Why is domestic violence a man’s issue?

Last week, we had the pleasure of welcoming actor, athlete, activist and author, Victor Rivas Rivers, to our Healing & Hope Luncheon. Staff and guests heard his inspiring story about escaping a war zone of domestic violence in his childhood home and becoming not only a successful Hollywood actor but also a renowned advocate for domestic violence prevention, helping victims all over the country.

At the end of a powerful presentation from Mr. Rivas, the audience was welcomed to ask questions. One of those questions was, “Why is domestic violence a man’s issue?” To that, Mr. Rivas responded, “Domestic violence needs to be everyone’s issue.” As the room silenced, he went on to explain that while domestic violence can come from and be inflicted on any gender, the stats speak for themselves, with the majority of domestic violence being inflicted onto women by men, just like he witnessed from his father to his mother. He went on to explain the greeting, “How are the children?” This is still the traditional greeting of the Masai, one of the many fabled and accomplished tribes of Africa, acknowledging the high value the Masai placed on the children’s well-being. Even warriors with no children of their own would always give the traditional answer, “All the children are well.” (Unitarian Universalist Association). And to this point, Mr. Rivas says, “Domestic violence witnessed by children is a form of child abuse.

We decided to go around to some of the males that work at Fort Bend Women’s Center and ask them this same question. We received some very enlightening responses:

Stephen Regan, Education and Outreach Advocate

“95% of reported Domestic Violence cases suggest male-on-female violence.  So, for me, there are really two problems:

The first is a problem of male perpetration.  Why are so many men acting violently toward women?   Unfortunately, the answer is often “because they can” due to a combination of power and control tactics. Boys look up to their fathers and if their fathers don’t teach them how to respect women, the cycle is likely to continue.

The other issue is that there is a societal assumption of weakness attached to males who are victimized by females, therefore, the percentage of female perpetrated cases that go unreported is almost certainly low.  So the question becomes “How can we remove the stigma and get male victims the help that they need? “

When approaching prevention, I believe that coming from an angle of both perpetration reduction and also victimization reduction makes a lot of sense.”

Josh Brown, Director of Special Initiatives & Community Education

“Domestic violence is a man’s issue because it touches everything and all people.  It affects families… it’s not just male to female, female to male, and male to male, etc.. … there are lots of men who are affected from childhood DV as well.

It becomes important for men to understand the dynamics of Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence…  There ends up being a lot of victim blaming and social insensitivity due to ignorance.  Systemically, we have to change the way we think about women, violence and control, or nothing will change.”

Jake Lowther, Facilities Coordinator

“Domestic violence is a man’s issue because women speak up. Men don’t speak up as much when they are victims of violence due to a societal stigma and bias against men.”

Omar Seville, Custodial/Maintenance  

“It’s a both issue.  But the reason it’s a men’s issue is because of the role men play in the family.  You wouldn’t want your son to do that.”

Jacob Kana, Administrative & A/P Assistant

“…Because men look up to other men, we should let them know what’s right.  We have an opportunity to do what’s right.”

1 in 4 women have been affected by domestic violence in some form in their life time. With statistics this high, Mr. Rivas was correct in saying domestic violence is an issue for everyone and “love should never hurt.”  Change starts with all of us, and the next generation is watching. We can all work together to “keep the children well.”

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To donate or to get more involved in helping survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, click here.