Column: Everyone has a duty to speak out to prevent spread of domestic violence
In 2015, I wrote a piece in the Star-Advertiser on how men can help prevent domestic violence.
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In 2015, I wrote a piece in the Star-Advertiser on how men can help prevent domestic violence. I hoped, over the past four years, that we would see significant improvements in the lives of women and children, who are most often affected by domestic violence.
Unfortunately, the numbers have not declined. In 2018, 10 Hawaii programs participated in the National Network to End Domestic Violence census. The survey, which is meant to represent a typical day in Hawaii, reported 450 victims served in 24 hours.
Ninety-four hotline calls were answered — that’s four calls per hour from victims living in fear, some in imminent danger.
As a society, we have made strides to hold perpetrators of domestic and sexual violence accountable, empower survivors and shift perceptions of masculinity. While larger cultural movements like #MeToo and #NoMore give survivors and bystanders a voice, our individual actions will have the greatest effect in eliminating domestic violence once and for all.
If you think you don’t know anyone affected by domestic violence, you’re likely wrong. One in four women have been victims of severe physical violence by an intimate partner — your daughter, sister, mother, aunty, colleague, friend or neighbor. Domestic violence is so prevalent that what we do and say on a daily basis has a huge impact on the lives of people we know and care about. We must all take responsibility for preventing domestic violence in our own community.
It starts at home. Some men grow up being told to “suck it up” or “be a man,” which can mean responding physically to stress or anger. Those unhealthy coping mechanisms can last well into adulthood. Acknowledge your weaknesses and sometimes painful issues that can become a seed for violent behavior. If you know you struggle with anger management, alcohol or drug abuse, even if you’ve never been violent, don’t be afraid to ask for help.
You can also teach your children what is and isn’t appropriate, and what it means to be a man in today’s world. If you’ve seen Gillette’s “Best a Man Can Be” campaign, you may be familiar with the messages that boys are exposed to and the behaviors that are normalized at a young age. We’re told that “boys will be boys” when they play roughly or even beat up on others. Our children are bombarded with music and media that glorifies violence and control over women.
Say “no more” to these unhealthy lines of thinking. The next time a questionable song comes up on the radio, don’t just change the channel — use it as an opportunity to talk to your children about what those words mean and why they hurt others. The next time your children start roughhousing, let them know that physical violence is not the answer. Be a model for respect and equality with your own partner so your children learn how to foster healthy relationships. Be intentional when listening to women, especially survivors of violence, so your children learn there is power in speaking up, and value in every voice.
Many nonviolent men believe that because they are not part of the problem, they have little to offer as a solution. But preventing domestic violence is everyone’s kuleana.
Speak up against violent behavior and language to your children, family and friends. Challenge your preconceived notions about violence in our culture. We need to watch our own language. Phrases such as “you throw like a girl” sends the wrong message to both boys and girls, and can negatively impact self-esteem and healthy development. These daily actions help contribute to a future where every woman and child can live free from fear of violence at home and in our community.
Ryan Kusumoto is CEO of Parents And Children Together (PACT), a nonprofit offering social services, including domestic violence prevention and intervention, to Hawaii families.