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home : commentary : actnow August 20, 2017

Calling all men
Kathy Magnuson

"[Men] have a unique opportunity and responsibility to be involved in creating environments where men and women are equals and women and children are safe."
- Ed Heisler, Men As Peacemakers

by Kathy Magnuson


"Celebrate" doesn't seem like the right word to describe the marking of the 40th anniversary of Women's Advocates, the first battered women's shelter in the United States, started by women in Minnesota who saw a need. They paved the way for safe havens for women all around the country.

Still, it is difficult to know that today, one in every four women in the United States will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. This year also marks the 20th anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act, which was passed to address domestic and sexual violence.

Still, in the United States, 24 people per minute are victims of rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner.

In September, the United Nations launched its "HeForShe" campaign with spokesperson Emma Watson to galvanize men and boys to be advocates for change in this area.

Still, we know that most cases of domestic violence are never reported to the police.

We all own the issue

It's not often that stories in the Women's Press are directed toward men. We are the Women's Press after all. But this is one of those times.

We are calling on our male readers, along with our female readers, to talk to the men in their lives about domestic violence. That violence is not OK. And that we expect men to do something about it.

Domestic violence and child abuse and our violent culture are not just women's issues. They are all of our issues. We all own the culture and we all help make it and shape it. When we all do better, we all do better.

Feminist women have worked for a long time to subdue violence against women and children. Too long. For some, the word "feminist" is synonymous with "man-hater," but we believe that feminism is about equality and respect between the genders. And if women and men are to be equal, we need to have higher expectations of men.

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'A unique responsibility'

Ed Heisler, of Men as Peacemakers, recently told the Women's Press: "Men are the perpetrators in the vast majority of cases. They have a unique opportunity and responsibility to be involved in creating environments where men and women are equals and women and children are safe." He calls it "raising the bar of involvement."

We give men a lot of credit for attending a rally or reading an article or having a conversation about violence. We need to raise the bar of our expectations.

We need to build a new culture and new ways of thinking. And that starts person by person. Heisler says that we need to ask the men in our lives not just to refrain from sexist comments but to stand up and speak out when they hear them, to interrupt that behavior and thinking. And to take the opportunity to share positive stories about the women and children in their lives.

Heisler recommends that when a "joke" about rape is told, it might be as simple as saying: "That's not something I find to be funny. I have a daughter (or friend or niece or girlfriend or granddaughter ...) going to college. She is so amazing, intelligent and fun, and I am really proud of her. She has a one in four chance of being sexually assaulted. So I don't find jokes about rape funny."

Women: It's time to talk to your partners and sons and dads and brothers about how they will step up and speak out against violence against women and children.

Men: It's time to join your sisters, moms, partners, daughters - and yes, your brothers and sons, to speak up against violence and for equality and mutual respect.

FFI:
Men as Peacemakers
menaspeacemakers.org

Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women
24-Hour Phone Line: 866-223-1111
www.mcbw.org

Minnesota Indian Women's Sexual Assault Coalition
www.miwsac.org

National Domestic Violence Hotline
1-800-799-7233 (SAFE)
www.ndvh.org

Where do you see women connecting and making change in your world? Send me your story, magnuson@womenspress.com





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