Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Domestic Violence and the NFL

The long knives are out for the NFL.

To a certain mindset the NFL must be a breeding ground for misogyny, domestic violence and child abuse.

After all, there is no gender equity in professional football. There are no laws mandating that a female tight end or a female wide receiver be on the field for each play.

Football is a quintessentially male sport. It’s violent. It’s competitive. It is fueled by testosterone. To a certain mindset, it makes sense that its players are more prone to hate women, to hurt women and even to beat children.

For those who believe that all men have been primed by the patriarchy to hate women the NFL proves the point.

For them, Ray Rice was a godsend. When Rice was shown assaulting his fiancée in Atlantic City, those who believe that all men are like Ray Rice picked up the ball and ran with it. They filled the media with stories about domestic abuse.

It’s one thing to recognize that some men are domestic batterers. They need to be punished to the full extent of the law. But, it’s quite another thing to try to show that all men are domestic batterers beneath the skin.

Those directing the media frenzy over Ray Rice want to make the latter, not the former point.

Rice, after all, was the proof that they were looking for. How better to indict all professional football players, and, by extension all men than to make Ray Rice the poster child for misogyny.

When Adrian Peterson was shown to have beaten his children, we had another piece of evidence showing that men are horrors, needing to be punished severely for their hateful and violent natures.

If you think that this is just about the NFL you are smoking something. The obsessive interest in these football players is an attempt to slander all male dominant organizations for fostering misogyny and, and by extensions, slandering most men as misogynists.

The solution is more mandated gender equity.

This raises the important issue: does Ray Rice manifest the truth of a culture or did he make a mistake? Are domestic abusers psychopathic misogynists or can they be treated? And, what role did upbringing play in Rice and Peterson's sense of right and wrong?

Elizabeth Bernstein offers us some rational perspective on the issue.

In her column yesterday, she explained that many of those who commit acts of domestic violence can be treated successfully. That is, if they stick to the treatment program.

It reminds one of alcoholism. It is treatable through AA meetings, but the alcoholic does need to work the program. The many alcoholics who drop out should not be counted as treatment failures.

She reports:

Decades of studies show that about 60% to 70% of abusive men who complete a comprehensive batterer treatment program can reform, says Jeffrey L. Edleson, professor and dean of the School of Social Welfare at the University of California, Berkeley, and an expert on domestic abuse.

The track record is excellent, but note the caveat: the success ratio only applies to men who complete the program.

The most comprehensive study of treatment results showed this:

The study found that at the 30-month follow-up, more than 80% of the men had not re-assaulted their partner in the previous year, and at the 48-month follow-up, 90% of the men had not assaulted their partner in the past year. 

Obviously, some abusers are psychopaths. It is very difficult, if not impossible to change their behavior.

In other cases, domestic abuse is “learned behavior.” That suggests that men do it because they do not know any better or because they have come to believe that it is normal.

When Adrian Peterson was shown to have beaten his children, several people came forth and said that he was not doing anything more than what his upbringing dictated.

Bernstein writes:

Experts say intimate-partner violence is, like other forms of domestic violence, primarily a learned behavior. But someone who grew up witnessing or experiencing domestic abuse or who has a history of criminal behavior is much more likely to be abusive than someone who didn't.

One must mention that in some cultures wife beating is accepted to the point of being prescribed. Those who are trying to bring down the NFL have nothing to say about said cultures. If they attacked Muslim cultures they would be exculpating Western cultures, where such behaviors are criminal. And we know that they do not want to do that.

What constitutes therapy in such cases. Like alcoholics domestic batterers attend meetings:

A round of typical anger-management training isn't enough to help these men. They need to commit to a comprehensive batterer intervention program, often going at least once a week for four months to a year.

Experts say the best of these programs pair education with psychotherapy in a small group setting. The men learn communication skills. And they learn how to think differently about the situation they are in, how to change sexist ideas and how to tolerate conflict in a relationship without seeing it as an insult to their manhood.

While many of the men who attend these meetings do so because a judge ordered them to do so, the therapists have a good idea about which of them will complete the program successfully.

Men who feel ashamed of their behavior and who do not shift the blame to the victim will do better than those who feel no shame and blame their victims.

In addition, those men who are most motivated to restore their relationship—who are afraid of losing their wives-- will do better in treatment than those who do not care.


Malcolm said...

The truth of the matter is that the rate of criminality in the NFL is lower than that of the general public. No, the NFL does not have a “violence against women problem”, or at least not one that is worse than the public in general....

Leftists (heck, everyone!): be angry about Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson as individual perps. Personally, I think they’re scumbags and we ought to lock them both up. Blame the individuals. But for crying out loud, must we be subjected to another imbecilic hashtag campaign about a virtual non-issue? The NFL isn’t the problem. Individual criminality is the problem. The NFL does not cultivate misogynistic spousal abusers. It is a violent sport but that violence is not systematically transferred to the families and friends of the players. The numbers tell the story. And the story flies in the face of the alarmism that the Left has stirred up in the wake of the recent player incidents.

Ares Olympus said...

The article has a list, and overall seems sensible. I only get stuck on the last one "intimidating and bullying behaviors"

There is no such thing as "intimidating and bullying behavior", both are interpretations not objective facts.

Like a wife says "I feel intimidated when you yell at me" shows she's taking responsibility for how she feels, but if she says "You are a bully" when he says "no" so something she wants him to say yes, she isn't taking responsibility.

I hope the men's groups have role playing, since really what you need is to bring up the feelings (like feeling disrespected or attacked), and then stop and try to unwind the interaction and see where ego defenses are triggered, and what other choices are possible, and then see if you can remember to use them in practice.

I like Marshall Rosenberg's Nonviolent communication, hard to learn from a book, but very effective in interactive practice.

The odds of successful change go up for these men when five other factors are present, Ms. Gilin says:
1) They feel bad or guilty about harming their partner.
2) They take full responsibility for their actions and don't blame their partner.
3) They are motivated to change their values and be a different, better person.
4) They are willing to examine the effect abuse in their childhood had on them.
5) They understand that intimidating and bullying behaviors need to be stopped, along with physical violence.