Sunday, February 22, 2009

Domestic Violence: Dumb, 'cause you can't solve problems with your fists

I originally included a recent Rihanna photo at the beginning of this blog. Because some felt it a bit much, I have removed it. And, although the photo is disconcerting, so is this issue.

Hitting anyone out of anger is not only wrong its wrongheaded. Know why? Because you can't solve your problems with your fists. Therefore, if you're trying to solve a problem or issue in this way, you're dumb.

Did you know that African-American women experience intimate partner violence at rates 35% higher than their White counterparts and 2.5 times the rate of men and other races? It's true. And, according to the Institute on Domestic Violence, "violence affects all Americans, regardless of race, gender, or socioeconomic status. However, this threat has disproportionately dire consequences for African-American women." Did you also know that domestic violence is not just limited to men? Yeah, women hit too. But no matter which way the fists fly, the behavior is just plain wrong.

The way I see it, you've got two issues going on here: handling the explosive situation and managing your emotions. Following are tips on dong both:

If you're really trying to solve a problem or issue, you need to COMMUNICATE:

Women's offers advice on controlling one's anger:

1. Become Aware of what precipitates your anger--identify what "sets you off."

2. Monitor the feelings and bodily sensations you experience when you're becoming angry.Learn to use these sensations as cues to stop...

3. Change the thoughts that trigger anger, interpreting the situation from a different (less provocative) point of view. Often, this involves looking at the situation from the other person's perspective.

4. Write down angry thoughts. Once you have them on paper, challenge and reappraise them. Or write a letter to the person you're angry with and then tear it into a hundred pieces. But be careful: The longer you dwell on what made you angry, the more reasons and self-justifications you can find for being angry. Try not to fan your own fire.

5. Identify and express the feelings that precede anger. Anger is often a secondary emotion, erupting in the wake of other feelings, like frustration, resentment, humiliation, or fear. Try to become aware of the underlying emotion and express that feeling instead of anger.

6. Respond assertively.The goal isn't to suppress anger, but to express it in non-aggressive ways. Blaming, accusations, threats and name-calling are aggressive responses. Calmly and assertively stating your thoughts and feelings about a situation, without blaming, is a far more powerful way to respond in conflict.

7. Relax.Anger is a high-arousal state, so one of the most helpful things you can do is engage in an activity that lowers blood pressure and heart rate, like yoga, stretching, deep breathing, massage, visualization, guided imagery or meditation. Activities like gardening, painting, and woodworking may also be very helpful. Running, walking, dancing, swimming and other forms of aerobic exercise "work off" anger and leave you feeling relaxed.

8. Relinquish your anger.If angry feelings about a particular person or situation are eating at you and none of the above techniques proves helpful, try doing what may be the most courageous and difficult thing of all: Just let it go. If the anger is based on some old wound deep inside, letting go starts a healing process. Consider enlisting the support of a professional counselor or therapist.

A technique I've found helpful is keeping the conversation constructive and on the issue: no name calling. Remember, words can hit like a fist. My Mom has a saying, "you can withdraw your fist, but you can't withdraw a spoken word." Think about it.
But what if despite your best efforts, you're in a heated discussion?

Associated Content printed a great article on dealing with arguments and offer the following tips:

"...the only real ways to end an argument on good terms are walk away, let down your viewpoint or find a way to change the argument into a calm discussion." The best way to attempt [to get to a calm discussion] ...without conceding your viewpoint is to use repair attempts. Make the other person aware that you understand their concerns and assure them we will discuss this when we are both calm. Another option is to turn away from anger and towards love, use affection and say something like "we do not need to do this now, just come and hug me”. Talk about issues before they become real issues and discuss things calmly before they become arguments."

Remember, never hit or insult--those two actions just won't solve your problem.

How about you? Share your story, tell me what's worked for you.


Rachel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Canada said...

This is Blackwasp (my wordpress account has been giving me troubles)

A big part is gaining an understanding of how to deal with anger. We often dismiss anger as negative, which is unfair and perhaps counterproductive. There are reasons to get angry and there are reason to not be angry. One of the first steps is teaching the maturity that comes with being able to recognize one from the other.

The techniques you listed are great. I personally, sometimes have to physically remove myself from a situation and then either mentally remove myself or seek to understand the situation apart from the anger/frustration.

We need to teach young people (especially black males)that there are proper ways to express anger and hitting is not one of them (weren't we supposed to learn that as toddlers?). Anger usually means that something is wrong, so instead of drowning in anger we should be looking to figure out how to right a situation. In some ways entrenching in anger is a type of emotional flight.

Iam Robert said...


Thanks so much for the kind compliment.

True, we must all get a handle on our anger. It is also true that we must know when to get angry and have productive ways to express our anger.

I have a personal story to add. Last year, my 19 year old daughter got into a fight at college. Long story short, we found out she was having anger issues. Fortunately, we got her the help she needed (Anger Management Counseling) and she's a lot better. We also explained to her that there's nothing wrong with needing help. But there is something wrong with not getting the help you need. There's only one drawback--the sessions are very expensive making it prohibitive for some. Are you aware of any programs or organizations that offer such counseling at more affordable rates?

I also like you point about teaching kids, especially black males, about handling anger. I know it should start in the home, but are there any programs that you are aware of, to help parents do this?

Iam Robert said...


The African-American Pragmatist addresses issues: to enlighten, discuss, to catalyze action, and to find solutions. My hope is that this post will lead someone, somewhere to know that help is out there and to seek the help they need. My hope is that no other person [women are batterers too] will experience this crime or string of emotions associated with it.

Thanks so much for your good thoughts...and works. I am honored by your calling.


Anji said...

Looking at the home point of view. Many children grow up in home where violence is normal, therefore when they grow up they continue. A psychologist in France worked with men who were in prison for violence, some of them had killed their wives. He told us that they were imprisoned with other men who had commited similar crimes so for them this was normal behavior.
I read your statistics and can't help wondering how many abused women remain outside the statistics. Women who grow up in homes where their fathers are aggressive to their mothers also regard similar treatment as normal

Iam Robert said...


Again, you're absolutely right. DM is a behavior "passed down" through the generations. Chris Brown has admitted that he witnessed the same sort of behavior in his home.

And there is no way to know the women who are outside of the statistics, but here in the US, many states are taking steps to remedy this. For instance, if the police are called on a domestic, and they see visible signs of trauma, the victim can't stop the person from going to jail by NOT pressing charges.

I guess the million dollar question is how do we change behaviors? If not in the home, through school programs, etc.? How do the authorities handle this problem in your country?

Anji said...

By making people more aware that this exists. And shock! horror! gasp! revealing that the type of man (or woman)who does this comes from all backgrounds. There are safe refuges where woman can go for help. Other than that it doesn't seem to be talked about much.

I know that in the UK someone realised that some women and children weren't seeking help because they were afraid that the family pet would be harmed in revenge (no place for pets in refuges). In some areas they now have 'foster families' for the pets to go to until a new home is sorted out for everyone.

Iam Robert said...


Great point! Sometimes I think people here in the US think that only the "low class" suffer from this malady. But, as you stated; just not true.

We also have women's shelters here and they work hard to protect the women there. There has been no conversation in the country about what happens to the pets of these victims: but with the recent media storm surrounding Michael Vick that too will probably change.

Fortunately, there are programs out there to help the batterer right him or herself. But I wonder what their success rates are?

Also, help is sparse for male victims of this crime--something that needs greater attention.

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