The vast majority of domestic violence in the United States happens to women: 85 percent. And estimates are that one-third of all women will experience it in their lifetime. Yes, women sometimes hit men, but because this type of violence overwhelmingly occurs against women, it has, for hundreds of years, been called a "woman's issue" — even though men are the perpetrators.
Thought about logically, this is most certainly a "human relationship" issue, not belonging to one gender or the other, and one that will take both men and women to solve. In recent years, lots of smart, compassionate men, some of whom have experienced this violence via their mothers or other women in their lives, have stepped up to explain to other men why this issue is not a "women's issue" but one that importantly involves them, too.
Here are eight of the leaders in the movement to educate their brothers, fathers, sons and friends.
Patrick Stewart is best known for his sensitive, masculine role as Capt. Jean-Luc Picard on "Star Trek: The Next Generation," and has been lauded in his native England for his incredible acting chops with Shakespeare and other theater (as well as his work in films like "X-Men" and "Ice Age"). But this star of stage and screen has been a longtime supporter of battered women, and women's causes in general.
Stewart experienced violence in his own home growing up, where his father abused his mother. He has spoken about what he witnessed as a child (see video above), saying: “…there were those who condoned the abuse. I heard police or ambulancemen, standing in our house, say, 'She must have provoked him,' or, 'Mrs. Stewart, it takes two to make a fight.' They had no idea. The truth is my mother did nothing to deserve the violence she endured. She did not provoke my father, and even if she had, violence is an unacceptable way of dealing with conflict. Violence is a choice a man makes and he alone is responsible for it.”
Jimmie Briggs is the co-founder of the Man Up Campaign, which works to: "Engage youth in a global movement to end gender-based violence and advance gender equality through programming and support of youth-led initiatives intended to transform communities, nations and the world, by promoting gender equality and sensitivity among global youth and building a community of like-minded individuals, initiatives and organizations."
Briggs was a war journalist when his daughter was born, and so he wrote her a letter — one that he has been rewriting ever since (his daughter is now 11): "I told my daughter, 'I go because these experiences must be recognized, must be honoured. On one of my first trips to Northern Uganda, an elderly man told me that if a dying person tells you their story, and it’s not passed on, you’ll be haunted. Well, I did pass on the stories I heard but the knowledge, the awareness, remained to haunt me.'
"I concluded by saying, 'you cannot read anything I’ve written, yet. It will be some years till your judgment of me as a father, as a man, comes to maturity — when these struggles and sacrifices can be put into context. When that time comes, please know that I tried to be the best I could — though I faltered at times — that I wanted to make the world a better place not just for my daughter, but for all the sons and daughters in the world. As a father, as a man, as a human citizen of the world, I know we all must hold to the faith that a world can exist where I would want you to live, where men stand up with women and girls. That is why I go.'"
Al Emerick is the co-founder of Men Against Violence Against Women, "a volunteer-based organization founded and run by men who seek an end to gender violence and sexism." An ally of Hubbard House, a leading domestic violence shelter in Florida. His friend, Jackson Katz, relates a story about how doing this work has changed him, and also changed the men he knows.
Ted Bunch and Tony Porter (in the video below) are the co-founders and co-directors of A Call to Men, a "leading national violence prevention organization providing training and education for men, boys and communities. Our aim is to shift social norms that negatively impact our culture and promote a more healthy and respectful definition of manhood. We believe that preventing domestic and sexual violence is primarily the responsibility of men."
Bunch has serious cred when it comes to standing up for domestic violence victims, having worked with local police and fire departments, EMTs, paramedics and other first responders who deal directly with the effects of domestic violence. He trains, lectures and consults specifically on male accountability when it comes to domestic violence.
Porter lectures on behalf of the U.S. State Department and is the author of: "Well Meaning Men... Breaking Out of the Man Box - Ending Violence Against Women" and visionary for the book, "NFL Dads: Dedicated to Daughters." He urges men to break free of the "man box" and seek new paradigms for masculinity. He even consults for "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit."
Eddie Vedder, frontman of the rock band Pearl Jam, has written songs about domestic violence and other issues that disproportionately affect women. After his own mother remarried, Vedder was raised by his stepfather, who was abusive towards her. He has said that the song "Better Man" was "dedicated to the bastard that married my Momma." The lyrics for that song include the memorable lines, "Waitin', watchin' the clock, it's four o'clock, it's got to stop/Tell him, take no more, she practices her speech/As he opens the door, she rolls over ... Pretends to sleep as he looks her over."
Jackson Katz calls himself an anti-sexist male activist who has lectured on hundreds of college campuses and led corporate and community trainings. But he is probably most well-known for his incredible TED talk: "Violence against women: It's a men's issue" (below). He's written two books: "The Macho Paradox: Why Some Men Hurt Women and How All Men Can Help," in 2006 and "Leading Men: Presidential Campaigns and the Politics of Manhood," in 2012.
His great list, "10 Things Men Can Do to Prevent Gender Violence" starts with the awesome line, "View men not only as perpetrators or possible offenders, but as empowered bystanders who can confront abusive peers," and gets better from there.
David Schwimmer, one of the famous "Friends" from the eponymous TV show, has used his name recognition to advance a pro-woman agenda. He has said about date rape: “The idea is to make guys see that it is OK to flirt, to party … but not OK to be silent, to be passive, to witness a drugging of drink or a rape and not intercede.” He also directed the 2010 movie "Trust" about online sexual predators.
Related on MNN:
Jackson Katz: jacksonkatz.com
Al Emerick: AlEmerick.com
Ted Bunch: acalltomen.org)