Fathers Create a Safe Haven
By: Nolan Ryan (524 words)
When you think of how fathers, grandfathers and other male figures fit into family life, what comes to mind? As we celebrate Father’s Day, it’s natural to focus on the simple pleasures such as summer vacations, barbeques, and of course, friendly games of backyard baseball.
This year, in addition to thinking about these memories, I encourage Texas father figures to remember a crucial contribution they make to families: creating an atmosphere of safety and respect for others. It’s important we don’t take this contribution for granted because, unfortunately, there are many homes in our state that are not safe havens due to domestic violence.
Statewide research shows 74 percent of Texans either have been abused or know someone who has suffered abuse, and the problem knows no age, ethnic or economic boundaries. A friend or family member is often the first person a victim speaks to about domestic violence, but studies also show that 35 percent of Texans who learn of an abusive situation do nothing because they’re unsure of where to turn or don’t want to get involved.
Keeping quiet can lead to dangerous situations for victims because abuse is, rarely, a one-time occurrence and usually escalates in frequency and severity over time. What starts as name-calling is often followed by a threat the next day, which is often followed by serious physical abuse and even, potentially, life-threatening situations, down the line.
With a majority of our state’s population affected by domestic violence and three Texas women dying at the hands of an abuser each week, the problem is not just a “women’s issue,” but a men’s issue, a family issue and a community issue that none of us can afford to ignore.
Texas fathers can help by following the Texas Council on Family Violence’s advice to “Break the Silence. Make the Call.” This title of the Council’s campaign focused on victims’ loved ones says it all – those who suspect a friend, family member or co-worker is being abused should call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE or TTY 1-800-787-3224 to get advice on how to safely handle the situation.
Recognizing the signs of violence and being prepared to help is especially critical for the fathers of teenage girls because one in five high school females reports physical or sexual abuse from a dating partner. This violence is strongly associated with other serious health risks including substance abuse, teen pregnancy and attempted suicide.
Fathers are in an influential position to stop this cycle of violence by being a strong, male role model for their sons and the other men in their lives. The best way to do this is to lead by example, honoring our wives, mothers, sisters and daughters by treating them with the utmost respect so future generations will follow suit.
This Father’s Day, I hope you’ll count your blessings if your home is a safe one and make a plan to help those you suspect aren’t so fortunate. If both men and women continue to shed light on this issue, hopefully on future Father’s Days all Texans will enjoy celebrations full of barbeques and baseball in safe, happy households.
A former Major League Baseball player and a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame, Nolan Ryan resides in Round Rock, Texas, with his wife Ruth and has three children – sons Reid and Reese and daughter Wendy.