‘Violence has been with us forever!’
‘It’s basic human nature to be violent.’
‘Look at the animals in the jungle. We’re just the same as them!’
Sound familiar? You’ve probably heard people talk about violence in this way.
Many people believe that violence is basic to human nature; that violence has been deeply embedded in the human brain since the beginning of time; that there is nothing we can do about it. Fortunately, not all people think this way. Dozens of conversations with survivors of violence reveal a very different understanding than the common view that perpetrator’s have no control over their behavior.
There are numerous examples of men keeping their cool. For example, the power and control AFL coaches wield over players. Players respect and understand that any public displays of physical violence against their coaches will cost them big time. They will be suspended, fined, or cut. Players are aware of these consequences, and therefore, they control their behavior, and act accordingly. In other words, they keep their cool. So how come the same kind of control isn’t present in domestic violence, rape, and other forms of assault on women?
In short, violence is learned behavior. Boys and men are taught about who controls the relationship. In Western culture men are socialised to believe that they are superior. They are told that they have more power than girls and women, not less. So when a woman usurps their authority by talking back, embarrassing them, showing disrespect, pushing or hitting them, or wounding their egos (especially publicly), some men choose to maintain their control, by using physical and sexual violence. Let me be even clearer. These men don’t lose control in the face of women’s provocation, they exert their control.