Domestic Violence – Ray Rice, NFL and others

  1. What is it that causes male athletes, particularly football players to hit their women? What about returning combat veterans, where domestic violence is at an all-time high? There are three major factors at play here. The most powerful is the testosterone fueled anger. The second is testosterone fueled aggression and the third is the tendency to punish perceived wrong-doing.
  2. When a man gets angry, he gets a boost in testosterone, which makes him angrier. This then gives him another shot of testosterone, which in turn makes him even angrier and gives him yet another shot of testosterone, and now the man is in rage. Once the man is in rage, he is not acting in rational thought and is actually out of control. This brain circuit works independently of the part of the brain that makes judgment. This is not an excuse for inappropriate behavior but something of an explanation of how and why those things happen.
  3. If a man knows he is prone to being enraged, he can learn to recognize the onset of the testosterone boost and slow down long enough to take a breath and stop the cycle. Not easy to do, but can be done. Taking a time out doesn’t mean you forget about the problem. Make a policy to set a specific time to talk about your issues later when both of you are more rational. If it can’t be handled then and the issue is a core, recurring one, it’s a good idea to go to couple’s counseling. Ditto if the out-of-control anger is a pattern.
  4. If a woman knows about this pattern she may be wise enough to know when to back down a bit if she is in an argument that is leading to a high level of anger in a man. This can be hard for a woman if she is charged up with cortisol and can’t stop arguing. If a woman sees a man’s anger rising rapidly, she should stop talking or try to calm him down. If he tells her to stop talking to him she should not egg him on. That isn’t to say that there is ever a time when anyone should be abused, physically or emotionally. It just means that trying to resolve issues when one or both parties are in an angry state is not likely to happen.
  5. The aggression centers in a male’s brain are larger than in a female’s. The higher the testosterone the more aggressive a man is. The fact that football players and soldiers are trained to be aggressive exacerbates the problem.
  6. Men are biologically programmed by their testosterone to be less empathetic and more punishing to wrongdoers. Their mates, abundantly endowed with oxytocin, the bonding and empathy hormone, are programmed to be more forgiving. Therefore, if a perceived transgression occurs, men are less likely to tolerate what they consider to be excuses or show mercy. If they feel they are being wrongly accused or persecuted they will want to punish their accuser. What’s more they will feel justified in doing so and even get pleasure from administering the punishment.
  7. Another aspect to consider in this is the tolerance the NFL had for this vile deed. Is it because they are motivated by profits or they just don’t care? What’s needed in sports and the military as well is serious training and anger management classes.