Miami-Dade County

Columnist: I know from experience — abusive men don’t easily change

Domestic violence is one social problem that we can’t seem to rid ourselves of. I am not amazed, nor am I surprised, when I hear about such acts and see how the issue is swept under the rug, so to speak. It seems like some things will always remain the same: a woman is simply the property of her husband, to do with as he will. That includes a beating if he thinks it is necessary. Many times the victim of domestic violence ends up being another homicide statistic.

It’s even worse when the perpetrator is a celebrity. Remember how fans cheered for OJ Simpson after his wife Nicole and her friend were found murdered? I was on vacation and watched the entire chase unfold on television. Two people were found murdered. One was OJ’s wife and he was the prime suspect. I couldn’t believe the number of people along the roadside holding up signs urging, “Run, OJ, Run.” It was like he was an American hero and could do no wrong. OJ’s later acquittal nearly split the nation.

The sad thing about domestic violence is that some women think they deserve to be treated badly. Nobody deserves to have their dignity taken away. When women, or men, are abused by the person who vowed to love them, a bit of their dignity is taken away with each blow. In the aftermath of such a dignity-robbing situation, tearful apologies often come from the abuser, who vows never to strike his/her loved one again.

The apologies are usually fly-by-night, and as soon as a stressful situation comes up, or the abuser has had too much to drink, or decides a family isn’t what he really wants, the violence starts again.

I speak from experience. When I was a young wife and mother, I never could understand how the man I loved so dearly could hurt me so horribly. Unlike Janay Rice, I was married when the abuse started with me. But like her, I wanted to believe his tears were real; that he would never hurt me again.

Not.

Here is where I can thank God for my strong and nurturing mother. Like many women of her generation, it was common, though shameful, to be an abused wife. But unlike many of her friends, Mom decided to offer her babies a better life. So, at 24, with two young children in tow, Mom found the strength to leave our dad. She and Madea (yes, Tyler Perry, there was a Madea in my life, too), a loving neighbor, who was like an older sister to my mom, plotted our getaway.

I will never forget the morning we lift Williston, Florida. Mom got up at dawn, as she always did, to make breakfast and lunch for my dad, then kissed him goodbye as he left for work. He never knew her plans.

Madea advised Mom that the beatings would not stop if she stayed. Mom took her advice, thank God. I was 5 and my little brother was 2. Mom took us to her older sister Aunt Thelma until she found a job and a place for us to live in Miami’s Overtown. We didn’t see Dad again until we were nearly grown.

Earlier this year, Ray Rice abused his then fiancée in an elevator, literally knocking her unconscious. The abused fiancée, Janay Palmer, later married him. I want to believe that she really believes the abuse stopped in that elevator.

As a former abused wife, I am here to tell Janay that it didn’t. Now that Rice has lost his job and all of his endorsements, life with the former football star could get worse. And there will be another time. And another time. And another time.

I am speaking from experience. It never took but a couple of cans of beer for my husband to take out his frustrations on me. But like I said, I had a strong mom for a role model. That gave me the courage to leave my abusive situation.

As a mother of two sons, I worried that somehow the wife-abuse trait (now they call it DNA) would rub off on my sons. So I prayed and tried to instill in them how wrong it is to be violent. Our home was a place devoid of cursing and fighting. We were never ashamed to say “I love you,” to each other. And the rule of the house was never to leave home angry and not speaking to each other. “You don’t know if you will come back home alive,” I used to say to them. Kind of strong, I know, but I wanted them to understand how important it is to be kind.

Too often in our society, young boys grow up watching their dads and granddads fighting their moms and grandmothers. They grow up thinking this is the way to treat your wife; after all, she is your “property.”

If Rice really wants to do the right thing, he will seek help. He will make a serious effort to not abuse his wife, ever again. I heard someone say once, “The best gift a father can give his children is to love their mother.”

In loving your wife, Rice, and seeking the help you so badly need, you will begin the important steps in your family of breaking the curse of domestic violence.

HOLOCAUST LECTURE

At 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, the Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU, 301 Washington Ave., Miami Beach, will present a lecture, “The Holocaust in Scandinavia.” Cami Hofstadter, a former honorary consul of Finland, will be the guest lecturer.

Hofstadter is a writer, lawyer and educator who was born in post-World War II Helsinki. A graduate of Barry University, the University of Miami and the University of Helsinki, her lecture themes are related to WWII, the Holocaust, diplomacy and parliamentary law.

In her lecture, Hofstadter will examine the role each country played, from Denmark’s heroic attempts to save its Jewish citizens, to Sweden’s dubious neutrality — abetting the Nazis while providing a safe haven for Jewish refugees — and from Norway’s inability to prevent its Jewish citizens from being sent to concentration camps to Finland’s refusal to deliver Jews for deportation, even as the nation fought alongside Nazi Germany against the Soviet Union.

The lecture is a part of the Ruth K. and Shepard Broad Distinguished Lecture Series and is co-sponsored by Jewish Studies Initiatives, the European Studies Program and Miami-Florida European Union Center of Excellence.

It’s free. To RSVP, call 786-972-3175 or email info@jewishmuseum.com.

ARTS IN MIAMI

The Miami Downtown Arts District will kick off its Arts Days 2014 at 6 p.m. Sept. 19 at McCormick Place Downtown Miami, 111 SW Third St.

The event will feature a VIP members reception thatwith live performances and art installations.

Also, guests will learn about the district’s events as part of the “DWNTWN Art Days,” which will be Sept. 19-21, as well as future First Friday Downtown Art Nights and other special events starting Nov. 7 with an Art Basel Preview, and Dec. 5 Art Basel Miai Beach/Miami Art Week shows.

The event is free with RSVP. For more information, visit https://www.facebook.com/MiamiDowntownArtsDistrict, call 305-206-4734 or email mdadpress@gmial.com.

SUPPORT A SCHOLAR

Breakthrough Miami will have its Second Annual Support-a-Scholar Celebration at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 20 at Wynwood Walls, 2550 NW Second Ave.

The goal is to fund 200 motivated breakthrough scholars by that date. If you want to donate, add your name to the list of sponsors and Fund-a-Scholar donors by making reservations at www.breakthroughmiami.org or by calling 305-646-7210.

Tickets to the event cost $150. Fund-a-Scholar tickets cost $1,600 and include two tickets to the event and a private tour of the Walls by Wynwood Muralists. This amount covers the annual cost of one Breakthrough student.

The collaborating artists are Brandon Opalka, Santiago Rubino, Ryan the Wheelbarrow and Marcie ZIV.

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