(Click to enlarge)
(Click to enlarge)
I’ve never seen anything quite like it.
Last week it was Adrian Peterson all day every day on the local talk radio shows and in every newspaper sports column in Minneapolis and St. Paul. The sensationalized celebrity football player who whipped and injured his four-year-old child with a switch didn’t have a chance. On and on they went with pious demonization. Appropriate shock, anger, and thoughtful consideration were overwhelmed by the explosion of shadowy energy that brought him from adulation to contempt in a moment.
Many dynamics played themselves out without reflection in the rush to judge and be done with it all: abuse, parenting, Texas justice, corporal punishment, cultural differences, the tearing down of heroic athletes, and the dissemination of illegally obtained police reports and invasive photos of the child.
Finally they drove him out-of-town.
I didn’t think a criminal indictment was necessary: Peterson cooperated with authorities without an attorney present. He voluntarily testified before a grand jury. Based on what we know right now, I think he needs help to unlearn what he experienced as a child more than he needs constant public humiliation. Appropriate shock and anger were understandable and necessary. But a humbled Peterson also deserved our empathy and compassion–not our self-righteous vilification. He will make a plea deal or go to trial before a jury of his peers in Texas. His punishment will be insignificant. I don’t care about his punishment; I care that he demonstrates that he’s learned better ways to discipline children, and I care about his future behavior.
Just a few weeks ago, I wrote about the tragic death of four-year-old Eric Dean professionally chronicled by Star Tribune reporter Brandon Stahl. Eric’s stepmother murdered him. Over many months before his death, people reported 15 instances of child abuse to Pope County, MN child protective services. Only one was investigated and wrongly dismissed. Citizens of Minnesota expressed their outrage but not to the level of the star athlete.
How could that be?
A violent and soul-destroying story underreported as much as the Peterson story was overblown goes on without end every day in the midst of those so upset last week.
Some Minnesota facts:
Some national statistics:
Emotional, physical, and sexual abuse permeates our society. I never consulted in an organization where emotional abuse wasn’t prevalent. In addition to domestic abuse, some athletes—professional and amateur–bully those perceived to be “soft,” demonize gays and lesbians, and demand silence and conformity in the locker room. Reporters often observe this behavior and their silence colludes with the abuse. Newspapers report ugly stories of bullying and abuse in our schools. And what’s left to say about the Catholic Church? Abuse surrounds us.
Have we become desensitized to what is around us? Do we only react to what is new and sensational?
We need to wake up and see the reality of abuse as it is—not just the celebrity cases that poke our dark sides and gin up dumbed-down anger that is dangerous and unhealthy. Then we need to take on the challenges and with an anger transformed to a relentless determination eliminate abuse of all kinds in our lives, neighborhoods, workplaces, and national personality.
Wahpeton Daily Post
Wahpeton, MD & Breckenridge, MN
Posted: Thursday, November 8, 2007 12:00 am
Emotional abuse begins as a control issue and can spiral into physical abuse. Tom and Melanie Heuerman visited North Dakota State College of Science Wednesday to speak to students on how abuse affects everyday life.
Tom Heuerman, Ph.D., is currently a consultant who has devoted the past 14 years of his life to coaching the impact of abuse. Melanie Heuerman is the administrative officer for the U.S. Department of Justice in Fargo, and also volunteers her time at the Rape and Abuse Crisis Center in Fargo-Moorhead.
“At one time or another, and sometimes more frequently, all of us have been made to feel like ‘nobody’s’ in our life,” Tom Heuerman said, speaking to roughly 50 students in the Plains and Prairie Room. “That includes the most successful and least successful of us.”
Tom Heuerman is a former agent in the U.S. Service and worked for 18 years at the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. When he was 52, he received a Ph.D. in leadership and organizational change. In his experience working under corporate management, he found that the male-female dynamic in relationships can be applied to the workplace.
“I’ve never been in an organization where you can’t find abuse,” he said.
Emotional abuse can cause tremendous damage in a work environment, such as money loss, poor employee work efficiency and high turnover. Part of his desire is to help those in the corporate world and in schools to recognize the multiple forms of emotional abuse and the measures individuals can take to prevent it.
Emotional abuse is characterized by body language, words and actions that can hurt or frighten others. While a number of adjectives are associated to each element of abuse, such as rejection, humiliation, anxiety and withdrawal, there is only one element consistent in all definitions.
“It’s an ongoing process,” Tom Heuerman said, “But the core point of the relationship (for abusers) is to hurt and frighten for the purpose of control.”
Other forms of abuse include maltreatment of pets, which is sometimes a precursor to abusing people, and in family settings, an example might be one parent treating a child nicely to emphasize their anger at the other partner.
Abusers tend to be predictable, manipulative and charming, which is a method used to draw the victim in. They have a tendency to always give excuses during arguments and blame others for their troubles.
As a result, victims of abuse typically lose all sense of self, living their life in fear and deny their own needs to avoid furthering it. They suffer from low self-esteem, depression or start abusing drugs. When someone feels consistently put down, ignored, or that their partner is withholding approval or appreciation, these can all be signs indicating an abusive relationship. And while men experience abuse in their life, the great majority of victims are women.
In 2006, roughly 2,800 people passed through the Rape and Abuse Crisis Center in Fargo, Melanie Heuerman said. One thousand six hundred of those victims reported domestic violence and the remaining 1,200 were sexually assaulted.
“In a small community like ours, to hear that there were 1,200 sexual assaults in the Fargo-Moorhead area, that’s a lot,” she said.
One issue that specifically faces women is economic exploitation, where they earn a portion of the family income but it is either taken away or they have little say in where it is pooled. But whether men or women suffer from emotional abuse, the scars run deep and cause the greatest harm.
Tom Heuerman told the male students to stand up for women and get involved.
“The greatest problem is indifference,” he said. “Unless we start holding ourselves absolutely accountable, organizations like the Rape and Abuse Crisis Center will only help the wounded. We have to get on the other side of it.”
Anybody can become angry – that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way – that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.
I too am bothered by the Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson stories. My wife and I completed 40 hours of training as volunteer speakers at the Fargo/Moorhead Rape and Abuse Crisis Center. Our eyes were opened to the pervasiveness and destructiveness of abuse in our society. We did many projects for the Center, and I did many hours of consulting at no cost. I wrote several commentaries on emotional, physical, and sexual abuse. Rice and Peterson will pay a dear price for their actions.
I am also bothered by what feels like excessive, misplaced, and poorly expressed anger in some newspaper columnists, readers who comment on articles, and radio talk-show hosts and their callers. They come across as politically correct, self-righteous, harshly judgmental, and self-promoting: “The more I damn Rice and Peterson, the better person I am.” Their rush to judge and to punish without due process, information, understanding of context, or a sense of proportion scares me. I have thought, “This is what a lynch mob is like.” I’ve been guilty of these things too.
Some feel upset that the team management didn’t instantly punish Peterson as they want him to be punished. People should break away from their paternalistic relationship with organizations and quit looking to owners and executives to meet their need to strike out.
These folks and the good people who remain silent might channel some of their anger in more constructive ways: People who condemn Peterson and the Viking’s management should live true to their own values, put their anger to constructive use, and do what they can to model their convictions: don’t go, watch, or listen to Viking games. Don’t buy team merchandise. Columnists might illuminate abuse and educate readers. Talk-show hosts could turn the spotlight on the emotional, physical, and sexual abuse that surrounds us just below the surface of our awareness.
All should get angry at the vast abuse that permeates our society, not just the celebrity cases.
And everyone should speak up when they witness abuse in the family, neighborhood, and workplace.
In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
From the Minneapolis Star Tribune:
The [ Todd] Hoffner saga went viral nationally in the wake of the sex scandal at Penn State involving a former assistant coach. Child pornography charges were filed against Hoffner, and then dismissed when a judge determined the pictures simply showed children at innocent play. But instead of reinstating him, school officials fired him, a decision reversed only when Hoffner won a sweeping arbitrator’s ruling last spring after he had accepted the coaching job at Minot State.
Hoffner found no such support among school officials, who just months before his problems had lavished him with praise — and a raise — after a 2011 season that ended with a bowl victory. Hoffner and his wife said they still cannot explain why key school officials were so quick to abandon them.
Hoffner was (and is now again) the head football coach at Minnesota State University, Mankato, MN.
At times of difficulty in our lives, we find out who our real friends are and, I believe, the realization is almost always painful.
Within a conformity-required university administration?
I’d imagine that Hoffner’s “friends” were friends only as long as the university president “liked” Hoffner. Who would be brave enough to go against the university president and his witch hunt of Hoffner? Who would dare be seen with Hoffner? Who would believe in him even as the injustices accumulated and became obvious?
Rare indeed would be such a courageous friend.
In Hoffner’s case, it was easier to remain silent in the face of injustice than to risk loss by speaking out. And in remaining silent, people lost a part of themselves.
Baltimore Ravens football star, Ray Rice, was recently suspended by the NFL for two games after a video showed him dragging his unconscious girl friend (now his wife) out of an Atlantic City hotel elevator.
Last Monday (Sept. 8, 2014) the Ravens fired Ray Rice and the NFL placed him on indefinite suspension after a new video showed Rice punching and knocking out his girlfriend moments before he dragged her unconscious body out of the elevator.
I wondered how, in the first video, did the NFL and the Baltimore Ravens think she became unconscious and unresponsive?
This is the third of several pieces I wrote over the past decade about abuse.
ABUSE: AN ISSUE FOR MEN
I would like abusers to imagine the pain and anguish they inflict and feel even one-tenth of that for themselves.
Melanie, my wife, and I recently completed 48 hours of training at the local rape and abuse crisis center. We will volunteer our time and speak to groups about emotional, physical, and sexual abuse.
The schedule was grueling: two evenings a week for a month and two Saturdays. Approximately 20 people made the big commitment and will volunteer as advocates who take crisis calls during off hours, court watchers who keep track of cases in the legal system, and public speakers.
The training sessions were emotionally difficult for me. Speakers taught us about incest; stalking; cyber-sex; date rape; pedophilia; emotional, physical, and sexual abuse; and the many difficulties victims face with themselves, within families, in the legal system, and in our society, which often prefers to deny such horrible things. As I listened to the monstrous things men do to women and children, I felt ashamed to be a man.
A woman described how her father sexually abused her from age 9-15. Then her 12-year-old daughter spoke about how a foster child had sexually assaulted her when she was three years old. I admired their courage and appreciated the gift of their experiences.
I felt sadness and sorrow for the women and children abused by men. I felt outraged at the men who do such things. What went wrong with so many men? My father treated my mother with great respect. I feel contempt for men who abuse women in any way.
I felt disgust as I watched a video simulation of a father who manipulated his young daughter to have sex with him and called it love. What went wrong inside of a father to be able to violate his child’s trust in such a depraved way?
I watched another video of a simulated rape. I felt revulsion as I watched the bestial man degrade and violate a young woman who will live the horror of him for a lifetime. I thought of the almost daily news stories of rape and murder of young women by soul-dead men.
I loathed the young minister as he described proudly how he manipulated and abused children and talked his way out of trouble over and over again. He not only robbed the young children of their innocence, he made them out to be liars and robbed them of their voices. I find it difficult to think of such men as anything but evil as they do such anti-human things to others.
I asked a counselor what one thing she would change in the make-up of the abusers of all types if she could. She answered, “Empathy.” None of the abusers can feel for themselves what they do to others.
Many abusive men have good jobs—even leadership positions. They look normal. Many work hard to create a public image of success, citizenship, and community involvement. They put forth a false image. They don’t live their crafted image of goodness. Abusive men use their creativity for negative purposes, to control and inflict pain–they hurt others. Abusers want power and control over others. Abusers of every stripe exude entitlement and selfishness. They see others as possessions they own.
Men own the issue of abuse of women and children: men do the vast majority of abusive actions, men model for boys at home, at school, at work, and on the athletic fields. Other men watch silently.
Many police officers look the other way; many lawyers enable abusive men or abuse others themselves. Many judges remain ignorant of the dynamics of abuse and, as a result, make unjust decisions.
I see two challenges:
I call on policemen, lawyers, and judges to learn about abuse and the dynamics of abusive men. The ignorant bear some measure of responsibility for what happen to women and children. Some of you think you don’t need to learn. Trust me, you do need to learn. I was a Secret Service Agent, a senior business executive, and an organizational consultant. I needed to learn. So do you.
Judges and lawyers who work in family law should be required to be educated about abuse and the dynamics of abusers. Without that education, they can be manipulated easily and unwittingly collude with the abuser. The local rape and abuse crisis center will be happy to help them. Lundy Bancroft’s books: “Why Does He Do That” and “The Batterer as Parent” should be required reading for every attorney and judge who work in family law.
Judges, lawyers, and policemen need to model respectful behavior and root the legal system of abusers. Often, as in all systems, the unethical and abusive people in the justice system go unchallenged. Members of the legal system who do not bear witness bear responsibility.
Robert Greenleaf, author of the seminal work on leadership, “Servant Leadership,” wrote that the insane, the irresponsible, the immature (and, I might add, the abusers), have been with us forever. The problem is the good people who go to sleep and do not stand up and bear witness for human suffering of every kind. When we refuse to look abuse in the face, we make a big mistake—we cooperate with abuse when we do not confront it.
We need to stand up courageously, whatever our walk of life, and hold abusers accountable: in the home, at the school, on the athletic field, throughout the workplace, and in the courts.
We created the men of today. We need a new model for men. Head coach Biff Poggi and assistant Joe Ehrmann, a former NFL football star turned minister and volunteer coach, taught the players on the Gilman high school (Maryland) football team a new model of masculinity. They call their program of football and developing young men “Building Men for Others.” (See Ehrmann’s book, “Season of Life.”)
I have spent almost the last twenty years as a minister. Most of my work is in the inner city of Baltimore, dealing with issues of poverty and systemic racism and family disintegration. I would say that in order to make America a more just and fair society, I would boil it down to the single greatest crisis. And that primary, critical issue is a concept of what it means to be a man. If we don’t fix our understanding, and get some proper definition of masculinity and manhood, I don’t think we can address other issues.
Joe Ehrmann again:
Masculinity, first and foremost, ought to be defined in terms of relationships. It ought to be taught in terms of the capacity to love and to be loved. If you look over your life at the end of it…life wouldn’t be measured in terms of success based on what you’ve acquired or achieved or what you own. The only think that’s really going to matter is the relationships that you had. It’s gonna come down to this: What kind of father were you? What kind of husband were you? What kind of coach or teammate were you? What kind of son were you? What kind of brother were you? What kind of friend were you? Success comes in terms of relationships.
And I think of the second criterion—the only other criterion for masculinity—is that all of us ought to have some kind of cause, some kind of purpose in our lives that’s bigger than our own individual hopes, dreams, wants, and desires. At the end of our life, we ought to be able to look back over it from our deathbed and know that somehow the world was a better place because we lived, we loved, we were other-centered, other-focused.
How did the Gilman High School football team perform under their guidance? They had back-to-back undefeated seasons in 1998 and 1999 that put them at the top of state rankings. Poggi and Ehrmann measured success in two ways: by wins and losses and by the amount of ministry they’ve done with their kids to prepare them for lives of meaning and value to others.
Women also need to help raise little boys differently: teach them to define success by their relationships, commitment to something greater than themselves, and by their courage to stand up to injustice in all its forms. Women can also teach young girls to speak up about men’s violence. Then abusers will have no where to hide.
What affects one single woman out there…affects families, affects neighborhoods, affects the city, affects all of us. John Harrington, St. Paul, Minnesota Police Chief
What will you do to make a difference in the lives of women and children around you?