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It seems that a paradigm is shifting. The time when sexual and domestic violence issues were seen as women’s issues is beginning to wane. More and more adult men—and less surprisingly—more and more young men, including young males of high school age, are beginning to take on these issues as their own. As a Durfee Foundation Stanton Fellow over the past year and a half, I have had the privilege to interview and talk to a lot of people about the issue of violence against women. As part of my inquiry, I invited a variety of people to converse on the topic of violence. I organized ‘think tanks’ and asked the participants to consider the question: After 40 years of an organized violence against women’s movement there is still an enormous amount of sexual and domestic violence; where do we go from here? The conversations have been lively and engaging. There has not been one conversation, either in groups or with individuals that the topic of male ally-ship, male leadership and male engagement on this issue did not come up. These comments and opinions were from all genders. Many men were passionate on the topic.
So why men? Why is it necessary or advisable for men to become engaged on issues of sexual and domestic violence? These are seemingly intractable problems of male violence. I share some of these opinions, all from men:
“Since men commit a majority of violence, it behooves us to tackle the issue of male violence, not only against women but against other men. This is a huge societal issue.”
“As a survivor of child sexual abuse, I don’t want any child, male or female, to have to suffer from this trauma – and I want to help prevent it from happening.”
“As a man, I can no longer turn a blind eye to the amount of violence in my community.”
“We are all vulnerable to violence so we should all join together to do something about it.”
“My wife was raped in college. She is more than a survivor; she has been my teacher about what women go through.”
“We as men have to persuade other men that we need to engage on this issue.”
“I have two daughters and son, I want them all to grow up to have healthy relationships. No more of that ‘boys will be boys’ baloney.”
“Now that I know what I know as a male survivor, I can’t stop talking to other men about getting help for themselves. Being a survivor is not weak; I now know that it takes a lot of strength and courage. I am sorry I wasted so many years not claiming it.”
“I was pretty controlling with my girlfriend, but the program on healthy relationships in my high school turned me around. Now she and I both try to talk to our peers about dating abuse.”
“I want to be a role model to my son, and to other men and live a life that is not harming and hurtful to women…or to children.”
“I hate that women are afraid of me because of the acts of other men.”
“I need to do something with my anger that is positive and life-affirming. That’s why I want to be involved.”
“Men have to stand up and be credits to our gender. We owe ourselves, our families and our communities nothing less.”
The statements by these men are powerful. They are affirming and give me hope. More and more men are bringing their strong hearts and minds to the issues of violence prevention and want to be part of solutions as participants and as leaders. These conversations are opening the door to some new thinking and new engagement. Let’s make sure that we encourage more of them and that men—of all ages—encourage each other to become engaged.
- By Patti Occhiuzzo Giggans
Patti Occhiuzzo Giggans is the Executive Director of Peace Over Violence. Peace Over Violence is dedicated to building healthy relationships, families and communities free from sexual, domestic and interpersonal violence. She is also the Vice-President of the Board of Directors for 1in6.
The mission of 1in6 is to help men who have had unwanted or abusive sexual experiences in childhood live healthier, happier lives.
1in6′s mission also includes serving family members, friends and partners by providing information and support resources on the web and in the community.
The views expressed above are not necessarily those of the Joyful Heart Foundation or 1in6.