Updated: Feb 29
Here we go again. Yesterday a neighborhood within walking distance from mine experienced the unbelievable. The police were called to a home after a relative reported something wrong at the residence. First responders, bomb squad, and more police cars than I can count arrived at the scene, blocking entry and exit from the subdivision as well as several local streets. Helicopters were in the air and sirens could be heard from miles away. My kids were home alone because it is spring break so they reported to me everything they could hear and by this time all local news stations were reporting the story. I was panicking because I was at work getting this information in pieces. By the time I arrived home, the subdivision was still blocked, police were still on the scene along with everyone else I mentioned above. Throughout this several hour ordeal, two police officers were shot and wounded, thankfully they did not die. Unfortunately, the same could not be said for the individuals within the home. Three bodies were found; a 36-week pregnant woman, and her 16-year-old son were murdered by the live-in boyfriend, who was also the assailant that shot the two police officers. He died of an apparent self-inflicted gun wound. For details on the incident please see the following link:
My heart breaks for the victims’ family and friends and I send my condolences to the family. This is unimaginable and indeed a tragedy on all levels. The 16-year-old victim attended the same high school that my 17-year-old son attends. My son was shocked when we finally saw pictures of the victims earlier today on the news and he realized it was someone he actually knew. I wish I could say this was the first time I’ve heard of a woman being killed by her partner in my own personal life. It is not. I had a classmate that I loved dearly that was murdered by her husband and it hurt like hell. In a previous neighborhood I lived in, a neighbor that I didn’t know, but lived on the street behind my house, killed his wife and 2 young children. In college, a young male student that moved in the same circles I was in, attempted to kill his girlfriend and subsequently shot himself and died; fortunately, the female victim survived. I am sure you would also be able to identify horrific stories of this type of your own.
I try to find something to learn from tragic situations in order to make sense of the unbelievable. Here is what I believe: Hurt people hurt people and men need to learn how to deal with their hurt feelings in a way that doesn’t kill women. This starts with young boys.
I have two teenage sons, 14 and 17. I was soo disturbed by this story, I immediately opened my laptop and started typing this blog entry (this is where I come to vent). Halfway through the initial paragraph, I stopped. I looked at my boys who were waiting on me to take them to breakfast and decided there was no time like the present and we needed to have a chat.
Sitting with them at the local IHOP, we began a conversation about this story. Of course, the boys were mostly focused on the 16-year-old boy that was a student at the school, as this made it real for them. My son knew him and it is mind blowing for him. They were horrified and shocked about every piece of the story in the same way I was and imagine you are after reading the story in the link above. I steered the conversation into a discussion about expressing feelings of hurt, anger, frustration, etc. I explained to them that although society may tell them as boys they should not cry, should not express feelings of hurt or pain outwardly, that society didn’t know diddly squat. Boys can cry too and it is OK. People who hold in their feelings, never learn how to cope with pain, loss, anger, trauma etc. These people often turn into people that sometimes hurt other people. This tragic story that brought us to this conversation is what happens, all to often though, in the extreme when men never learn how to cope with their feelings. You may have wondered why am I not focused more on the specifics of domestic violence. Simple, I like to focus on things I think we skip over in haste that are fundamentals. It makes us reactive and I like to be proactive when possible. For me, this means as a mother of two boys, I have to make sure I do the best I can to teach them, while they are still listening, these fundamental life lessons. There is no class in school that teaches you about coping with your first broken heart. There is no class that teaches you how to handle rejection and any form of hurt feeling. Life moves soo fast, we tend to tell our kids, “just brush yourself off and try again.” Or “you will be fine…. you will see.”
How exactly do you learn to cope with these raging emotions that we all experience if you are never taught how and the world laughs at you as a male if you express these feelings? Who wants to be called “soft” or a “punk” at any age, especially when you are a boy trying to find your way through adolescence?
As a woman, I can recall being on the receiving end of a boy or a man trying to approach me: “Hey girl, what’s your name? Come holla at me”. Any version of this was common. I remember that I would feel compelled to be polite and if I wasn’t interested, I’d just ease away as quickly as possible. Why? Because after having experiences wherein I expressed not being interested I have been called a “bitch” or had other expletives shouted at me because the boy/man felt rejected and didn’t like how it felt, didn’t know how to cope with it and became aggressive. How is it possible that soo many men go through their lives never developing the necessary coping skills to manage an assortment of feelings that they will indeed experience? We inadvertently tell them not to worry about those inner feelings and shun them when they do something as normal as “cry”.
I asked my boys how they felt about this and they confirmed that they did feel like it was expected that they not be emotional, express hurt by crying, and basically would prefer to hold it in. I was floored! OMG, I have failed them. But then something happened. My oldest said, what the dude in this story did was cowardly and it shouldn’t be anyone’s first, second, or third instinct to hurt someone. Ok, I haven’t completely failed as a mom. Then, my youngest, who does keep his feelings close to his chest told me something that he thought I didn’t know (I already knew but never said anything) about a girl he used to date. I won’t betray his trust here, but what he shared was a big deal as the story had an emotional impact on him, but he never ever would talk about it – until today. WHEW! Thank God. Our conversation will not protect them from experiencing hurt, but I hope it was one of many things I can and will do to help teach them how to cope with their emotions. Life will come at them hard, just like it has for all of us. I just want them prepared to cope so they can be good men that can manage their emotions in a healthy way as they are guaranteed to experience heartache, pain, loss, anger, frustration, rejection, and so forth.
There are a lot of factors that go into how and why these domestic violence tragedies occur. Make no mistake about that. If you are parent, guardian, mentor, other relative, parent-figure to a young boy take the time to teach them coping skills they can use to express feelings that make them uncomfortable. Do what I did above, talk to them and see where their heads and hearts are and coach them on healthy expression. Yes, that is all. It is a simple thing, but it goes a LONG way.
While, I didn’t unpack domestic violence here I would be remiss if I didn’t say the following:
1. I think the man in this story was a coward and piece of shit to do this.
2. If you are a woman in a relationship and are being abused in any way; LEAVE. Save yourself and your kids if you have any. Do not wait and hope for change. Do believe what he is capable of the first time he is verbally or physically abusive.
Writer’s Note: Yes, I know that women can abuse men and have killed their partners. Statistically speaking women are more likely to be victims of domestic violence and killed by their partner than in the reverse, but yes it happens, and it should not.