Once a year, Talkers Magazine and Liz Claiborne, the well-known fashion house, team up to produce a radio row on the issue of domestic violence. This year was the fifth year and, as always, talk-radio hosts from all political stripes participated. Unlike other years, the Tiger Woods scandal was the undercurrent of much of the discussion. Did she or didn’t she? That was the main question that radio audiences were asking. The shocker was that, yes, women can commit domestic violence.
The facts are well-known at this point. Somehow there was an argument at the Tiger Woods home in a gated community in Florida. Tiger Woods was outside of his car and looked quite bruised. His car windows had been smashed with a golf club. After this happened he made a few appointments to talk to the police and then failed to keep them. Radio listeners wondered whether Tiger Woods canceled the appointments to protect his wife. Florida is a no-tolerance state, and there most likely would have been a 24-hour cooling-off period in jail for the alleged perpetrator of the domestic abuse. In this case, it would have been his wife. Obviously, whatever their fight might have been about, a mistress or an affair, Tiger Woods did not want his wife taken to jail for even 24 hours. So far there have been no arrests and only a statement by Tiger Woods about needing his privacy.
Privacy is another concern. Does Tiger Woods deserve his privacy? The first argument is that this publicity causes pain for his children. That is completely true, and no child wants to go to school having their classmates gossiping about their parents’ dalliances and fights. The other argument is that we are all human and deserve our privacy. It is amazing to me that many of the people taking this point of view are the same folks who had no trouble with Bill and Hillary Clinton’s marital problems making the headlines. Very few people thought of what Chelsea Clinton had to endure at school and with her friends.
Then there are those who believe that when someone such as Tiger Woods makes his living off the public trust (most of his money comes from endorsements) that he needs to behave as role model. That view says that affairs with other women do not sync with being a role model. It is at this point, says that contingency, that privacy is not yours and that the gain you get from being a celebrity wipes out total privacy.
Affairs do not justify domestic violence, and the question remains that if this were not Tiger Woods, would his wife be cited for what happened to him? Most likely, if the facts are what they seem, she would have spent 24 hours somewhere in a Florida jail. It is this part of the drama, not just the affair, that has captured the attention of many Americans.
In an interview I did with Attorney General Eric Holder this week, he stated a startling statistic, which is that one in four children are exposed to some form of family violence in their lifetime. Holder went on to say that this can cause many difficulties including learning problems. He also stated that there are a known half million victims of nonfatal abuse of adults by intimate partners and that 2,000 women and men are killed by intimate partners yearly. Considering the costs to society in law enforcement and children’s overall adjustment, this kind of family violence should be recognized as a public-health problem and not just something to deal with after the fact. Programs such as “Start Strong,” which encourage healthy dating and real discussions about teen dating, and Liz Claiborne’s “Love Is Not Abuse” and “Time to Talk Day,” have raised awareness of this huge problem.
It is not going to go away. What happened in the Tiger Woods family proves that domestic violence is a problem that invades every income category and that no family is immune from it. Did Tiger Woods act on his sexual urges and not use his head? The answer is clearly yes but it does not give his wife permission to act out her rage with violence. Unbridled rage and anger in a family setting is something many of us have seen up close and personal, and it needs to stop. Only a combination of prevention, education and tough law enforcement with no exceptions for celebrities will make the difference.