Following protests in Los Angeles, sparked by the murder of George Floyd, the mayor held a news conference announcing a portion of police department funding would be allocated towards building community resources for minorities. But the mayor did not identify any specific programs or resources that would receive the funds. This sparked my interest.
Where would these reallocated funds go? To after-school programs that keep children and teens off the street? Or to various programs that promote community policing?
Such programs are beneficial but do not address the core problem that traps minority communities in a cycle of violence. To address community violence we must first focus resources on debating a principal contributor: domestic violence.
A child raised in a home environment where their mother is punched, slapped, beaten or regularly humiliated by a male or father figure is traumatized with fear, anger, and violent, reactionary behavior. This trauma often extends into adulthood, manifesting as a subconscious impulse that induces feelings of fear, anger, and reactionary violence, according to studies.
This is a root cause of violent, antisocial behavior, yet there is little discussion in the public. No politician is talking about this plague that paralyzes the minds of children with fear and anger.
My knowledge on this subject comes primarily from experience. At age 6 and a half, I was repeatedly sexually abused by a swimming instructor. One day my abuser was caught in the act, and he responded by choking me unconscious. When I regained consciousness, he made me promise to say that nothing happened if questioned. The next day, when questioned by police, I said, “Nothing happened.”
Many people survive childhood sexual abuse and grow up to become law abiding and successful, but they probably had loving parents who nurtured them.
I didn’t have that chance because I was raised in a violent home. During my early years, my father was a heavy drinker. He was a stern man who whipped my siblings and I with a leather strap on our bare backs. He often argued with my mother and threatened her life. I remember my mother being viciously slapped, threatened with knives, and screaming in pain. I also remember an overwhelming fear and anxiety that led me to run away from home on several occasions.
My mother is a loving, nurturing woman, but her unconditional love couldn’t neutralize the traumatizing effect of my father’s violent behavior. I became a violent, reactionary child. I bullied and physically abused others and took what I wanted.
By age 23, I was in and out of juvenile detention and adult institutions for violent criminal behavior.
I believe in-home violence is an important issue that must be vigorously debated in our local governments, church pulpits, and homes where parents can be informed and reminded.
It would be a dishonor to not mention the good my father accomplished before his death in March 2006. He was raised in the South during the Jim Crow era—a time when drinking water was dipped from a well and outhouses were the only toilets, when Black men experienced fear and violence daily. As a child, my dad witnessed his father physically and verbally abuse his mother, and acting like his father, sought to control his family with fear and violence.
In 1980, my father became a professed Christian. His entire life changed. He stopped drinking alcohol and attended church regularly. There was no further physical or verbal abuse. In 1993, I got to have a 48-hour overnight visit with my mother and father. During the visit, my father apologized for his violent behavior and acknowledged that he didn’t know he was causing emotional trauma — he simply acted like his father.
If local governments are going to reallocate some police department funds to build community resources for minorities, let us begin by funding public service announcements and commercials that advise parents about verbal abuse and physical violence at home and the emotional trauma it can inflict on children.
We have public service announcements about drugs and addiction. We have public service announcements about suicide prevention. Why do we allow this cycle of violence to continue without debate?
Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.