Some of you may have seen the coming attractions for the movie, “Concussion” that stars Wil Smith, and is about the NFL’s denial of the severity of brain trauma. Many of you might know that Boston University is one of the leading universities making progress in understanding how brain trauma affects individuals. Some of you may also know that I earned my master’s degree at Boston University in the field of criminal justice.
What many of you might not know is that I have studied brain trauma and how it can impair an individual’s capacity to exhibit self-control for years. Before I graduated from Boston University I completed an “Advanced Threat Assessment & Management” program held at the UCLA Convention Center by Gavin de Becker & Associates. Why was I there? What propelled me to want to understand violence to such a degree?
Partly it was my son’s brain injury, which he suffered at birth at New York University Hospital. Partly it was because I was convinced that my then boyfriend also suffered from something that was affecting his brain. I was not sure but something was “off” and my boyfriend’s bizarre behavior made me want to understand more. I would watch him go from one extreme mood to another in a matter of seconds, and I would seek to understand what was wrong.
When I first contacted Gavin de Becker’s firm I was not contacting them because I wanted to participate in the program. I was a victim of domestic violence and I was afraid. The dynamics of the relationship were complicated and I was well aware that my childhood, which was also traumatic, would cause me to seek out violent men. I wanted to be okay. I wanted to be safe. I also wanted to understand. As I continued to try to understand my then boyfriend, it was as though I was living in two worlds. One was a world where I did not want to leave him. The other was a world where I knew I had no choice. I was well aware I was walking a fine line, and the more I understood about brain trauma, the more I was convinced my boyfriend suffered from something inside that was causing him to act irrationally.
While a student at Boston University, I shared with my professor about my thoughts that brain trauma was a variable in domestic violence. I also shared about how I felt that MRI imaging might help to detect propensity toward violence. I thought this because of my son’s MRI and because of what the doctors at NYU had told me way back when my son was just an infant. “Let’s put it this way, he’s not going to get in to Yale or Harvard,” they said when he was just eight days old. Then when he was eighteen months old or so, the neurologist said, “Your son is going to be fine. He has the capacity to be a good citizen.” What was it they saw my son do which allowed them to make such a prediction?
As the National Football League looks to understand more about CTE, and Boston University looks to continue its progress, I recall with bittersweet memories how I was told I was “lofty” and I smile knowing that my insight and my work was not for nothing. My son is now a sophomore at Ohio University and he might not have gotten in to Yale or Harvard, but he is at a fine university. Someday I expect he will change the world. I know I know I’m lofty. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.