While the Pickens Sheriff’s office and Jasper Police have been on our front page recently for cracking burglary cases and getting potential pedophiles off the street - and generally doing an excellent job of keeping us safe - the issue they deal with constantly is something that affects so many of our friends and neighbors on a daily basis.
Hands down, domestic abuse is the number one problem that local law enforcement deals with day in and day out, according to sheriff officials. One in three women and one in four men have been victims of some form of physical violence by an intimate partner within their lifetime, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV).
Domestic violence, relationship abuse, sexual harassment and the whole range of issues we label as gender violence have long been seen as women’s issues. But in reality, these are men’s issues. For too long domestic abuse has been seen as women’s issues that some good men help out with. But we don’t accept that. These are men’s issues first and foremost.
Many who work in the domestic and sexual violence field know that victim-blaming is pervasive, blaming the person to whom something was done rather than the person who did it. Too often, a woman is hurt by her partner and we say things like: Why do they go out with these men? Why are they attracted to them? Why do they keep going back?
In his Ted talk about domestic violence, Jackson Katz, co-founder of Mentors in Violence Prevention, said the whole idea of victim blaming is based in our unconscious. “Our whole cognitive structure is set up to ask questions about women and women’s choices and what they’re doing, thinking, wearing.”
But, he points out, asking questions about women who are abused is not going to get us anywhere in terms of preventing violence.”
Katz says we need to ask a different set of questions - questions about men. • Why do men beat women?
• Why does domestic abuse remain a big problem in the U.S. and all over the world?
• Why do so many men physically, emotionally and verbally abuse the people they claim to love?
• What’s going on in our religious hierarchies, the sports culture, the family structure, and economics that contribute to this type of man? Katz suggests it isn’t about individual perpetrators but our society as a whole.
Once we move away from victim-blaming and shaming and move on to the question of how we can change the socialization of boys and the definitions of manhood that lead to violence is when we can start to truly affect change.
According to the NCADV, on average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. During one year, this equates to more than 10 million women and men. On a typical day, there are more than 20,000 phone calls placed to domestic violence hotlines nationwide. Women between the ages of 18-24 are most commonly abused by an intimate partner.
In 2013 in Georgia, 29,779 victims were served by Georgia domestic violence services and Georgia ranks 9th in the nation for the rate at which women are killed by men.
Stopping this problem needs to come from non-abusive men. At the very core of society is our interpersonal relationships and when men who know better remain silent in the face of abusive comments at their game nights or wing nights they are being complicit in saying it’s ok. It is not ok.
When you’re hanging out with your buddies and someone says something degrading about women, interrupt and let them know it’s not funny and won’t be supported. Create a peer culture where it’s unacceptable. We should strive for a society where men and boys who act out in sexist ways will lose status as a result of their behavior.
Katz reminds us of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s quote: “In the end what will hurt the most is not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.”
We need men who will not be silent.