The NFL – What They Needed to Do and Couldn’t…Yet

So many have heard about Ray Rice’s violent abuse of his fiancée and the Baltimore Ravens’ and NFL’s failure to respond the way they really needed to … and the way we as a society really needed them to.

Instead of hiding what they knew, keeping silent, initially giving Ray a symbolic slap on the wrist with a couple weeks’ suspension, denying all sorts of things, and, only after the video came out into public view, instead of escalating their responses to the level of the Ravens canceling his contract and the NFL suspending him indefinitely . . . they could have modeled for everyone what is really needed when it’s revealed that one person is abusing another person – man, woman, or child.

Let’s wonder about a different perspective …

What if it wasn’t actually a good idea to cancel and suspend Ray Rice? What if that came from the public’s pressure and threat to ban games? What if the threat of the “almighty dollar” got in the way of their doing what would have been really healthy and healing … like it too often does in many arenas of life?  What if, despite the violence and danger inherent in football, taking away Ray’s ability to play took away one of his releases of aggression – from here and now and long, long ago? What if it made him more likely to abuse?  What if taking away his livelihood added one more trigger to abuse rather than healing? What if responding with punishment feeds abuse – it does for children. If it does for children, why wouldn’t it for adults, too? What if their jumping to a punishment makes the football “heads of state” more like abusers themselves than like the models they could be for all who watch and play football? What if first they colluded with the abuse, normalizing it like so many others in society, and then they tried to save face (and money) by punishing the abuser – abusing the abuser? What if none of this was what was really needed … for Ray, for the Ravens, for the NFL, for healing domestic violence in our country, for us?

So what could the Ravens and the NFL have done that wouldn’t feed abuse? They could have told Ray that in order to stay on the team, he would need to go to ongoing therapy and never abuse his fiancée or anyone else again.

They could have told him that as long as he continued to stay in therapy and truly work to heal to the root all that had caused him to be abusive, and as long as he didn’t abuse anyone, he could continue on the team. And if he violated either one of those, he would be suspended permanently. They could have selected a therapist who they knew would do the deep healing work with Ray, or they could have established approval rights on the therapist he selected and made sure there was a legal, ethical way to monitor that he was still in therapy … and not abusing anyone.

We have so much to learn in our country and our world.

It is so disturbing that as civilized as we believe we are here in the United States, and many other countries, as well, there are 39 countries that have banned corporal punishment of children by parents. And the U.S. is not among them. Neither are Australia, Canada, Ireland, South Africa, nor the United Kingdom.* And in those countries in which corporal punishment of children by parents is legal, the “restrictions” include such bizarre guidelines as “reasonable force,” “non-excessive force,” “punishment necessary to discipline or safeguard the child and his or her welfare,” “the child being able to benefit from the correction,” and “the correction not causing harm.” These are all guises to justify physical abuse. Physical “punishment” does cause harm … physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual harm. Anyone claiming otherwise is not aware, not educated, not in reality … the reality of that little child.

I understand the dilemma: how do we not violate the rights of parents to raise their own children, and still protect those children as they grow? I don’t have a short term definitive answer. But I do know that every person I’ve ever worked with who was hit as a child, remained afraid of being hit from deep inside – until the transformation that came from going through the healing crossroads. They may have tried to bury that frightened part of themselves, or they may be very aware of it. They may have become passive in shaping their lives to avoid people attacking them, or they may have tried to avoid being hit by lashing out and attacking other people, children and adults alike.  It gets passed down from one generation to the next. The cycle of abuse, abuse as the reaction to being triggered, gets passed down from one generation to the next.

This happens in families, in communities, in states, in countries … all over our world. A child abused when young, may well abuse his or her own child, partner, or someone else as s/he ages. If violence was an option in the childhood home, it has an enormous likelihood of becoming an option in the adult home. And even if the parent believes he or she loves the child, and uses love as a guise for abusing that little one … the real truth is: The parent is burying the memory of the deep, intense, fear, pain, hurt, helplessness, powerlessness, and more … experienced when s/he was abused as a child. He may remember that he was hit or beaten, but he has built big defenses against re-experiencing the feelings. And those big defenses include abusing others … re-enacting the abuse as a defense against the young child’s feeling experience on all levels of being. That is, the feeling experience of the young child he once was is still alive inside the now-big person.  If the now-big person could feel all those feelings from the childhood trauma of being abused, s/he could not abuse anyone else.

Ignoring abuse won’t resolve it. Normalizing abuse won’t resolve it. Punishing abuse with something equivalent to abuse won’t resolve it. Although laws say a lot about attitude toward abuse – the environment of the city, state, or country – the real resolution is healing.

A lot of people are saying it’s wonderful that the abuse that has been occurring in the sports world is bringing out into the open the problem of abuse in the U.S. And yes! It is a step that the seriousness of the problem has been brought out into the open even more than it already was.

But people are still normalizing it – up to a point. Many on talk shows and news teams are acknowledging they were abused as children, but some of them are okaying what they experienced as different from what Ray Rice did to his fiancée (now wife) or Adrian Peterson did to his son.

No abuse is okay. None! Abuse harms children, families, communities, countries, our world … all of us.

What this really shows us, if we are willing to honestly look and see and fully invest in the true resolution … is that we need to heal this problem at its roots. We need to heal this problem in families.

We need to heal this problem in parents. We need to heal this problem in the children who are abused and grow up with wounds and defenses that they act out on their own children, partners, and others, as well.  We need to heal this in the children who are abused and grow up with fear in their hearts that they might be hit again. They are often the ones who end up in abusive relationships in which they become the abused partner.

We need to heal this problem one by one with people doing their real healing – not just quick fixes, not just managing and controlling thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. We need to heal this problem to the root. We need to invest in educating people individually, communally, globally about the truth of the problem. And we need to invest our resources, our commitments, our hearts in truly resolving this problem.

Not just in the outer world, but in the world within us . . . from the inside out.

If the NFL and the Ravens had acted differently than they did, they could have truly helped … they could have modeled the real solution for their fans and for children who see the sports celebrities as their models.

They didn’t. But we can. Please join me in making this investment…and inviting others to join us.

© Judith Barr, 2014

*http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corporal_punishment_in_the_home

 

WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP MAKE OUR WORLD SAFE
FROM THE INSIDE OUT

It’s up to each and every one of us to help end domestic violence and abuse in any and all forms. And we can start by doing the inner work necessary to explore and heal the childhood wounds within us … wounds that are at the root of abuse. Wounds that cause us to collude with abuse, normalize abuse, or even actively abuse.

Start by exploring your own relationships. Are there times when you have been abused and tolerated it? And … are there times when you yourself have abused? You may be able to start to explore the feelings you have when you’re being abused or when you’re abusive, tracing those feelings back to times in your early life when you felt similar feelings. But … this is a very delicate process. You may very well find you need the help of a good, integritous, caring therapist to help you explore and heal those feelings … so you can break the cycle of abuse in your life and your family … and your world.

Also … while getting the help you need to heal to the root … let others know that abuse in any form should not be tolerated, and that there is hope for healing the abuse so sadly prevalent in our country and our world. If you feel called, share this article with those you know, to help expand healing out into our world.

We can stop domestic violence … not through tolerance of it or even laws against it, but through each and every one of us doing our own inner healing.