"Women decided long ago that they wanted men's violence against them to stop. Men, as a gender, have not made that decision. When we do decide and act on that decision, violence against women will end."
The above is written on the wall of the website of Men Ending Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault in Texas. I thought about the truth in those words as I read these horrifying ones:
"Four armed men barged into Anna Mburano's hut, slapped the children and threw them down. They flipped Mrs. Mburano on her back, she said, and raped her, repeatedly." Thus begins the New York Times article Frenzy of Rape in Congo Reveals U.N. Weakness.
Mrs. Mburano is eighty-years old.
I don't even know where to start on my thoughts. My breakfast cereal soured as I read the article.
And lest we think this is a problem of other countries, other cultures, a recent story about a girl raped in America tells us "Tina Anderson was only 15 when she said she was forced to stand terrified before her entire Baptist congregation to confess her "sin" -- she had become pregnant. What she wasn't allowed to tell the group was that the pregnancy was the result of being raped by a church deacon, a man twice her age."
Each time an article goes online about domestic violence, a rash of subsequent replies appear, accusing women of being just as bad or worse, as though there is a contest to win, as though denying the truth that all people of good will can work together.
Good men know that women writing about women getting hurt is not a statement that men are never hurt. It's not a statement that women are all perfect. It's simply a statement about stopping violence against women. It's an essay asking how do we end the violence and where does it start?
How do we teach our daughters and sons? Whose responsibility is it? Does it belong to men or to women to stop emotional and physical violence towards women?
For years we've educated women about domestic violence and about ways to stay safe on the streets (Carry a whistle! Don't go out after dark! Dress appropriately! Don't walk alone on the streets! Learn the warning signs of domestic abuse!)
While we educate women on how to remain safe, can we also teach men how to be non-violent on the streets and at home?
In women's restrooms signs are affixed to the back of stalls asking: Are You Being Hurt? Underneath those words will be a number to call for help -- a local domestic violence shelter, or perhaps a domestic violence hotline.
Where are the signs in the men's rooms asking: Are You Hurting The Woman You Love? Underneath those words there could be a number to call -- a hotline where men can learn to change -- because the way I see it (even in my most hopeless moments, like when I read about an 80-year-old woman being raped by a gang of young soldiers) we can learn to be better.
I pray, especially in this month of Domestic Violence Awareness, that men will notice all the strong and good men preaching against using violence against women as a tool in war -- whether they be the wars in our homes or the wars in our streets.
For these men strong enough to fight this fight, I am thankful:
Be There For Your Kids in Colorado.
Men Against Domestic Violence in California.
These are the men who understand love and the meaning of being a father. These are the men who are willing to take a stand:
Men Can Stop Rape.
Nicholas D. Kristof.
Ten Things Men Can Do to Stop Rape.
Men's Anti-Violence Council at University of Iowa.
Professor Abdoulaye Saine of the Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, The Gambia Echo.
Thanks to all the good men, unafraid to stand up and be counted.