Given my background of working with abused and neglected kids and their (usually) highly dysfunctional families, the issues raised by Governor Parnell concerning domestic violence in Alaska are near and dear to my heart. I’ve dealt with too many children whose idea of a normal family argument involves one parent beating on another parent and then turning on them. I’ve dealt with way too many children, both male and female, whose parents expressed their “love” through shameful, painful acts performed in drunken secrecy.
The last time I wrote about this, I was taken to task for assuming that men were always the perpetrators of abuse since women abuse too. While this is true, what is also true is that abusers are overwhelmingly men and the victims are overwhelmingly women and children. Sorry if this offends someone’s sense of political correctness, but those are simply the facts.
Which brings me back to the point I’ve raised before and feel needs raising again. If most men find abusing women and children to be abhorrent to their morals and principles, then why aren’t we hearing from them? We hear from Governor Parnell. Good for him. But where is the chorus of strong male leadership figures who should be surrounding him and pledging to do their part to end this cycle of violence that is crippling so many of Alaska’s families?
I know a lot of men who abuse their wives and children. It comes with the territory when you do the kind of work I’ve done. It also comes with the territory when you live in Bush Alaska. The villages are small and it’s hard not to notice the women who come to work on Monday morning with black eyes and bruises.
I also know a lot of men who are very aware that their friends, their buddies, the guys they hunt and watch sports with, are these very abusers. And while these men would never themselves hurt their wife or child, they tacitly condone those kinds of actions every time they have that buddy over for coffee or poker. If there is no social shame or consequence to their actions, then abusive males have little incentive to change.
There are a lot of reasons why abusers abuse – maybe their parents abused them. Maybe they enjoy the feeling of power they get from hitting and subduing another person. Maybe they like having their family frightened of rousing their anger because it makes life very comfortable for them – they know their wife and children will do anything they can to avoid more violence. But whatever the reason, it’s not a good one and it’s not a justification for their actions.
So why, then, do so many men, who would never themselves hit, feel so comfortable with men they know who do hit? Why don’t they say something? Do something? If the abuser were shunned and shamed by his peer group, maybe it would be the incentive needed to get help to stop the abuse.
I’m glad our governor is willing to be so vocal and visible in this effort. You don’t often get politicians at his level who make something like domestic violence a top legislative priority. What’s much more usual is to get a lot of lip service from powerful people who then go on to push an agenda about “really important” things like budgets and oil taxes. I’m not saying those things aren’t important. I’m just saying it’s nice to have a governor who feels stopping violence in our homes and families is equally important.
And I would definitely love to see leaders from all political, social and religious spectrums standing up day after day, week after week, and saying that stopping abuse is as important as building a bullet line or a bigger church.
But mostly what I’d like to see is men from every race, every economic stratum, every village and town in this state, standing up to their friends and neighbors who abuse and letting them know that for so long as they do, they will simply not be able to continue to be friends.
It’s time for decent men to stand up for what is right, even if it makes them a little uncomfortable. Because their discomfort is nothing compared to the pain of domestic violence.