The Dinner and Domestic Violence

It’s not like me to go to many charitable functions, although I know I should. Working into the evening has always been my excuse for avoiding formal dinners, and sending money to worthwhile organizations is what it’s all about anyway.

But tonight one of my colleagues, Hadassah Goodman, LCSW, was honored at a dinner for her work with SHALVA, a Chicago based Jewish agency that services victims of domestic violence. So I grabbed my friend Chani and went downtown to hear a few speeches and have a bite to eat.

The keynote speaker told over a captivating, moving story of how she suffered her entire childhood witnessing her mother beaten and abused at the hands of her father. It’s a story that social workers know by heart. Only a few details, like was she the driver or the passenger when thrown from the speeding car, change.

It is never any easy to hear this stuff, no matter how many times. And knowing that the victim is still screaming inside, still a victim of unresolved secondary trauma for having watched (if not received) the torture of a loved one, makes it worse.

Social service organizations like SHALVA help women get out of abusive relationships. These organizations deserve all the financial support we can give them.

Interestingly, the table favors at this dinner were greeting cards packaged in cellophane. The hot-pink label on the package in not so fine print was psycho-educational. I don’t think that SHALVA will mind my sharing. The blurbs underscore the importance of our taking childhood bullying seriously.

1. Children who display bullying behaviors are more likely to become perpetrators of violence (specifically domestic violence), child abuse, sexual assault and hate crimes as adults. (Brentro and Long)

2. It is estimated that 160,000 children miss school every day due to fear of intimidation and/or verbal/physical attacks by other children. (National Educational Association).

3. Bullying is so widespread and so common that the “rite of passage” myth has blinded us to its extensive harm and is seen as a minor issue on the horizon of adult crises.” (Suellen Fried and Paul Fried, Bullies and Victims, M. Evans and Co, 1996.)

4. It does not matter if it is mild, moderate, or severe: bullying is not normal. It is antisocial and needs to be addressed as such. (Barbara Coloroso)

According to this, a child who watches one parent bullying another is more likely to become a bully, too, ultimately perpetrating a cycle of violence in marriage.

SO. If women don't get out of those relationships then their kids might grow up believing that the normal thing to do is beat or be beaten. I've always found it incredulous, but people often do believe that what they experienced in their family is the norm. There is also a phenomenon called identifying with the aggressor that I wrote about in my post on humiliation, a very worthwhile read, by the way.

But this might be a good time for readers who haven’t been to the archives to read the story that I wrote for a young patient who had been verbally bullied throughout most of his elementary and high school years by his peers. It’s a hopeful story in a way.

The Kid with the Funny Laugh demonstrates how you can work with your children if they are being subjected to peer taunting and rejection. You can help your child take back his or her self-esteem and command respect within an abusive peer milieu.

It’s not easy to take on one bully, let alone an entire culture, but one bully can have so much influence that he/she has the power to ferment an entire culture of mean kids.

It’s not easy to confront group-think but it is within the realm of possibility, and probably easier than playing doormat. Accepting the role of victim tends to beg more violence from borderlines. Most people don't accept the role of victim consciously, but do just the same.

Passivity almost always underlies depression.

Once again, I make the humble suggestion, there’s no better time to work at changing a system, than now. Here's the link to the story about The Kid with the Funny Laugh.

Copyright 2006, TherapyDoc


cham said…
Sounds like the dinner was interesting, I wonder if I could somehow volunteer at SHALVA and learn a few things if I have to take a year off next year..
Therapy Doc said…
It's sure something to think about. We'll talk.
I couldn't find any post here titled "The Kid with the Funny Laugh"?