October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Domestic violence affects every community in every corner of our country. According to research conducted by the National Institute of Justice and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 4 women will be abused by her intimate partner.
In 2003, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data that estimated 1.3 million women are physically assaulted by their partner each year. These numbers are staggering. And many in the field find that they are low estimates.
Last night, I was speaking to a group of men, and shared this data. We discussed ways in which, men, can and must end men’s violence against women. Seeing the numbers in black and white highlights the reality that we all know women who are victims (survivors) of men’s violence against them.
Men need to think of our mothers, daughters, sisters, cousins, partners, friends and colleagues when we talk about this issue. Framed this way, I would be hard pressed to think of any man who would not want to work against this injustice.
It is a sad reality that men’s violence against women is so insidious and pervasive in our society that I don’t think one woman has lived her life without experiencing men’s mistreatment of them. From “subtle” forms of harassment, devaluing, and cat calling to stalking, physical and sexual violence, we must ask ourselves: what woman has not experienced one of these forms of abuse at some point in her life?
Yet, men don’t hear from women about these injustices or when they tell us we don’t listen. Men are often uncomfortable to talk about men’s violence against women and when women do speak up, they are often blamed thus reinforcing the silence that causes countless women to suffer alone.
It is a sad commentary that far too often when women do speak up, and ask for help, by going to a religious institution, reporting abuse to the police, or sharing with an employer they are told their abuse is insignificant, it’s part of life, and nothing really bad happened to them. This revictimizes women and creates the climate that perpetuates woman's silence.
At this point, I want to redirect my post. I think we have an easier time talking about victims and sharing statistics on victimization. It is harder for us talk about perpetrators. All of us likely know perpetrators of domestic violence, stalking and sexual assault.
Think about the statistics I shared at the beginning of this post. For every victim, there is a perpetrator. When we redirect the conversation from being victim centered to being perpetrator centered we place the emphasis of change on men.
All of this can be summed up by a question that I was asked a few years ago. The question is simply “What is the greatest gift a father can give to his children?”The answer: To love and respect their mother.
I believe this answer fundamentally shifts our analysis from focusing on victims to focusing on those who have the institutional power to create systematic change Take some time to think of the implications of this statement and imagine a world that embraces its logic.
If you are a victim/survivor of Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault, Stalking etc.---- Rockland Family Shelter just renamed Center For Safety & Change has a wealth of information and services http://www.rocklandfamilyshelter.org
If you are a man interested in ending men’s violence against women please check out: The National Organization for Men Against Sexism (NOMAS). NOMAS is an activist organization of men and women supporting positive changes for men. www.nomas.org