Thursday, October 28, 2010

Coaching boys into inmates

by Carol Wick, CEO
Harbor House of Central Florida

By now, many of you have probably read Mike Bianchi’s column that was in the Sentinel yesterday. That same article was noted by Jeff Schultz, a columnist from the Atlanta Journal Constitution yesterday. But what I find very interesting to the work we do here in Central Florida is not what the reporters wrote but the comments that follow the articles.

ALL of the reporters I know state that they never read the comments and I can understand why. I do. What is really fascinating in this case is the difference between the comments from readers in Atlanta, GA and those in Central Florida. It really helps shine a spotlight on why we have such a high instance of DV here, even more than in Atlanta.

The comments from Orlando are mainly filled with hate, victim blaming, and talk about how women are really the batterers and men are victims. In contrast, the AJC comments are almost wholly supportive of condemning the behavior and the arguments really focus on what they would want if it was their daughter and why coaches are pressured to make decisions to keep players. Many had gone to the Sentinel, listened to the 911 call, learned more about what happened and countered those who had the facts wrong. For the most part, it was a good discourse on why many athletes are allowed to get away with poor and even criminal behavior.

For my part, it left me wanting to answer some of the more outrageous claims that I hear repeated after every DV story, whether it is this one or even a homicide. Here are my responses to the top four issues raised by Central Florida readers.

1. “But he has never been in trouble with the police before”
Most batterers are not brought to the attention of the police until something very serious happens. The man who killed his wife at Publix had never been arrested, neither at several other alleged murderers this past year.

2. “Harbor House won’t even help a man if he is a victim. What about all the men who get victimized by women?”
Harbor House does provide services to men. In fact last year nearly 10% of the adult clients we served were men. We house them in emergency shelter and two are currently living in our community based housing program. 90% of adult victims are female so it is not an excuse for men who batter.

3. “Women commit most domestic violence or at least it’s 50/50”.
Most domestic violence is committed by men. Women are frequently arrested for causing wounds that were purely defensive in nature. This is one reason we don’t want a 100% conviction rate, too many victims get caught in the system. If you only look at arrests, it can be confusing. You only have to look at the homicides by gender comparison to understand that this is predominately an issue that injures and kills women.

4. “All Chris Rainey did was send a text message – he’s a kid – it was nothing big”
Chris Rainey was arrested for Felony Stalking which is a precursor to many homicides. His arrest involved much more than just a simple text message as you can hear in the 911 call below, including a comment to police to the effect of “just wait to see what happens when you leave.” Andrew Allred, the convicted murderer of Tiffany Barwick and Michael Ruschak sent all his threats via text and social networking pages. It is not something that can be ignored.

Listen to the 911 call here.

As Mike and I both pointed out. This is not an issue about one particular coach or one team; this is a societal issue that is all too clearly being played out right here in our own community.

Carol Wick, LMFT

PO Box 680748
Orlando FL 32868

Ph: 407-886-2244 EXT 227 / Fax: 407-886-0006

To learn more about the Coaching Boys Into Men program violence prevention program, click here. Male volunteers are needed to serve as mentors.


Finally, let's not forget this recent high school incident where another coach minimized the behavior of his players:

Mom says Dr. Phillips teammates beat son

Orlando Sentinel, The (FL) - Thursday, September 9, 2010
Author: Susan Jacobson, Orlando Sentinel

Rena Denson was aghast when her 15-year-old son, Darrion, told her that his teammates on the Dr. Phillips High School football team had beaten him up.

Denson drove onto the practice field Tuesday, complained to the principal and called Orlando police, a report shows.

Darrion was treated at Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children for a concussion, bruises and scrapes, his mother said. He was punched and choked, had chairs thrown at him, was tossed into a trash can and his wallet containing $30 was taken, she said. The reason, according to a police report: Darrion -- a freshman -- had entered the varsity locker room.

A senior who he told his mother was among the attackers weighs 260 pounds and stands 6-foot-4, Denson said. Her son weighs 167 pounds and is 5-foot-11.

According to Denson, Coach Dale Salapa told her the boys got "out of hand" and "carried away." He also said it's customary for freshmen to enter the locker room through the back door only, she said.

"Well, Coach Salapa, this is not slavery," an incensed Denson told the Orlando Sentinel Wednesday. "No longer [should] I as an African-American or my son not be granted access through a front door."

Salapa said he is not permitted to discuss the incident. Principal Gene Trochinski did not return messages. A district spokeswoman, Shari Bobinski, said officials are working with the police and discipline, if any, will be meted out after officers finish their investigation.

One of Darrion's brothers, Martin Denson, arrived afterward. He said Darrion's glasses and a chain around his neck were broken during the scuffle. He said his brother was on the honor roll.

"His record is spotless," said Martin, 17.

The family moved to Orlando two years ago from Brooklyn, N.Y., for a fresh start. Now, Denson and her husband plan to send Darrion to a private school.

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