Domestic violence. We all know what it is, and plenty of money and volunteer time have been spent helping victims of that trauma try to heal. But what we have never really made strides in is stopping it before it happens. To do so, we need to focus on the aggressor.
In Pennsylvania this week, Kevin Cleeves was trying to make arrangements to pick up his 4-year-old daughter when he ended up shooting and killing his estranged wife, his mother-in-law, and another man.
In Massachusetts this week, Daryl Benway shot and killed his 7-year-old daughter and shot his 9-year-old son, who is clinging to life in critical condition. He and his wife had separated a few weeks ago.
In Chicago this week, Jennifer Hudson's brother-in-law, William Balfour, was sentenced to three life sentences for killing Hudson's mother, brother, and nephew. He was allegedly jealous of a new relationship his ex-wife had started following their breakup.
In Maine this week, Lawrence Beaute killed his girlfriend after she arrived home from work and then turned the gun on himself. She was in the process of breaking up with him when the incident happened.
And in Colorado this week, Corey Anthony Lopez allegedly killed his live-in girlfriend. Detectives on the scene said they had no apparent motive for her death.
Year after year these clusters of stories pour out of our radios, TVs, newspapers, and Internet. In Wyoming, Robin Munis was shot and killed while singing on stage by her estranged husband, David, who had sniper training. In Montgomery, Ala., Eric Robinson killed his children and himself outside his estranged wife's home. Near Houston, Terry Lee was doused with gasoline and burned to death by her boyfriend, John Dodd. Eric Johnson crashed his plane into his former mother-in-law's Indiana house, killing him and his 8-year-old daughter.
Naming these killers and their victims is not an effort to demonize men; on the contrary, it is to show clear proof that men and their emotions are underserved in our society, both now and throughout history. Women's personal lives are sprinkled with activities to lower our stress and heal our "inner child." We get massages and facials, do yoga, have a "good cry" at a sad movie, or vent for hours on the phone with a best friend. We celebrate therapy like we do memberships to country clubs. These are socially acceptable ways for women to de-stress. In fact, the more of these activities that a woman involves herself in, the higher her status in society seems to rise. For women, it is cool to be properly emotionally maintained, but not for men. Men are still labeled "weak," "effeminate," or both if they go for a facial and a trip to the therapist's office to unwind.
So what can men do to relax?
Sometimes they kill animals for sport. Sometimes they go to football games or spend hours playing video games as characters who are assassins, set to soundtracks of screaming guitars and smashing drumbeats.
So when do men get to be quiet and pampered? Hardly ever. And why not? Because we keep teaching little boys that to be a man means to be tough, hold his emotion inside, and hide moments of sadness, fear, and disappointment from the outside world. The problem is that when something hurts too badly to bottle up and dust off, like a failed relationship, men often don't have the patience or the tools to let that pain heal naturally.
I have no solution to the issue other than demanding that we as a society stop overlooking this undercurrent of insecurity and frustration that is coursing through so many men's bodies. Every single day, it drags us all further and further down.