Lessons Learned From Ray Rice

Family Bridges

Lessons Learned From Ray Rice

Contributed by
Alicia La Hoz, PsyD

There are a lot of take aways from the Ray Rice story taking the internet by storm.

It took seven months for the video of Ray Rice punching his now-wife to become public.

Lesson learned: Secrets eventually make their way to the public light and efforts to submerge them only make the situations surrounding them more corrupt.

His wife reveals feeling a sense of shame and false guilt since the situation has cost him his job.

Lesson learned: For many domestic violence victims bringing justice to a spouse rightly accused of wrong is full of complicated feelings and consequences impacting not only the aggressor but the victim as well.

People are responding strongly wondering why Rice’s wife stayed in an abusive relationship.

Lesson learned: Domestic violence is about power and control and victims are trapped in these relationships by powerful drives such as fear, love, economic constraints, immigration status and children. Victims who do leave abusive relationships often face greater homicidal risks. Thus, picking up your bags and walking away is not as easy as it seems.

Others are equally upset at the NFL for their swift dismissal of Ray Rice hoping they would have dealt with the situation with more grace.

Lesson Learned: Such tacit acceptance of aggression and abuse is alarming, providing a picture of a nation that is becoming increasingly tolerant of violence. Much still needs to be done with regards to the prevalence of domestic violence and how to intervene and prevent it.

In all of this, questions beg to be asked…

What conditions foster so much aggression in a person and what conditions lead a victim to feel guilty for the abuse she endured? After all, isn’t the aggressor the one who should feel guilty?

The questions are complex and this is why experts in the domestic violence preventative movement have dedicated much research, intervention models, and policy advocacy to address the problem in comprehensive ways. And it is not enough. We cannot leave up to the experts to solve the problem of violence, as this video only draws attention to what many of us in the helping field have already witnessed as a huge problem in our midst – aggression and violence are insidiously creeping up in our neighborhoods, backyards, playgrounds and homes. Each parent and each spouse needs to also be involved by:

  • Enforcing boundaries. Violence is widely promoted in media that is heavily consumed by our children. Music, video games and movies can promote a spirit of tolerance towards violence. Letting our children be raised by these agents without enforcing some boundaries certainly promotes a spirit of violence. We are people who model and copy what we see. Children will copy what they see. And as children grow and become adults, aggressive behavior can become an entrenched habit.
  • Bringing awareness of domestic violence. Many victims endure a lifestyle of terrorism in their own homes. Become aware about the many resources that are available and provide these referrals to your own network of friends or colleagues who find themselves in similar situations. Seek help yourself if you are currently in a violent relationship. And if you are not in a violent relationship with your spouse but you have become increasingly aggressive and conflictual in your marriage, seek help and support (http://www.thehotline.org/). Every couple will fight; everyone in a relationship will hurt each other; but every couple will not become physically, verbally or sexually aggressive towards each other. Happy couples will repair or seek to reconcile with one another.
  • Knowing your Emotional IQ. Much can be prevented if we all had more awareness about our emotions and what was going on inside of us before imploding or exploding. This starts early. As children learn to be aware of their feelings and how to cope with them, they will be in a better position to negotiate, problem-solve, and work things out as they grow into their adolescent years and adulthood. If children continue to work out their feelings by having temper tantrums – these tantrums will continue way into adulthood. In the same way we are adamant that our children learn their ABC’s, lets also teach our children about their feelings and how to cope with them early on.
  • Promoting healthy marriages and active fatherhood involvement. When two parents are actively involved in the lives of their children, children have a greater chance of feeling a sense of connection, a sense of being valued, and a sense of love. This positive and secure attachment helps kids feel internally at peace and less likely to enter into risky behaviors that lead them to a lifestyle of violence and delinquency. The key here is healthy. Children raised in homes where verbal abuse and physical violence are a day-to-day reality are in no way better off simply because both parents are present. Kids need healthy environments.

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