September President's Message

11 Sep 2014 6:36 PM | Carol A. Bouldin (Administrator)

Is Violence “Cultural?”


When violence is minimized and there are only minor consequences, if any, is violence seen for what it is, or is it seen as “cultural?”


We therapists have been trained extensively in being culturally sensitive and are encouraged to have clients educate us on their own cultural norms.  Having trained social workers, pastors, and staff in Rwanda, Africa, I have been challenged to define what is "cultural.”  Until approximately five years ago, there was no marital rape in Rwanda as the very act of being married entitled the man to sex, whether there was consent or not.  In fact, until the late 1970's, there was no marital rape law in America as well.   Having worked with the police and the public, there remains a misunderstanding of domestic violence and other violence against women.  The military is rampant with accusations of rape. Now we have the "Yes means Yes" law, which implies there was an entitlement if the rapist does not hear the word "No.” 


A recent violent incident revealed how some people still feel about violence against women. Professional football players, who are paid to be tackled and who practice being hit to dangerous levels, find it acceptable to consider this part of their manhood.  There is pride in believing they can "take it".   The irony in this case is that a professional football player who was supposedly hit by his girlfriend in an elevator, felt so threatened by her that he knocked her unconscious.  This implies a sense of entitlement or a “right” to respond violently if a woman resists control or intimidation.  Now if one person in a culture can rationalize their entitlement to violence, is that person a reflection of the culture or is it our collective response that makes it culture?  Until a video surfaced, the NFL commissioner initially disciplined the player with only a two-game suspension and the team for which he played supported him, even holding a press conference at which his victim said she “deeply regrets the role that she played the night of the incident.”We need to consider the impact of this. What do we identify as culture, and what do we identify as violence, and who is held responsible? 


I can list the statistics on rape, domestic violence, human trafficking, and female genital mutilation, but we have heard them. Our thoughts about violence make a difference, and I hope violence is never considered culture, wherever it happens. I hope violence is seen as violence.


Janine Murray, LMFT, President, Inland Empire CAMFT



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