Domestic abuse is never okay. Chad Johnson, formerly Chad Ochocinco and professional football player, knows this first hand, being released from his contract with the Miami Dolphins over allegations of felonious domestic violence. Often when we hear of high profile cases, our first impulse is to go to extremes, feeling either that the alleged perpetrators are either innocent and that the allegations are sensationalized, or that the accused are guilty and that they will be given a pass due to their standing in society. The truth of these stories oftentimes lies somewhere in between; the incident may not have been as severe as initially reported, but something did happen. While his guilt or innocence remains unclear, this incident with his recent fiancé does leave some certainty in terms of his future. He lost potentially his last opportunity to play in the NFL. The reality is that he may never land on another roster and could even face time behind bars.
Often, in the heat of conflict, men do not have a full understanding and awareness of all that is at stake, or how to handle the problem.
First, men have to understand that there are mental and physical reactions to emotion. This is instinctual and if we are able to cognitively identify the physical manifestations, our reactions to our feelings, we can better control our actions. For instance, common physical effects of anger include increased heart rate, increased body temperature, sweating, high blood pressure (leading to headaches), muscle tension, and grinding of teeth or teeth clenching. When these things occur, we can take them as warning signs to step back from the situation and calm down.
However, it’s not always possible to avoid confrontation in the heat of the moment. In order to avoid life-threatening consequences, consider the following:
- Make sure you have adequate physical space. If you are standing nose to nose when emotions escalate, injury can result. Instead, when having a heated discussion, make sure you are six feet away from the party involved. That way, you can avoid the urge to lash out, and you can also maneuver if lunged at. In Chad’s case, since he is accused of head-butting her, having adequate physical space would definitely have made it impossible for that to occur. A good rule of thumb is just outside of arms reach at a minimum.
- Make sure there are physical barriers. Coffee tables provide good accent to a room in terms of decoration, but it could also potentially be a secure obstruction. That extra moment of having to navigate around furniture could cause the perpetrator to reconsider their actions, or the potential victim an extra moment to get out of harm’s way.
- As mentioned before, there are physical signs that you may be about to be involved in an incident. Heed the warning and take precautionary actions. If you are speaking loudly, take deep breaths and try to be more controlled. If you feel your body temperature and heart race, then you know that you may want to end that discussion.
- Use your words. A good friend of mine always tells me to ‘use my words’. What she means in this instance is that she can’t read my mind; only what I deliver to her. In the heat of the moment, when we sense an escalating, impending conflict, we can use our words to diffuse the situation. For instance, calmly repeat how you interpret the feedback you are getting from your partner, so that they can know what you are hearing. This could be a very simple way of clarifying any misunderstanding.
- If all else fails, WALK AWAY. Like Kenny Rogers sang, “ … you have to know when to hold ‘em … know when to fold ‘em.” Sometimes emotions will get the best of us and we cannot have a conversation in that moment. Walking away isn’t necessarily the best strategy overall to mitigate the conflict, but it can definitely go a long way to ensure certain boundaries are not crossed.
What further complicates the allegations is Chad’s celebrity. Chad over the years has marketed himself as an over the top type personality that transcends the helmet and NFL shield. This has allowed him to amass wealth and fame in a league that’s notorious for promoting the brand and the teams, in contrast to the NBA where the stars are center stage. Also, this puts him squarely in the public eye. He has too much to lose to be reckless. Yet all of us need to be careful, as one mishap can determine the trajectory of our lives.
Men need to understand self-defense and domestic dispute in terms of the law. While it is true that women more commonly are considered the aggressor in domestic situations these days as compared with the past, statistics show that men are usually considered the aggressor. Because of this, the law tends to protect women heavily in interpretation and implementation. Adding to this is the prison industrial complex that provides local governments with a monetary incentive to criminalize civilians due to private prisons paying on an occupancy basis. As a man in a domestic dispute, one can expect a prosecutor to make him seem like a menace to society, no matter what his background. This, combined with the contrasting imagery of the helpless, defenseless woman, can lead to jail time.
In sum, the saying “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” is false. Words DO hurt. However, it’s a lot easier to recover hurt pride when you have freedom as your ally.
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