“One in three women suffer from abuse and violence in her lifetime. This is an appalling human rights violation, yet it remains one of the invisible and under-recognized pandemics of our time.” ~ Nicole Kidman.

What is it about violence against a woman that the media thinks is sexy?

I am not sure when it all began. I grew up in a time before television was in every home and before computers had become something that existed outside the scientific laboratory. We are shaped by our times and by time.

I grew up in a time of people talking to each other. Children played in their backyards, alleys, and the streets. We played kick ball, kick the can, marbles, and four-square. We invented ways to tease each other intellectually. Intelligence was more important than prowess. We thought about what was on the other side of the sky and about whether you could dig far enough to actually find hell. We eavesdropped on our parent’s conversations with relatives and friends. We loved words.

Hmm. Times have changed. Now I blog by way of a computer.

It is strange when I see violence paired with sexuality or when I see the media acting irresponsibly. Is it really that big of a deal to sell an extra million copies of a magazine? In the big picture can we exercise more responsibility ?

I work with children, teens, and adults. I want to talk a bit about the types of questions children bring to me, their therapist.

One little boy asked, “What is a gay wad?”

Another boy asked, “I saw a magazine at the grocery store. On the front was that man Osama and it had a big red X through his face, it said, “Wanted Dead or Alive.” Why did someone put an X through his face Ms. Nanette?”

A little girl asked, “I saw this thing on TV called a Twister. Do you know what a Twister is? The TV said it would make you feel good.”

A boy asked, “My mother said it is not ok to hit a girl, but my dad said you can hit a girl if she hits you first. I’m confused. What do you think I should do?”

Another boy, “It’s Ok to kill someone if they are mean to you.”

Another child, “It helps me to blow up people on video games. It gets my stress out.”

A little girl, “I don’t want to grow up. It means you have to have sex. I don’t want to do that.”

Another girl, “If you stop eating you won’t develop boobs and then you won’t grow up and have to have sex or things like that.”

A six-year-old said, “My mom has this thing called Captain Morgan under her sink. Do you know what that is for?”

Little girls and boys are exposed to the media in ever-increasing ways. Children are not born socialized. Socialization is a process that takes place over many years. It is how children will learn to live in groups and in society. Children can become confused easily.

I have known women who, as children, were in the fifth grade before they knew having sex with her father wasn’t what everyone else did.

What a child views in the world around him is taken in as a truth. It depends on how active the parenting is, but even with actively involved parents children are really outside your control once they begin to attend school.

I have thought of school as a place where children from many tribes come together to learn about things collectively agreed upon as important to learn. It is also a place where increased mastery in the art of socialization will take place. But there is no preparation for leaving one’s tribe and joining fifteen other tribes or more.

Violence is interspersed in almost everything a child hears, views, and experiences. There is violence on television, in video games, on the computer, in social interactions with others who would hit with fists or words, and with adults who can say very mean things to children.

Sexuality is not a place where we want to invite in violence. When magazine covers show a beautiful man and woman and violence is suggested by his holding tight her throat, I think we are sending a confusing message to everyone, especially children who will see that cover.

I am not sure what the answer is, but I remember simpler times. I also know that my childhood was characterized by talking to adults and talking to people. When Mr. Max found out he had cancer the family sat down and talked about how to help him. When a boy was abducted and later found murdered my grandmother had me stay with her for a day and we talked about life and the bad things that sometimes happen. I always had somewhere to take my questions about life. We spoke to each other.

The media speaks to people in ways that confuse. I believe they send many mixed cultural messages about violence. I believe they have created the perfect cultural double bind. Perhaps we need some smart entrepreneurial sorts to step forward with magazine covers showing themes we wish to promote. How about a woman crying and a man is giving her a non-sexual hug. The by-line could be, “Talk to Me.”

Be well and stay safe.

Nanette Burton Mongelluzzo, PhD