Domestic Violence is a form of abuse that begins with you.
Zero tolerance can only be achieved when we apply the rules to ourselves, and zero tolerance is the only way to create a peaceful way to play. So say yes to zero tolerance, everywhere!
You may feel you already apply this rule to yourself. You may be wrong.
Let me explain.
I was terrified to do it but did it anyway:
When I was a seven or eight year old little girl covered in welts from top to toe I asked my teacher for help. She asked me to prove I had welts right there at the front of the class. I attempted to pull my leotards down in a subtle fashion. I managed to expose a little thigh to her without revealing myself to the other kids. The welts in that area had gone, relaxed back into my skin and blended into nothingness. My cheeks were more inflamed with humiliation than my legs with abuse. She said I was exaggerating and I never asked for help again. This choice, born of this unsupported experience, put me in mortal danger many times in my life.
A lack of action taken by the teacher implied to me that the actions being taken upon me were acceptable.
I was terrified to do it but did it anyway:
When I was a young adult I saw a woman beating her toddler in a car parked in a department store parking lot. With trepidatious feet and shaking hands I headed to her car. I scarcely made a sound as I timidly knocked on her window mid-slap. My voice quivered as I asked her if she needed help. I said I often felt exhausted with my kids and wished for help, so wondered if she could use an extra pair of hands. The child’s eyes looked at me pleading for help. I said she sure is a cutie, huh? My knees were weak and I knew if the lady had a gun she might shoot me, but that little girl sure needed help so I stood my ground. I hung in there till the mood changed and the child was asleep. By then security had arrived. I went to my car and succumbed to shock and fear as I cried and trembled.
An attack of hatred or outrage by me would have put the child in more danger as the mom chose to justify her behavior.
I was terrified to do it but did it anyway:
A woman was surrounded by four primary school aged rambunctious boys circling her in the airport while she tried to solve an obviously stressful problem on the phone. Her fifth and oldest boy was being forcefully handheld to keep him safe from his own impulsive choices. He was clearly on the spectrum of autism and less than happy. Most of the people near by were eye rolling, tongue clucking, head shaking judgment passers. Some of the others were simply pretending not to see or observing with pity in their eyes. I started singing a silly song to get the four boys’ attention and made it into a turn taking game that used real words. This allowed me to “audition” for the role of helper. She looked at me suspiciously then cried at the phone, “No don’t put me on hold!” I used the moment to introduce myself and my background with autism and she let me care for her kids while we waited for our plane. She was a good mom with too much to do and in crisis. She kept an eye on me but let her kids be entertained.
As we boarded the plane someone, meaning to compliment me at her expense, asked me if I could arrange to sit near that family so the whole plane need not suffer.
Sarcasm and an attitude of inconvenience by the onlookers gathers them into a likeminded gang of haters and ridiculers.
Comedies often capitalize on this as comedians complain about crying babies, and sitcoms show the challenge of sitting next to someone “special”.
The problem is as we gather to laugh we are trained to agree. I remember being in a family therapy group and doing some role playing. One of the moms in attendance was incredibly funny. Her humor was very Rosanne show like and full of sardonic comments about her children. They played along. They laughed and responded. And the teenage girl had what others perceived as an unexpected meltdown.
While watching this I understood why my own teenagers had asked me to stop doing stand-up comedy jokes about child-rearing. I also understood the degree to which we as a consumer of entertainment and information are complicit in abuse. I was relieved. I had spent a lifetime looking for a way to intervene in the cycle of abuse and here it was, simple and obvious, don’t participate.
I switched for a bit to being sympathetic rather than amused, but then I noticed another issue: Sympathy makes it bigger too. It seemed that whenever I flooded my system with sympathy I was unable to think of anything other than commiseration, and totally unable to take abuse cycle interrupting action. I remembered how when I was a child my father’s mother had loved listening to me complain about my mom. She was attentive and interested as long as I was complaining. Attention was often lacking in my home so I soaked it up, and complained. I then heard myself. I felt worse and worse which led to my behaving worse and worse and got me punished more and more. Sympathy, it seemed, was like inciting a riot. I stopped.
I even tried hate for a while. I hated abusers, especially those in revered positions of power. And while I was hating I almost hit my little girl who refused to hate with me. Hate it seemed was full of energy aimed at whatever moved. I considered the scene in Mash when Colonel Potter gets fed up with a suicide loving dude and starts choking him. The guy who wanted to die fought to live and I realized two very important things:
1- Television teaches
2- Humans fight for their rights, to live, to love, to hate, to kill.
I decided to choose what I fought for.
I was terrified to do it but I did it anyway:
I decided to not hate, sympathize, or ask to be saved.
Instead I chose to love, save, and admire everyone.
I decided not to use performing, writing, and speaking to become popular and do what was wanted, but instead I write the joke, the story, the song with a lesson to the person who judges.
Turns out people are essentially good. They want a way out of the pain and into pleasure. And like electricity they will take the path of least resistance to get there. With the right information that path will lead you home. And that is good news because…
Here is what I learned:
1. Zero tolerance begins at home.
2. And sometimes miracles happen.
As I chose to choose well, I had zero tolerance for negative influences in my children’s lives. I figured if I could break the cycle of abuse for them, I might break it for all related generations to come.
Many of my children were multiply handicapped, and I was usually single, so most would think I should have asked for help. And I did. But I did it with zero tolerance.
If the choice was smooth a spouse’s nerves or teach my child the correct lesson, I chose my child.
If the choice was to keep the peace with school employees even though what they were doing wasn’t helping. I chose my child and moved.
They grew up fast. There was no time for living in a mess any longer than it took for me to concede we were in one.
When caregivers took more energy than they gave, I chose my children and moved on without their help.
When my career meant my children were left behind I quit, and quit, and quit…
My children were always more important than money, always.
This applies to all children, even if their father is in the NFL.
I chose my children. My children all improved beyond all odds.
Had I chosen differently some of them would be in institutions.
For example three of four multiply diagnosed with fetal alcohol syndrome (they are adopted) retardation and autism came off the spectrum, and one continues to improve. Understand that in my home there was abuse as we learned, we just had zero tolerance for it and so, the story unfolded differently.
So yes, we need zero tolerance of the players in the NFL, the police, the politicians any time they commit abuse. But that type of unanimous decision making won’t happen until we have zero tolerance at home.
Fans have to prefer losing games with kind fathers to winning games with abusive ones. Women have to prefer gentle-men to macho men, and when the police pull you over thank them for doing their jobs. If you want heroes in jobs that require nerves of steel and emotional stability, treat them like heroes for their kinder acts rather than their sensational news making ones.
Stop talking about it and choose your child. Change the story now, by talking about life’s beauty and teaching your children to do the same.
You may be terrified of being laughed at, afraid to act so different, but do it anyway.
My daughters and sons, all eight of them, are miraculous stories worth being awe struck by, they beat the odds.
You can choose the life you want to live in, and then step into it.
If you need help understanding how, seek me out. I am happy to help.