When Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice was caught on camera punching his then-girlfriend in the face, the NFL was heavily criticized for giving Rice only a two-game suspension. Now, the NFL is looking at many avenues to do better.
Yet domestic violence is much larger than Ray and Janay Rice or the NFL. It happens in every profession, including the military.
Ending domestic violence will take more than sweeping laws and initiating a different protocol to investigate incidences of abuse. Laws, investigations, assessments and treatment are all imperative, but a careful look at some underlying causes of escalation must be addressed.
In the military, spouses will often not report abuse for fear of their husband or wife losing their job and their income. Many military spouses don't know that federal law gives financial protection to the spouse if the member is discharged for an offense that involves abuse of the then-current spouse or a dependent child.
It doesn't matter if the discharge is a punitive discharge imposed by a court-martial or an administrative discharge initiated by the commander. The key is that the reason for the discharge must be for a "dependent abuse" offense.
Drunk in Love
Alcohol is often a precipitating factor in domestic violence. It's a huge pink elephant in the room that we often dance around.
It is easier to tell an abuser how abusive they are than to tell them how alcohol affects their judgment and impulse control. Education and treatment of alcohol use and abuse would cause a staggering decrease in domestic violence.
High Blood Pressure
Anger and escalation is a major reason for incidences of domestic violence. Getting angrier and escalating the situation or working to remain calm in a stressful situation is a choice.
Careful attention should be given to help the person build self-monitoring skills to learn how to keep anger from escalating. They need to be taught to refrain from using physical or emotional abuse to help them feel stronger and in control while making their victim smaller and weaker.
Shedding Old Skin
Poor coping skills can lead to domestic violence. Each week, I work with service members with poor coping skills. They can't cope with military life and increased work responsibilities and obligations, financial hardships, child rearing and other blended family issues etc.
Poor coping skills can lead to domestic violence. Learning new coping skills will require one to shed old skin and their old ways of responding to stressful situation -- e.g., hitting, slapping or berating a spouse or a child.
The Toothpaste Squeeze
Poor communication leads to domestic violence. Words are like toothpaste. Once you squeeze the toothpaste out of the tube, it's almost impossible to get the entire amount back inside.
Conversations that leave one person defensive and the other person angry can lead to swearing and hitting. This is never good. Learning good communication skills can stop an argument from turning violent.
Domestic violence can kill. No one deserves to be abused. It is very important to stamp out underlying factors that cause physical and emotional abuse.
Simply saying "real men don't hit women" or "real women don't hit men" has never stopped anyone from being abusive. Getting getting rid of the root causes of domestic violence will stop abuse.