COMMENTARY: Ripple effect

by Mar 21, 2022OPINIONS0 comments



One Feather Editor


As a person of the male gender, I am probably not the best judge of how to treat women. I think the people who are the best equipped to give instruction on a subject are the ones who live it. But I also believe that there are some basic guidelines of living that allow guys to know how to treat people.

In six decades of living, I have known a few women. My mother was both mommy and daddy to me for the early years of my childhood. She was pretty much a child herself when I was born. She hadn’t quite gotten the hang of taking care of herself, then she added the responsibility of raising another human (the first one of six). So, my arrival meant she had to grow up fast and be smart because she was not just keeping herself alive. She had to make sure I lived too. While knowing what it takes to be a woman would be natural to her, knowing how to raise a man was a whole other story. My father was an abuser and wasn’t afraid to spread the abuse around. Physical abuse is obviously devastating, but the mental anguish of an abusive relationship can be more torturous.

The idea of women as property still prevails in some households today. You ever wonder about the tradition in marriage ceremonies where the preacher asks, “who gives the bride away,” and the father, brother, or son responds, “I do” and then releases the hand of the bride to her groom? The implication is that of an ownership transfer.

“The origin of women as a form of property can be traced to the earliest moments in the record of our species when small groups of Homo sapiens roamed in unrestricted territory. As their populations increased, tribes began to encroach on one another’s land and the first wars began. Archeological evidence suggests this change occurred “only” 30 to 50 thousand years ago, a split second of geological time, and too recent for any meaningful evolutionary change in our species. We are biologically and, in many ways, culturally the same people now as were those ancient tribes.” (

The worth of a woman in many Appalachian homes back in the day was that of child bearer and home maker. Men acted like rulers in their homes; people to be catered too and, if they were not, consequences were dire. Many of the acts of domestic violence, including murder, are attempted to be justified with that all-to-frequently heard comment of “if I can’t have you, no one will”.

It is an unfortunate fact of life that we continue to see this born out in our culture today. I cannot remember an arrest report or court docket that didn’t have at least a few domestic violence cases included. The most recent court report shows 42 domestic violence convictions. More charges likely overlap that number, as it was indicated that were 12 “Crimes Against Children” that were listed separately. I am sure that many less specific charges that involve violence are domestic in nature and are filed routinely.

The sad fact is that it is easy to spew numbers. The difficult think to look at is that each number represents a life or lives negatively altered or ended altogether. In cases where one parent kills another, the children of that family face the remainder of childhood and life without both parents. And the emotional damage of that situation may end up continuing the pattern of domestic violence. Like a pebble dropped into a still lake, domestic violence has a ripple effect across a family or community. The impact point will likely be a spouse, who may suffer emotion and physical pain.

The first ripple might be the children, who may suffer the pain of physical abuse too, along with the trauma of watching a beloved parent perpetrate violence on their other beloved parent.

The second ripple will be the immediate family who must choose between turning against a beloved family member who has become an abuser or saving a beloved family member from further abuse or death. A mother’s or father’s worst nightmare could be either finding out that their daughter is the victim of domestic violence or, maybe worse yet, that their son has become an abuser wife-beater, or ultimately a murderer.

The third ripple might be the medical and advocacy personnel, who must treat the wounds, endure the horror stories and tears, and perform the autopsies.

The fourth ripple might be the enforcement agency and judiciary, who must engage in every aspect of an assault, examining every tragic detail and having to make people relive some of the most traumatic moments of their lives.

The fifth ripple might be the community who are left in a state of shock, sadness, disbelief. Families torn apart mean the fabric of a community is damaged. Friends and neighbors look at each other with suspicion. “If I didn’t know that was going on at my next-door neighbor’s house, how can I trust any of my neighbors? What if their violence spills over into my home? Who is trustworthy anymore?”

As you are reading in our newspaper and others, people on the Boundary and off are working diligently to create impactful laws governing violence against women. It is an awesome thing to see efforts moving forward that will protect the victim/survivors and hold perpetrators accountable. One of the challenges in the work of making women and families safer is the lack of emphasis on establishing and funding rehabilitation for perpetrators. While there is much support for victim/survivor counselling, provisions, etc., it is more difficult to get things rolling when it comes to effective programs for putting offenders on the road to mental wellness and helping them correct the behavior that threatens the innocent. I hope that as our justice and governmental leaders consider the cause of eliminating domestic violence, that they strongly consider making rehabilitation a key component. When abusers are released back into communities, families want some assurance that those reintroduced into our communities will not go back to bad behavior.

If you know or suspect someone is in an abusive relationship or are in one yourself, please contact your local domestic violence help program. If you are in an emergency, call 911 to allow authorities to stabilize your situation. For help for those who are in the Qualla Boundary community, contact the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Domestic Violence program at 828-359-6180.  They have professionals there who will guide in all aspects of getting you to safety and helping you acquire the tools to get your life back on track.

I hope we are using International Women’s History Month to reflect on the extraordinary contribution to humanity of womankind. I have no doubt in the equalities and competencies of women and men. And while equal, we are uniquely different, male, and female. And as we face the challenges of the future, it will take all of us, working together to overcome and to endure what is ahead for us. May we learn to celebrate, protect, and leverage those differences to make the earth a better place to be. And I pray we do so in the absence of violence.