It’s the end of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, so guys, you should be asking yourselves, “How many times this month have I thought about, talked about and worked towards ending domestic violence in my community?”
“Why is she asking me?” you may be wondering. “I’ve never hit anyone.”
And that’s exactly why I’m directing this straight at you, Mr. Nice Guy.
Domestic violence is a problem that is consistently referred to as a “women’s issue.” And it’s definitely our issue, since, as the American Psychological Association reported, violence against women occurs in 20-30 percent of dating couples, and the American Medical Association reports that 20-30 percent of ambulatory care patients are survivors of domestic violence. About 40 percent of emergency room hospital visits for violence-related injuries are women, and the vast majority of domestic violence is committed by men against women.
But it’s your problem too, men. Much more so.
Even if you’ve never hit a woman, and I’d like to believe most of you never have, a woman you know or love probably has experienced some form of domestic violence. Jane, who asked not to have her last name revealed due to fear of recrimination, is a shelter-advocate in the tri-county area who has been working at a domestic violence shelter for a year and is worried that services in all three counties are “overworked, underfunded and understaffed.”
This is in part a result of last year’s cuts in social services and the failure of Measure 30 in January, but Jane seems to think things are leveling out a bit. “Last year lots of positions were cut, but it seems that things are getting back on track.”
FBI statistics show that women who kill their partners often face higher penalties than men who commit the same crime.
This phenomenon is reminiscent of the late 19th and early 20th century lynching laws, which were on the books but un-enforced, legitimizing the mob violence which took the lives of hundreds of African Americans.
Or the early American miscegenation laws which allowed white men sexual license (i.e. rape and violence) with slave women, but brutally killed black men, punished white women and enslaved mixed-race children.
And at this point the women are doing just about all they can to end this. Now it’s up to you, Mr. Nice Guy.
As Jane observes, “Domestic violence is a women’s issue in that a majority of women activate around the issue, but there’s only so much women can do to be role models for men.”
The best thing that you, as men, can do and it shouldn’t take a lot of effort, is to set an example for the young boys in your life.
This means expressing all of your emotions, and venting your anger in proper ways. This means you should probably stop hitting the wall with your fist. True, it’s better than hitting a person, but it’s still just a display of power and intimidation.
We may think that our personal actions are just that — personal — but in reality domestic violence is not just about the violent individual, it’s about larger systems of oppression playing out within relationships.
The personal is political.
But if you see someone you love involved in a domestic violence situation, remember
Jane’s final piece of advice in regards to how to help someone suffering in a violent relationship:
“The most important thing is to respect the decisions that they make in regards to her or his personal safety. Sometimes that means leaving, but sometimes that means staying. It’s important to be supportive no matter what they chose to do. And to offer suggestions and options but don’t try and make a decision for them.”
For more information about how you can get involved in the fight to end domestic violence, you can check out the website http://endabuse.org.