“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends”.
Dr. Martin Luther King 11/17/1957
This quote by Dr. King always resonated with me – eighteen words I carried with me wherever I went, no matter what I did (or didn’t do).
In recent months much of my writing has focused on the issues of domestic violence and sexual violence. Part of that stems from a new work in progress; a book that is markedly different in style, tone, and message than anything I’ve ever written before and that has taken me on a totally unexpected and eye-opening journey. More comes from watching and admiring Stephanie Wright tackle domestic violence and related issues at wrighterly.com – boldly raising her voice and making a difference week after week. A larger reason comes out of those eighteen words by Dr. King – to stand quietly on domestic and sexual violence is impossible.
Here’s the thing:
Domestic violence (and sexual violence) is not just an issue between two people, even though it’s been treated that way by too many people for too long. Too many people who might have made a difference in changing the hearts and minds of those who were content to pretend they didn’t know ……. Too many people who could have made a difference.
If at least three women die every day at the hands of their partners, that’s over one thousand lives that have been lost by silence every year.
No matter who you are, chances are that sooner or later it will be someone you know.
Full disclosure: I am the child of an abusive father. One of my earliest memories is of my father running out the kitchen door as a pot flew at his head and crashed against the wall. I was two years old when he left and he didn’t return until I was seventeen, so in some ways I was one of the lucky ones - male children who witness the abuse of mothers by fathers are more likely to become men who batter in adulthood than those male children from homes free of violence. Like many children from fatherless families, I wondered sometimes what life might have been like if my father had been around while I was growing up, but I’ve learned that not having him around wasn’t such a bad thing.
Some have questioned what I can bring to a discussion about domestic and sexual violence because after all, I’m a man, but who better to help lead this fight than other men? And let’s be clear about that too – not about being a man - but the sad fact that the only voices questioning me are coming from other men. What too many guys haven’t figured out or refuse to accept is that domestic violence is a public health issue. Every man has a responsibility to join women in the fight against domestic and sexual violence. The first step in that solution starts with the way we view women. Any attitude that devalues women is wrong and needs to change…. It’s time for all men to stand up, take responsibility for our thoughts, our words, and the things we do. I plan to spend the rest of this year focusing on these two topics and doing whatever I can to raise awareness, open dialogue, and make a difference in this fight.
My only regret: I should have spoken out years earlier. And I should have been louder because I can be very loud.
“Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world”.
Robert Kennedy 4/4/1968