What I Can Do
Everyone of has a role to play in responding to and ending intimate partner and sexual violence. You, as an individual, can do something (perhaps multiple things) to help be a part of the solution.
As men, we have historically been placed “on the sidelines” of this issue…at best, cheering on the women who have taken on the lead of working to address and prevent sexual and intimate partner violence. We can do better! Most men care about women, most men think intimate partner and sexual violence is despicable and most men want our communities to better places for women. But most men are silent with these thoughts and beliefs. Being a silent, invisible ally does few people any actual good. it’s time for men to stand up:
Believe — out loud!
One of the most critical things you can do is to believe — and “believe out loud” when women or men say that they’ve been abused. Men tend to question women (and to a lesser degree men) when they’ve shared their experiences of being abused, assaulted or victimized. Men tend to doubt, dis-believe and
otherwise question the sincerity of women who report. You can have a valuable impact by simply believing — and then saying out loud that you believe — when women and men say they been abused. This can apply both in those situations when someone you know or know of has shared their stories, or when a public figure makes an accusation of rape or domestic violence.
Just notice, for example, when a public figure shares an experience of being raped or abused by their partner. What we tend to see is women rallying around the person accusing (usually women) and men rallying around the person who is accused (usually another man) — meaning the men are often doubting the person who shared their experience. We don’t tend to see the men who believe the woman or man who state that they’ve been hurt. There is some real value to having men believe — and believe out loud.
People who’ve been hurt shouldn’t have to prove that they’ve been hurt…
When you see something
A lot of us, as men, often see men treat their partners, or women in general, badly. At these moments, we can play a powerful and important role by simply intervening. “Standing by” when other men treat women badly, or act abusively or disrespectfully to their partners gives him tacit approval for continuing to behave like this. Depending on the behavior we’re witnessing, men may feel compelled to intervene in an aggressive way. This is not helpful. If you can’t intervene in a nonviolent way, it’s generally better to not intervene at all.
Intervene, make a difference, be an ally…
Men may also feel hesitant to intervene because of a fear that, by intervening, we’ll only escalate the situation and lead into a conflict (which, according to the fear, will become violent). We are not asking you to put yourself or anyone else at risk. If your assessment of the situation suggests to you that this is likely, then find another way. It’s actually quite rare, however, for men to intervene in a situation for that situation to escalate. Usually, when bystanders step in, it works to de-escalate or stop the behavior.
Be a witness
- Stand close enough to be seen but far enough away to be safe.
- Intervene by being a support — say to the person “are you okay.”
- Ask, in a loud voice, “Are you two okay?”
- Make sure they see that you’re watching.
Get others support
- Ask someone who knows one of them to intervene.
- Recruit others who are also bystanding to intervene (nonviolently).
- If you’re in a group of friends and one of the friends is doing something you find troubling, ask your friends what they think.
Create a Distraction
- Ask a man who is street harassing a woman for directions to someplace or for the time.
- When you see a person who is treating someone else badly, yell “Help” or “look out for the dog.”
when you Hear something
As men, we often hear men talk about women, or sex, or relationships in ways that make us cringe. Rather than cringing and walking away, consider how you may say something or do something to challenge these comments.
- When someone suggests that some women must like being treated like that or they wouldn’t stay you an say simple “Are you serious?!?”
- When someone says that women who “dress like that” are asking for it, you can say — “When you make comments like that, you make it easier for someone who hears you to decide to be violent against women or girls.”
- When you hear someone says that people who are abused must share some of the responsibility for the abusive dynamics you can say “My sister (friend, room-mate, best friend, mother, aunt…) was abused just like you’re talking about. I can tell you, what you’re saying is totally bogus.”
- “Rape (or domestic violence, dating violence, sexual harassment, etc.) is a serious problem for our community and it has long-lasting negative health consequences for the people who are victimized. It IS a serious issue to me.”
- When someone make light of domestic violence you can say, “Because of the threat of violence, women and girls have to limit their lives and options. This is serious!
- When someone makes a joke about rape or domestic violence, you can say “Domestic violence (rape, sexual harassment, etc.) is no joke!?”
- When you hear someone say something derogatory about battered women or men, or rape victim/survivors you can say “When you make comments like that, you make it harder for women or men who have been abused/victimized to reach out and get the help they deserve.”
- When someone says something like, “wearing a skirt like that, she’s just asking for it” you can say “making comments like that just show how insensitive(or fill in the blank) you are.”