Men must be part of the solution to domestic violence
In recognition of National Domestic Violence Awareness month, it is a painful irony that this summer has been a time of extreme family violence in Jackson County. Our community witnessed the murder of six people, two mothers and four children. The shock of vulnerable lives ending tragically brought an outcry of pain from first responders, survivors and domestic violence treatment providers.
Mark Green, a former U.S. representative, said, "If the numbers we see in domestic violence were applied to terrorism or gang violence, the entire country would be up in arms."
Because of the recent events in our community, we are all changed forever. The fact that these deaths were inflicted by intimate partners, by fathers, leaves a grief too deep for words.
Many questions go unanswered: Why? How? What more could we have done? Why were these men not able to nurture and protect their young? An abusive childhood? Addiction? What causes people to lose their moral compass within a human family?
Desmond Tutu, the inspired retired South African bishop and activist said: "... Men and boys, we show our manhood by how we treat our women and our girls, our mothers and our sisters. You are a weak man if you use your physical superiority to assault and brutalize women. A society that permits violence against women is a society that is on the way out ..."
We must stand up as a community, together, in this complex drama.
In my many years of working with county governments, I have never seen such a large caseload of abused women. Of the most recent 157 referrals received at Jackson County Health and Human Services, 50 percent included elements of sexual and physical abuse. In these same last few months the Community Works Helpline received a total of 3,703 calls; 1,028 were specifically to Dunn House and domestic violence; 225 were sexual assault calls. These women often seek counseling to change their own behaviors of victimhood, but equity is needed in family counseling to include fathers.
There are programs that provide services to women and children. Most will include fathers, if they are willing to participate. What is the motivation that will bring them into roles of leadership, conflict resolution, anger management and family education before they commit crimes?
To help answer the question of motivation, one might note John Travis, M.D., who has written a new book titled "Why Dads Leave: Keeping Your Family Together." He identified cultural undercurrents causing this epidemic, and writes that attachment between parent and child is the crucial dynamic in human development. He points to the missing presence of the nurturing male parent as a primary source of abandonment. His hope is that with compassion, men can be given the tools to navigate the terrain of their own emotions as an alternative to being stuck in a power struggle.
There is another resource to assist us. Men Stopping Violence is a national organization (www.menstoppingviolence.org) with practical strategies for building safer communities for women and girls. The mission of this group is for men to work to change social norms and prevent violence from occurring in the first place. The current costs of intimate partner violence exceed $5.8 billion every year in the U.S.
As a man and a father, I have specific introspective belief systems about my role in how I think about my daughters as children in my home, and as they grow to become healthy, productive adults. As Kahlil Gibran stated in "The Prophet," "You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you." I believe there must be a generational transference of values and positive family relationships. This requires modeling a healthy view of a balanced family environment. This is something that I, as a man, can share with men to address the cycle of violence.
We can do better than this. Many great minds have said that when there is peace in the family, there will be peace in the world. Let us set about this task with compassion.
Danny Jordan is county administrator for Jackson County.