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Men must help fight violence and harassment

From movie producers and corporate executives to famous actors and our highest-ranking politicians, sexual harassment and misconduct allegations have dominated the news and ignited an international dialogue on male violence against women.

This mainstream publicity is a vital sign of progress, a turning point in a global movement for justice that has local impact. Monroe County rates of intimate partner violence are two times the New York State rates. A report compiled by Willow Domestic Violence Center in Rochester shows nearly 5,000 reports of domestic violence in Monroe County last year, nearly 50,000 domestic incident calls to Monroe County 911 dispatch, and nearly 4,000 orders of protection filed.

National data are just as alarming. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls domestic violence an epidemic, with one in three women experiencing an abusive relationship in their lifetime, and 4,000 women killed each year by their male partner. Abuse falls disproportionately on women.

With the Twitter campaigns #metoo and others, women are standing up to say "no more," and men, we must stand with them. The epidemic of domestic violence and sexual harassment will never end until more men become active participants in the movement. We must continue battling against the toxic cultures that allow sexual harassment and gender violence to become commonplace. We must evolve.

Our cultural and legal frameworks have been heavily influenced by historical precedence that sanctions male dominance. Wife beating was codified under the Laws of Chastisement during the reign of Romulus in Rome, when the "rule of thumb" allowed a man to beat his wife with a switch no wider than the base of his thumb. It has taken far too long to climb out of that mindset. A man could legally rape his wife in New York State as late as 1984. It took until 1999 to make stalking a felony offense in New York.

Jackson Katz, a former football star turned gender-violence activist and author of a groundbreaking text called"The Macho Paradox: Why Some Men Hurt Women and How All Men Can Help," contends that "every person who knows of a perpetrator's actions, as well as every person who knows the victim, has a responsibility to speak up or their silence is a form of consent and complicity."

When men shrug off domestic violence and sexual harassment as "women's issues," they are acting in a criminally irresponsible manner. Because men are more often than not the aggressors in most of these situations, all men who honor and respect women should feel a moral obligation to take action.

To truly change the paradigm of violence against women in our society, men need to assume roles as empowered survivors, resourceful advocates, trauma-informed counselors, determined policy makers, compassionate lawyers, well-trained police officers, committed social workers, loving partners, and more.

So, men, here are some ways you can stand with women and join men to end gender violence:

1) Take time to hear survivors without judging, rejecting, or blaming them.

2) Know that domestic violence and sexual harassment can happen to anyone, regardless of culture, education, or marital or economic circumstances.

3) Recognize that your role is not to rescue but to offer support.

4) Encourage survivors or concerned friends to call the Willow Center 24/7 Crisis & Support Hotline (585) 222-SAFE (7233).

5) Most important, do something. Doing nothing is also an action, and bystanders are complicit.

For more ways to get involved visit willowcenterny.org.  


George Cassidy Payne is a case manager and residential family counselor at Willow Domestic Violence Center in Rochester.