are going to hurt me.” Rage is almost always destructive. Whenever you feel powerless or helpless, particularly as a victim, you feel rage.
Intense rage can be thought of as an adult version of a temper tantrum. It is the result of not having developed emotional maturity so that the checks and balances that normally put limits one’s behavior simply are not there. Gun rights groups want to pass all of this off as “mental illness,” but that’s just not the case. Certainly rageful men are troubled, but they are not mentally ill. They have jobs, live in our neighborhoods, etc. That is not to say they are normal, for they are not. For many of them the rage lives on the surface, obvious in the groups these men associate with or in their social media posts, for example. Anger does get brought into the mix, but is is important to distinguish the two.
In our society men are taught to relate to the world in terms of dominance and control. Men are taught to shut down their emotions and harden themselves in an effort to not feel pain. Lessons intended to prepare boys for manhood isolate them and make them less resilient. But when that behavior turns to violence it is a sign that something is out of whack. Wounded men use violence as a means to control, but this is not strength, it is weakness and it comes from fear. Hurt people hurt other people. But even amongst the violent group, not every male’s rage is explosive. But there are those who do react in this way and their impact on the community is devastating. In the short term, violence is terribly effective. That’s why terrorists use it.
As a group, women are not generally as violent as men. Either because of social conditioning or a natural inclination, women are more able to manage their rage than their male counterparts. Women are generally far less interested in revenge than men are. While some males are like Roman candles, just waiting to be set off, women generally tend to empathize with the offended party. There is no way to assess the massive psychological damage violent men create, but in economic terms alone, their impact is in the trillions of dollars.
There are signs of hope. The emerging women’s movement and campaigns like #Me Too that empower women to speak out against abuse are beginning to raise the awareness in society to the size and severity of the problem. And many young men today have very different attitudes toward women than were prevalent when I was a young man. So, the old ideas are beginning to recede, but until they do, we have a monumental headache staring us in the face. We can and should have an important discussion about causes, but we still need to address the problem at hand.
Few of those in power want to undertake real solutions either because of cost, scope, social pressures, tradition or the issues of civil rights, but sooner or later we are going to have to adopt some of the suggested measures that follow, because the situation is that pervasive.
Men who are prone to violence need to be identified as such so that they can be helped. Although this will stigmatize them, the success reports from a number of treatment programs will far more than offset any complications this might cause.
And the treatment help provided by existing programs has shown itself to be surprisingly effective.
The first step would be to establish a national registry of violent men, much as we do with sex offenders (but without the strict court referral requirement.) We could establish a hearing process for example, where concerned or affected parties such as domestic partners, parents or other family members, minsters or priests, social workers, teachers and school counselors, therapists and especially the police, could refer men to a court appointed administrator for determination.
Concurrent with the determination as potentially violent would be a requirement that designees be required to attend anger management classes and support groups. This is because the group process has proven to be incredibly effective in reducing violence amongst some (not all) men. It seems that men secretly yearn for human connection and that group bonding can have a marked effect on violent behavior. Michael C. Reichert is a psychologist who writes:
“I am inspired by the young men I meet with in an emotional-literacy program at a school outside Philadelphia. Because they are encouraged to discuss topics relevant to their lives—relationships of all kinds, anxiety, sex, pornography—they readily take off their masks. As they share their authentic selves with one another, they create a brotherhood that is honest and warm—a bond that encourages participants to admit their shortcomings (including times they have hurt others) and discourages them from pretending that they never feel hurt, scared, or weak.”
There are many programs available to address male violence and they have had good success. In Brazil, a voluntary program called Homem que é Homem (Man Who Is Man) works through psychologists, social workers and police departments and is showing remarkable results in rehabilitating aggressive behavior. One thing we are learning is that many (not all) of these men respond profoundly to a group association. They feel ostracized by society and long for bonding and acceptance. This is something that unfortunately hate groups offer.
Designating men as potentially violent presents some civil rights and privacy issues that we are going to have to address, unless we are going to allow the problem to snowball. For there are pitfalls that must be guarded against such as using the system for revenge and false accusations. Then there is always the problem of “he said vs. she said.”
Other measures that should be considered:
Hate speech should be designated as an imminent threat. Today, unless there is a direct call for violence, there is little authorities can do under the broad protections of free speech granted by the First Amendment. These need to be redefined so that white supremacist and other hate groups no longer have legal protection to spread their venom. This would also give the authorities additional flexibility in confronting potentially abusive behavior.
High school programs could be developed dealing with sexual abuse, respect for women, the misuse of power, rage and rage management, violence, etc.
We absolutely need to abolish the ownership of assault weapons and large capacity magazines. Violence designees would be prevented from possessing or purchasing firearms. Additionally, we might want to restrict their use of alcohol or drugs.
We need to revise the rules for criminal proceedings so that overzealous defense attorneys are not allowed to demolish the character of women who have the courage to step up and identify their abusers. We also need better protection of victims from retribution.
The greater presence of women in state legislatures, statehouses and Congress will eventually demand some of the reforms mentioned above. But that will take time, time that we really do not have. It is preponderant upon the males who presently control the levers of power in society to act on behalf of women. Women should have the right to live in peace, free from the fear of violence, sexual abuse and other crimes of rage.
copyright©Blue Lotus Press 2018