Posts

In January of 2019, someone posted a video of a young man standing in front of a Native American veteran. The young man was accused of taunting the man while he was drumming, and his classmates who were standing nearby were accused of making disrespectful comments aimed at the Native American. The video blew up on social media. The teens’ school even responded to the incident, stating the teens would be disciplined up to and including expulsion.

However, when additional information and longer portions of video emerged, news anchors admonished viewers that jumping to conclusions can be harmful in so many ways. 

The teen at the center of attention shared his version of what happened. CNN’s Jake Tapper obtained a statement from Nick Sandmann, a junior at Covington Catholic High School, who said he is the student in the video. Sandmann said he was trying to diffuse a tense situation and denied insinuations that anyone in the crowd was acting out of racism or hatred.

An ancient proverb says it is foolish to answer a matter before you hear it.

Millions of people looked at the video and immediately jumped to conclusions without having context or perspective. As a result, a young man was accused of taunting a Native American veteran, being racist and numerous other things. Additionally, a young man who attends the same school was falsely identified as being present. His family was accused of being racists, and they received threats throughout the weekend.

Have we become a culture that responds to what we think we see? Or have we always been people who respond this way? Are we looking for any excuse to be outraged?

Just one day after this video was posted, another video started making the rounds. This one showed a barefoot 2-year-old girl with her hands held high in the air after getting out of a car stopped by police. Officers were in the midst of arresting the little girl’s father, who was a suspect. Looking at the video and seeing officers with their guns pointed at the car, many assumed the guns were pointed at the little girl. 

However, the arresting officer had his bodycam rolling. His footage shows the officers stop the vehicle and tell the suspected armed adults to step out of the truck. After the adults were out of the truck, the child unexpectedly climbed out and imitated her parents by walking toward the officers with her hands raised. An officer can be heard comforting the child, saying, “You’re OK, come over here sweetie, you’re OK,” and “Sweetie, put your hands down, you’re fine.”

Ultimately, two men were arrested and their mother was allowed to take care of the children. 

These are just two instances out of thousands of videos where people are put in a position to draw conclusions about what really happened. Is it possible that we are being baited?

This seems like a great teachable moment for us all. Many allowed their time, emotional energy and bandwidth to be hijacked by a situation that may or may not have been what it seemed to be. When people live on the edge with short fuses and expect to be offended, people can pretty much be assured that they will be. 

Jumping to conclusions can be very damaging to relationships, but these three tips can help you think more clearly about the things you see (or think you see). 

  • Pause. Relationship expert Hal Runkel stresses the importance of “the pause.” Pausing allows people to take in what they are seeing, obtain more information and then make a decision about the best way to respond.
  • Dig deeper. Ask questions and see if more information is available. Gather all the information you can, and look for other evidence on the subject – whether you agree with it or not.
  • Give the benefit of the doubt. Seeing is not always believing, especially at first or if you are being manipulated in some way. Relationships are built on trust, so make sure you know everything you can possibly know before you make an impulse decision about a matter.  

This article was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on January 28, 2019.

Stop and consider the potential negative consequences of underage drinking. Is it really worth the price your teen might pay, either immediately or in the future? In reality, poor choices in high school and college can absolutely impact a young person’s future in powerful ways. 

Underage drinking is associated with a number of negative consequences such as: using drugs, getting bad grades, poor health, engaging in risky sexual behavior, making bad decisions and even suffering injury or death. Talk often with your teens about the dangers of alcohol. Making your expectations known today may cause them to think twice about taking a drink tomorrow. 

Check out these stats on underage drinking from a Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) 2016 study and the The Centers for Disease Control.

  • 7.3 million young people under the age of 21 drank in the last month. 
  • 30% of high school students drank in the last 30 days.
  • 14% binge drank in the last 30 days.
  • 6% drove after drinking alcohol, and 17% rode with someone who had been drinking in the last 30 days.
  • 61.5% of high school seniors and 23% of 8th graders had tried alcohol at some point. 
  • More than 4,300 kids die from alcohol-related incidents each year.
  • Approximately 119,000 people under 21 are treated in hospital emergency rooms for alcohol-related injuries annually.

Underage drinking is also associated with unwanted, unplanned and unprotected sexual activity, disruption of normal growth and sexual development, and physical and sexual assault.

Here are some factors that may increase the risk that a teen will use alcohol.

  • Significant social transitions such as graduating to middle or high school;
  • Getting a driver’s license;
  • A history of social and emotional problems;
  • Depression and other serious emotional problems;
  • A family history of alcoholism; and
  • Contact with peers involved in troubling activities.

Here are 6 ways you can prevent underage drinking:

  1. Stay actively involved in your children’s lives.
  2. Know where your children are and what they are doing. Make knowing their friends a priority.
  3. Set and enforce clear standards, including standards about alcohol use.
  4. Stay away from alcohol in high-risk situations. For example, do not operate or allow others to operate a vehicle after drinking alcohol.
  5. Get help if you think you have an alcohol-related problem. If you keep alcohol in your home, do not make it easily accessible to others.
  6. Don’t allow underage drinking in your home or provide alcohol for anyone who is under legal drinking age.

Click here to read the entire article, which was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on October 28, 2018.

Many parents would agree that a great deal of parenting time is spent teaching children right from wrong, the importance of honesty, responsibility, good character and much more. These are many of the essential qualities they will need to be successful in life. 

No matter how much effort we put into teaching our children, there are bound to be times when they disappoint us for one reason or another.

“I can remember the first time my son really disappointed me,” says Jim Smith.* “I was angry at him and at the same time I was beating myself over the head trying to figure out where I had gone wrong in raising him. For a long time, I felt sorry for him. Instead of trying to help correct what happened, I tried to compensate. Just when I thought things had turned around, he would do something else. It is hard to get past not thinking it is always your fault when your children make poor choices.”

This type of response from parents is common. Whether it’s bouncing checks, drug use, risky sexual behavior, driving recklessly, unhealthy relationships or lying, it hurts to see our children make mistakes, especially when their choices affect their future.

Often when children, young or old, do disappointing things, the first reaction is to try and fix it. When problems arise, parents often try to control their child’s choices and remove the consequences, thinking that their actions are the loving thing to do, but that may not be true. Sometimes the most loving thing a parent can do is let go.

When children are young, parents are typically directing behavior. When children enter the teen years and beyond, a parent’s role ideally shifts to coaching their children, along with helping them make their own decisions and accept personal responsibility for their choices.

If you are dealing with disappointment in your older child’s behavior, consider these things:

  • See your child as separate from you and making his/her own choices.

  • Understand that their behavior is not a direct reflection of who you are.

  • Stop rescuing. Let them fall and experience the consequences of their choices. Experience is a great teacher.

  • Recognize that you can love your child while allowing them to make their own choices, as painful as that may be.

  • Make a conscious decision to go on with your life, knowing you have done the best job you knew how to do.

  • Take responsibility for those areas where you believe you fell short. Then move on and model healthy actions going forward. 

Smith says that he finally realized that he did everything he could to teach his son right from wrong, but his son continues to make poor choices. 

“I finally told him that it isn’t that you are a bad person; it is the choices you keep making, and you will always have difficulty because of those choices,” Smith says. “At some point I had to stop taking it personally and let go, realizing I could not change him.”

Looking for more resources? Watch this episode of JulieB TV for an in-depth look on this topic!

When college students return home for breaks after spending 10 months basically without a curfew, not having to answer to anybody about their comings and goings, and no chores, the homecoming has the potential to be a bit rocky, especially for freshmen.

“We weren’t exactly sure what to expect when our daughter came home from her freshman year,” says Kim Clausen. “She was used to being on her own. When I asked where she was going and when she would be back, I got looks like, ‘Why do you need to know that?’ We had to re-acclimate to her being home and she had to get used to being with us. We all survived, but it took some adjustment on everybody’s part. Things were definitely different.”

Planning Ahead for Adjustments Can Help

Like so many families, the Clausens had settled into a new routine with their two remaining teens at home. Excited about their daughter’s return, they honestly didn’t think a lot about making adjustments as they brought her back into the fold.

“If we had it to do over again, we would have a conversation prior to her returning home about expectations, schedules and the like,” Clausen says. “When she is away she can do what she wants, but when we are trying to juggle work, the schedules of our other two teens and life in general, we need everybody to be on the same page.”

Clara Sale-Davis also found herself in the same position as the Clausen family. Before her daughter came home, she thought about how to make the transition easier.

“I remember when I went home for the summer,” says Sale-Davis. “I thought I was going to be running around doing whatever I wanted. Mom would wash my clothes and have dinner ready. I quickly found out I was delusional. While I am honored that my daughter wants to come home for the summer, I wanted to be proactive with her so she would know what to expect.”

Sale-Davis let her daughter know that while they wanted home to be a safe haven, it would not be a resort. She encouraged her daughter to find a job and told her that chores would be awaiting her. She also discussed what seemed reasonable for everyone when it comes to staying out late with friends.

“I thought it would be better to have the conversation ahead of time,” Sale-Davis says. “We talked over the phone and I could hear her eyes rolling. It isn’t that I don’t trust her. We just don’t need to worry unnecessarily.”

Here are some suggestions for making it a pleasant break for everyone.

  • Establish expectations. Know your priorities, communicate them clearly and discuss what is and is not negotiable. Be clear about what will happen if they do not adhere to your expectations.
  • Don’t expect your young adult to have the same mindset they had when they left for college. They have been making decisions for themselves, so encourage them to continue to do so while respecting the house rules.
  • Choose your battles carefully. If you are encouraging them to make their own decisions, realize that they may not make the same decisions you would make for them.
  • Take this time to help your college student understand what it will be like when they are finally out on their own, paying rent, bills and doing their own laundry.

The transition to home from college can be interesting, to say the least. While young adults are in the process of becoming more independent, they still rely on their parents in many ways – including providing a roof over their head during the breaks – not to mention paying college tuition.

“I was excited about going away to college,” said Grace Hopkins. “I have basically done everything my entire life with my sister. This will be the first time for both of us to be on our own for an extended period of time.”

As excited and prepared as Grace thought she was, she experienced some rude awakenings as a freshman.

“My parents made it a point to teach us how to do laundry, clean our rooms and manage money. I thought I was totally prepared for being on my own,” Grace said.

“It was kind of a shock when things like time management and budgeting got the best of me. I have always been good about managing my time, BUT I was with friends who were also excited about the newness of college and wanted to have fun first. They encouraged me to have fun and I let some things fall behind.”

Even though Grace budgeted her money before she went to college, she wasn’t used to having to pay for everything herself.

“It was just so tempting when your friends wanted to go grab something to eat,” Grace shared. “I figured out pretty quickly that if I kept spending money like this,I was going to be broke before we made it to midterms.”

Grace is in good company. Many college freshmen have struggled with exactly the same issues. Here are Grace’s thoughts on what she would say to her freshman self:

  • Time management is key. “As a freshman, you will want to do it all and experience as much as you can but you have to consider your responsibilities first. You don’t want to wake up at exam time and realize that you are really behind.”
  • Get involved. “I joined a couple of clubs. That was a good way to meet people outside of the people you meet at orientation. It’s a great way to get to know some upperclassmen.”
  • Be prepared for the “roommate thing.” “I had not shared a room with someone in many years so it took some getting used to,” said Grace. “We put together a roommate contract the first day about things like expectations concerning bedtime, who could be in the room and when. Even with the written agreement, there were still challenges.”
  • Beware of the little expenditures. “Everything adds up real quick.”
  • Getting enough sleep makes a huge difference. “Staying up with friends until 2 a.m. and having to get up for a 9 a.m. class did not work out real well for me.”

Many teens are anxious to transition to this new phase of life. On the outside, they act confident but on the inside they are wondering: Am I really prepared?

Encourage your teen to take Grace’s advice. Help them with strategies for balancing their newfound freedom and responsibility.

Discuss potential risks and the difficult choices they may have to make. Mistakes are inevitable, but you can prepare and empower your teen to enter into their freshman year with confidence. In the end, experience will be their best teacher.

I remember the day well. I went to pick up our daughter from school. She got in the car with a smirk on her face and blurted out, “Why did you let me fail my tree project?” I asked her exactly how I let her fail her project. “You didn’t help me,” she replied. However, I distinctly remember asking her if she needed any help when she brought the assignment home, and she said no. She then told me I needed to go talk with her teacher about it and fix it.

I reminded her that I did not have a problem with the teacher, but I mentioned that if she would like to talk with the teacher, I would be happy to stand in the hallway. I don’t think she was super happy about my response, but we headed up to the teacher’s room and she did all the talking.

Fast forward to today. My daughter still talks about this experience, not because she is still angry at me, but because she learned some important things that day: how to talk with an authority figure about a difficult situation, what it means to problem-solve, and that while her parents are supportive, they will not snowplow the road of life for her. Don’t think for one minute that there wasn’t a lot of drama around that moment or that we got it right all the time as parents, because we didn’t. 

One thing is for sure though: teaching young people how to stand confidently on their own two feet is a powerful gift. When parents take the lead in situations such as this, they can rob their children of a potential transformational experience.

Karen Fancher, a college professor, lamented in a blog post about the number of students who show up on campus unprepared to navigate life on their own. 

“We are now observing a different parenting style: ‘Lawnmower Parents,’” says Fancher. “These are the parents who rush ahead to intervene, saving the child from any potential inconvenience, problem or discomfort… this kind of parental behavior can have long-lasting, detrimental effects on your child.”

According to Fancher, this parenting style can lead to children being poorly equipped to deal with routine growing and learning experiences, along with a lack of personal motivation or drive since they only know how to follow the path the “Lawnmower Parent” has already prepared. Perhaps the most potentially-devastating outcome occurs because the “Lawnmower Parent” repeatedly demonstrates their lack of trust in their child’s ability to accomplish things on their own. As a result, children may feel they aren’t good enough to do things for themselves. If that sounds really scary to you in terms of preparing your child for the real world, there are ways you can intentionally avoid being a “Lawnmower Parent.”

For example, let your children speak for themselves. When you go out to eat, let them order. Teach them to ask for directions. When they ask to do something after school with a friend, let them orchestrate the details instead of doing it for them.

As your child enters middle and high school, there are opportunities for them to do even more for themselves. When it comes to dealing with things at school, resist the urge to take matters into your own hands. Process with them, but let them handle it as much as possible. When drama occurs in friendships, ask them how they think they should handle the situation instead of jumping in with the answers.

In his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey makes two powerful statements worth remembering when it comes to raising children. First, begin with the end in mind, as in, don’t lose sight of your goal to raise confident adults who know how to function independently of their parents. Secondly, seek to understand before being understood. Be curious. Ask your child to tell you more. Many teens complain that their parents never listen, but seeking to understand requires us to listen. 

As parents, we may or may not have the answers our kids need, and it’s not always easy to step back and let them do things on their own. It may even be messy. Although we may fear that they will fail or get hurt in the process, remember that many people learn best from their mistakes and gain confidence through independence. And sometimes, they just need to figure things out for themselves.

In Dr. Phil Zimbardo’s TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) talk about the demise of guys, he states that boys are flaming out academically and wiping out socially with girls and sexually with women.

In response to Zimbardo’s talk, Dr. Gary Wilson explains why guys are flaming out and what we can do about it. He bases his reasoning on years of research concerning the neuroscience of reward, sex and bonding.

According to Wilson, most boys seek porn by age 10. At that age, a brain that is suddenly fascinated by sex drives the boys. Thanks to high-speed internet, boys have access to unending novelty. The boy’s brain releases dopamine with each new image, and he will keep going as long as he can keep clicking.

Eventually, the brain wires itself to everything associated with porn such as: being alone, constant clicking, voyeurism, shock and surprise – instead of learning about real sex, which involves interaction with a real person, courtship, commitment, touching, being touched and emotional connection.

Porn Is A Serious Addiction

In 2009, a Canadian researcher attempting to study the impact of porn could not find any college males who weren’t using porn, so he had no control group for his research. He asked 20 male students who had been using porn for at least a decade if they thought porn was affecting them or their relationships with women. All of them said they didn’t think so. However, many of these males were dealing with social anxiety, performance anxiety, depression and concentration problems.

“Of all the activities on the internet, porn has the most potential to be addictive,” says Wilson. “Everything in the porn user’s life is boring except porn.”

Interestingly, there are thousands of men, young and old, who are giving up porn. Why? Because it is killing their sexual performance.

A guy in his 20s reports, “I have been to psychologists and psychiatrists off and on for the last eight years. I was diagnosed with depression, social anxiety, severe memory impairment, tried numerous medications, dropped out of college twice, have been fired twice, used pot to calm my nerves, and have been approached by women but they quickly left because of my weirdness.

“I have been a hardcore porn addict since age 14,” he says. “I stopped porn completely two months ago. It has been hard. I have quit all of the medication I was taking. My anxiety is nonexistent… My memory and focus are sharper than they have ever been and my erectile dysfunction is gone. I feel like I have a second chance at life.”

“Widespread youthful erectile dysfunction has never been seen before,” Wilson says. “This is the only symptom that gets their attention.”

The high-speed internet has taken porn to a new level and it is messing with our children. Watching porn digitally rewires boys’ brains in a totally new way for change, constant arousal, novelty and excitement. This creates real issues when it comes to romantic relationships that grow gradually and subtly.

Do your children know what healthy relationships look like? Have you taught them about the perils of the internet? Are you paying attention to their computer use?

It’s time to take back our boys. Their health and future relationships are hanging in the balance.

I was 18 when my father announced he was divorcing my mother. My sister and brother were 13 and 20 respectively.

While some might think that the three of us were old enough to grasp what was going on, our lives were honestly in an absolute tailspin. Sure, we had heard our parents fight, but it never seemed like it was anything major.

Never in a million years would I have suspected they were headed down the road to divorce. If you had asked anyone in our community about the likelihood of my parents splitting, they probably would have laughed in your face. The whole thing was a very big shocker.

“What some people don’t take into consideration is the younger you are when your parents divorce, the more childhood you have left to travel between two parents whose lives become more different with each passing year,” says Elizabeth Marquardt, author of Between Two Worlds: The Inner Lives of Children of Divorce and director of the Center for Marriage and Family at the Institute for American Values.

“The older you are when your parents divorce, the more you have to lose. You have a long experience with your ‘whole’ family. You have (for yourself, the teen) a lifetime of memories, experiences, photographs and stories of YOUR FAMILY. All of that comes apart.”

A World Turned Upside Down

Going through the divorce process was an awkward time, not just for my family, but for friends, youth leaders, teachers, and neighbors. People knew what was happening, but seemed to keep their distance as if they weren’t quite sure what to say.

Just recently I was talking with a childhood friend about my parents’ divorce. She said the divorce shocked her so much that she didn’t know what to say – so she never said anything at all.

As a teenager, I had all these thoughts and feelings rumbling around inside my head and no idea where to turn to sort things out. Furious with my parents and the situation in which I found myself, I wondered how I had missed the severity of the situation and if there was any way I could have helped to prevent the divorce.

I had questions:  

  • “Would we have to move?”
  • “How would I afford college?”
  • “Would we see our father and did I even want to see him?”
  • “What will my friends think of me?”
  • “Why me?”

I would lie awake at night praying that this was just a bad dream and that I would eventually wake up and everything would be just fine.

“Divorce is tremendously painful at any age (even if you are grown and have left home when your parents divorce), but especially so in the vulnerable teen years when you are just looking at the world and imagining taking it on, on your own,” Marquardt says. “You are standing on the rock of your family, about to jump off, but needing to know that the rock is there so you can jump back at any time. But before your eyes the rock fractures in two.

“Teens can be more likely than younger children to get drawn into their parents’ needs and to worry about their parents’ vulnerabilities. And this is occurring at precisely the time when, developmentally, they are supposed to be identifying more with peers than parents. It’s not developmentally appropriate for a teen to spend the weekend ‘visiting’ his father or ‘visiting’ his mother. His parents are supposed to just BE THERE, steady, in the background, while the teen is focusing on other things.”

Teens Need a Strong Support System

In many instances, teens don’t feel like they can talk with their parents about the divorce. I suspect there were many people who wanted to be supportive of me as I went through this tough time, but just didn’t know what to say or how to approach me. Honestly, I think just letting me know they were aware and available if I needed to talk would have been helpful.

“Parents can do their teen a great favor by personally speaking with people who are close to their teen such as grandparents, a beloved aunt or uncle, coach, youth leader or close adult friend letting them know they want their teen to feel free to speak openly about how they’re feeling, even if it means sometimes saying something bad or unflattering about their parents,” Marquardt says.

“Clearly, this is not about family members and the teen joining together in badmouthing the parents, but they do want to give ‘permission’ to the teen and family member to speak openly as the TEEN wishes. Parents need to understand that if this person is not someone the teen already has a close relationship with, the teen is likely just to see them as another adult and unlikely to form a trusting bond during that time, unless the person is especially skilled and empathetic.”

Family members, friends or others who have their own feelings they need to process about the divorce should turn to someone besides the teen, cautions Marquardt.

Local clinical psychologist, Susan Hickman encourages caring adults who find themselves in a position to reach out to teens who are experiencing divorce to consider the following:

  • Be immovable. Provide unlimited, unyielding support at a time when everything seems chaotic.
  • Be patient with their behavior. Remember that teens often express their pain through their behavior versus words. Respond to this with positive regard and consistent support for the child providing gentle limits and correction if needed.
  • Listen, listen, listen. Do more listening than talking. Teens experiencing divorce are in pain and confusion. Someone needs to hear them.
  • Validate their feelings even if you do not agree. Emotions aren’t reasonable. They are expressions of exuberance or distress. Acknowledge their emotions and tell them you understand why they might feel that way.
  • Save judgment or criticism for later. This is a time of repair – being there for them in the midst of distress speaks volumes. Teens need to know you care and that they are worth caring about.
  • Find a teen support group. Support groups for teens experiencing divorce allows them to connect with people their own age in similar circumstances.
  • Time is the key. Giving teens the time they need can sometimes be challenging. Just like there are times when we think people ought to be in a certain place in their grieving process after a death, people often assume that after a certain amount of time kids should just be over the divorce. Sometimes it takes a long time for teens to process what they have been through and for healing to take place.

“Teens going through this very hard time should get the help they need. They should also be encouraged that there are so many great ways to learn about having a good and happy marriage,” Marquardt says. “The pain they are going through is something they can use to inspire them to be a great husband/wife and father/mother some day. There are many children of divorce in happy, lasting marriages and that can be them, too.”

They say time heals all wounds, and I suppose to some degree that is true.

I remember talking to one of my college professors before heading home for Christmas break my freshman year. I did not want to go home. After listening to me for a while, he said, “I know you don’t want to do home. I understand that what you are experiencing is miserable, but you have told me that you plan to be a counselor. And while this is not something I would wish on anybody, what you are experiencing now will be helpful to you later on when you are working with people who are dealing with divorce.”

He was right. I am painfully aware that my parents’ divorce left scars on my life. If there is a positive side to the divorce, it would have to be the tenacious passion I have for having a healthy marriage and for helping teens that are experiencing divorce. They need to know somebody out there cares and is willing to walk the road with them. 

When crises happen on a local, national or global level, constantly watching the media coverage can cause you to experience the very real phenomenon of vicarious traumatization.

“What people often don’t realize is you don’t have to be present at a traumatic event to be traumatized,” says licensed clinical social worker, Pam Johnson. “Just hearing something can create a traumatic event in your mind. Add the visual of repeatedly watching the news segments and you can create some real anxiety. The deeper mind does not differentiate what is happening in real time and what happened in Texas to someone else.”

Think about the last time you watched a scary movie and you realized your heart rate increased and you became jumpy and tense. Your body reacts physically because your mind does not know you are not actually part of the scene you are watching.

“People have to be careful how much they expose themselves to because it can become toxic,” Johnson says. “The human mind cannot be in a creative problem-solving mode and a fight-or-flight mode at the same time. It is like trying to put a car in drive and reverse at the same time.

“If we want a productive response to what has happened, individuals have to calm themselves down and get their emotions under control. Then we can have effective dialogue and begin asking questions such as, ‘How have we gotten here? What can we do to get ourselves out of this place?’”

While emotions are understandable, they are often not helpful. If you feel them, be mindful of them, but don’t let them direct your behavior. If people run around angry and frightened, the problems will only get worse.

Johnson offers a few tactics to help you constructively deal with your anxiety:

  • Limit the amount of time immersed in media. If you just cannot pull yourself away, take a pulse check – literally. If your pulse is high, stop watching. Be mindful of your feelings. Are you angry? Anxious? Tense?

  • Take action to reverse the anxiety. Go for a walk. Meditate. Get involved in constructive conversation with others. Pray.

  • Focus on things over which you have control. Get adequate rest. Eat healthy. Watch sitcoms or movies that don’t aggravate stress. Do things that are calming and soothing to you. Create an emergency plan with your family. Discuss what you would do if you heard gunfire in a public place.

“Most importantly, I would tell people to learn to talk so people will listen and listen so people will talk,” Johnson says. “This is a crucial need in our society. We need to learn how to listen for the need and the heart of another person.

“It is a trait of human beings to look at differences in other human beings and attach a negative meaning to the differences. This has been a protective measure in humans since the dawn of time. Hundreds of years ago humans needed this defense mechanism. Today it is not helpful. We have to remember, it is not us against them. It is all of us against violence.

“The only way we can move beyond this problem is when people are willing to listen. It is through listening that the deeper mind has the time to discern that the person might think differently, but that does not necessarily make them dangerous.”

While no one can predict future incidents, everyone can do something to help make a significant positive difference. What will you do?

In 2014, there was enormous outcry over video footage of pro football player Ray Rice knocking his wife Janay unconscious, then dragging her off an elevator. In the midst of the coverage, the Rices appeared together at a press conference, and she clearly seemed to have no intention of leaving him. This set off a whole new barrage on social media asking why in the world she would stay.

In the U.S., it is estimated that every nine seconds a woman is beaten. Moreover, research indicates that 85 percent of reported cases of domestic violence are by men against women. These relationships usually involve intense jealousy, controlling behavior, denial and blame, intimidation, coercion and threats, and isolation.

  • Approximately 50 percent of men who assault their partners also assault their children.
  • As many as 10 million children witness domestic violence annually.
  • Men and women engage in comparable levels of abuse and control, though women are more likely to use emotional manipulation. In contrast, men are more likely to use sexual coercion and physical dominance. (Statistics from Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network)

Dr. David M. Allen, Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, says it’s important to realize that not all abusers were abused as children. And, that many – if not most – people who are abused do not become abusers. However, child abuse is most likely the single largest risk factor – biological, psychological or sociocultural – for later adult abusive behavior.

According to Allen, significant family dysfunction is almost always present in a repetitive abuser’s background. Unfortunately, these dysfunctional patterns rarely stop when abused children grow up.

Why do people stay?

Fear, reliance on the abusive partner, pressure and conflicting emotions are all reasons why someone would stay in an abusive relationship.

“The reason many of these victims stay is because they are brainwashed to believe that the violence is their fault. They may think they cannot survive without their abuser and that they are too stupid, too ugly or too unfit to be a good employee, wife, friend or mother,” says Dr. Charlotte Boatwright, President of the Chattanooga Area Domestic Violence Coalition.

So, what can you do if you have a friend who is in an abusive situation?

  • Recognize the abuse. Help your friend see that what is happening is not normal. Healthy relationships revolve around mutual respect, trust and consideration for the other person. Intense jealousy and controlling behavior, which could include physical, emotional or sexual abuse are all indicative of an unhealthy relationship.
  • Support your friend’s strength. Acknowledge the things she does to take care of herself.
  • Help your friend with a safety plan. There are resources available in our community to help victims of domestic violence. Express your concern for your friend’s safety and the safety of her children. Encourage her to get help as soon as possible. Give her the phone number to Chattanooga’s domestic violence hotline, 423-755-2700 or the National Domestic Violence hotline, 1-800-799-7233. Assure her that when she is ready to leave, you will be there for her.
  • Be a good listener. Empower her through listening. Be nonjudgmental.

“Never underestimate the power and encouragement of a friend,” Boatwright says. “Sometimes all a victim needs is permission to seek help.”