Facts: 1 in 4 women are abused. 1 in 6 will be sexually assaulted. 2.9 million children will be abused annually. These are the hard cold facts. Who protects and fights against this injustice? Male Leaders, WHERE are you? Unfortunately (and yes I’m sorry to say it) largely, Women. Women stand and fight for Justice. Women stand and protect other women, boys, girls, and other men. That is the truth; the statistics. But where are the men?
Men, if you saw your wife, your daughter, your son, your sister, your mother, your aunt, or a cousin be attacked in any form what would you do? Sit by? Stand up? Take the guy out? Protect? Walk away? Hide? What would you do?
When people are attacked, who comes to help? Who is there to raise the alarm? Statistics show that women help women most of the time. Women understand the pain and come to help, nurture, and protect. Unfortunately, the victim is then the focus of the conversation. And suddenly in a blink of an eye, Men are somehow excused from the conversation. Dr. Jackson Katz has an incredible example of this. Check out his TED Talk here.
If an attack of Domestic violence, abuse, or sexual assault happens, these are the most common questions that are asked following the attacks:
“Why did they put themselves in that position?
“Why doesn’t she just leave?”
“Why did she wear that dress to that party?”
“Why was she at the party drinking with all those guys?
How many of you have heard or even said these words? If you have then you are just as much a part of this problem in society. Men, have you ever said this? Women, have you?
Blaming the Victim
This is victim-blaming. We, as a society, are placing the abuse/assault at the fault of the victim. But wait, wait, why do we do that? Who is the one bashing our heads in the walls? Who is the one threatening our lives with weapons? Who is the one sexually assaulting our sons and daughters? Men. Men abusing Men, women, men abusing children violence is the problem. (I’m not talking about the outlying factors on the Spectrum here where women can be abusive as well).
How did the Man, the perpetrator, the one committing these crimes, get away with this. Why are we only focusing on the victim? How did men get dropped from the conversation? It’s simple. Society victim blames, and Leadership won’t step up to keep the focus on the perpetrator. Now before you think I am a male hater (I can see that that is where this was headed. I am a woman talking about men, therefore, I must hate men--no. Not at all. Keep reading. You will see what I am talking about).
I’m talking about nearly 80% of the Violence sexual assault and domestic violence on women, boys, girls, and yes, other men, are committed by Men. Dr. Jackson Katz has studied this for over 3 decades and says that the evidence is undeniable. Men cause nearly 80% of the violence against women, girls, boys, and OTHER MEN. So the question becomes, “Why do Men abuse others? What is happening to men? And, how do we change it?” Before we can answer that question we need to understand the dominant society.
According to Dr. Katz, “Dominant groups are rarely challenged to think about their dominance or to explain themselves,” Katz says. They remain unexamined, invisible. In the case of violence against women, men—the dominant group—have therefore been erased from the conversation on an issue that is mainly about them. This was what we are seeking out to change. Women have been trying and dying for decades to have this change, but until Male leadership joins the violence will continue.
The Work of Women must be recognized and praised!
For decades women have fought and fought to be heard on these issues. Women have been at the forefront of the fight, the battle cry, the push to be heard, to have justice, to have a voice that says to BREAK the SILENCE, and STOP the VIOLENCE! The work that women have done canNOT be discounted or discredited. They were the only ones to bring up the conversation and to fight to be heard.
Women have fought for the rights of women, girls, boys, and for men! Women have formed nearly all of the national foundations: National Sexual Assualt Hotline, National Domestic Hotline, Violence Against Women Act, and others. We have shelters, we have places of help, we have centers, we have counselors, we have so much because of their work! I was helped out from the abusive marriage by Safe Harbor. I know that these organizations work! However, the fight and battle to have these institutions AND to be heard have created something else.
The Supporter’s Gap: what is it and how do we narrow it?
Women fighting so hard to be heard society inadvertently formed a GAP. When women stand for women then society labels it a “Women’s Issue” or even a “gender issue” and over 70% of the men think, “Women’s issue? That doesn’t involve me” and so men TUNE OUT. Why is that? It is what has been accepted in society, BUT WHY?
Two reasons: 1) men are dropped from the conversation and 2) LACK of LEADERSHIP. (See Dr. Katz TED talk for more explanation).
According to Dr. Jackson Katz, he advocates bringing MEN BACK into the conversation and not eliminating men from the conversation. Currently, when we talk about Domestic Violence and sexual assault, it is labeled a “women’s issue” because women, boys, and girls are mainly the victims. (Victim blaming!) But wait, wait! Who committed the crime? The Man in the relationship. How did he get excused from the conversation? Because LEADERSHIP won’t hold him accountable, until NOW.
There is also another factor going on here: the Bystander approach. The bystander approach goes like this. If you are not committing the crime in society, but if you are not stopping the crime then your inaction becomes the action to permit the abuse to continue. As a man, if you know that family members, co-workers, or friends are being abused (in ANY form, financial, emotional, mental, or physical) and you do not say something, then you are giving them full permission to continue. This is why Domestic Violence, abuse, and assault is our problem. And when MAN to MAN conversations happen things change!
Over the past seven years, more and more good Men are standing up and using leadership in a way that helps to change the conversations. When men speak with other men about the issue, there is change. There is something deeper going on. It could even go back to the primal nature of needing to be accepted by your community and not get “kick out in the wild to defend for yourself.” If the leadership is supportive of men talk to men about -protecting, respecting, and honoring women, girls, and boys, then that group is 87% more likely to follow that lead.
This is a step in the right direction, but there is still a SUPPORTER’S GAP! The GAP?? Again, Leadership! For example, when domestic violence happens in the NFL, LEADERSHIP largely stays QUIET. There are a few voices, William Gay, and Russel Wilson that have stood up. But what leadership stood up with Ray Rice punching his girlfriend in the face? No NFL leadership stepped forward to denounce him, to tell society this will not be acceptable. The Silence from the leadership did just the opposite. Silence became the acceptance of this behavior.
Leadership from Adult Men hold the Power to Chance Society
Over the past seven years, more and more good Men are standing up and using leadership in a way that helps to change the conversations. When men speak with other men about the issue, there is change. There is something deeper going on. It could even go back to the primal nature of needing to be accepted by your community and not get “kick out in the wild to defend for yourself.” This is why Domestic Violence and assault is our problem. If the leadership is supportive of men talk to men about -protecting, respecting, and honoring women, girls, and boys, then that group is 87% more likely to follow that lead.
This is the opportunity that LEADERSHIP has to make a stand and have those Man to Man conversations. When leaders call out the abuse, the assaults, and the violence, society notices. When Leadership stops the ill flavored jokes, the off-color comments, and the harassment that happens at work, the culture in that building, with that franchise, or with that sports team listens and begins to change--the SUPPORTER’S GAP starts to NARROW.
There are a few places this is changing. Dr. Katz works with the military, with sports teams, with other leaders are a great place to start. Even players in the NFL have formed foundations to help raise boys to be men--protectors, respecters, and honorers of women, children, and other men. But again, Society needs more leadership at large to denounce it, keep the conversation active, and that will narrow the Supporter’s gap even faster.
What Is My TRIBE Saying? I thank Bud Vela for sharing his thoughts on this.
Men, are you ready to have these man to man conversations in your home, your local communities, in your churches, and at work? Men, are you ready to stop the jokes when they happen? Are you ready to stop the harassment? Are you ready to teach your sons and daughters about respect? Men are you ready to Rise up and be Men and narrow the Supporter’s Gap? Let’s take a final word from Dr. Katz, “We owe it not only to women but also to our sons and daughters, to stand up and talk man to man about these issues. We have an opportunity and responsibility to be leaders of change. Working together, we can and must do better.”