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Florida mediator takes fresh look at domesic-violence perspectives

Kimberly Sands, a partner with Upchurch Watson White & Max, has been a civil litigator and has been involved with difficult and complex disputes as litigator or mediator for over 30 years. To schedule a mediation with Kimberly, please call her case manager, Cathy McCleary, at (800) 863-1462, or visit our online calendar.

Florida Mediator Kimberly Sands UWWM Partner Kimberly Sands


In Florida, all certified mediators must take a course in domestic violence every two years to satisfy our continuing education requirements. I have to say it irritates me to no end. Every two years? Can’t I take a test and opt out of it? Really, I get it! Unfortunately, no matter how burdensome the experience, the topic is obviously of sufficient importance that mediators and many other licensed professionals must also satisfy these requirements. Is it really so misunderstood or is this one way to acknowledge the importance of the topic?

Earlier this month, the NFL gave Ray Rice a two-game suspension following the dissemination of a video showing Rice dragging his unconscious wife from an elevator after allegedly punching her in the head. In discussing the topic, ESPN commentator Stephen A. Smith cautioned women not to do anything to “provoke” such violence. He was immediately taken to task for his comments and apologized for his remarks the following week, calling it the “most egregious error of his career.”

I question whether either statement accurately reflects his true feelings on the subject. Isn’t it almost a relief to hear someone say what others are thinking? “Why did he do it?” “Why does she stay with him?” Isn’t that the same as saying “What did she do to provoke it?” “What is her responsibility if she stays?” Intellectually we may understand that these are the wrong questions. Morally, we may understand that there is no excuse for the perpetrator and no fault on the part of the victim. Mr. Smith, however, gave voice to a widely held belief that deserved more than a sound bite mea culpa. The comedian Louis CK recently offered a different perspective:
How do women still go out with guys, when you consider that there is no greater threat to women than men? We’re the number one threat to women! Globally and historically, we’re the number one cause of injury and mayhem to women. …You know what our number one threat is? Heart disease."

We should not chastise Mr. Smith for giving voice to feelings shared by others that may minimize or perpetuate domestic violence. Silencing these voices, however, is the unfortunate and perhaps unintended consequences of political correctness. Mr. Smith certainly owed Mrs. Rice an apology. Maybe the entire NFL needs to consider what responsibility, if any, it may have for perpetuating and rewarding violence. Maybe all of them should attend a CME with me on domestic violence.

Don’t kill the messenger; learn something from the message.

One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.
                                                                                                  -- Carl Jung


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