It is usually gradual, beginning with kindness, flattery, gentleness—actions calculated to endear and establish trust. It will be subtle at first, demanding to know where you are, what you’re doing and who you’re with at all times. Every situation will be different, leading to different outcomes, but it’s called by the same name. We are talking about domestic violence.
Domestic violence is more than physical violence. It’s a situation in which one person in a relationship intentionally abuses their partner. That relationship may involve former spouses, unmarried co-habitants, dating partners or people who do not live together but share a child. It’s the ultimate form of bullying. The abuse is emotional, sexual, psychological, mental, verbal and, frequently, financial. Domestic violence is an equal opportunity form of abuse, making no distinction of race, age, religion, socioeconomic status, professional standing or sexual orientation.
Too often, men think of domestic violence as a “woman’s issue.” We want to assure you that nothing could be further from the truth. If you are a man, you need to take a stand. At some point in your life, certainly at the very beginning of your life, there was a woman involved. In all likelihood there’s still a woman—a sister, an aunt, a niece, a daughter, a mother, a friend— someone whom you would never want to see abused.
On average, three women die every day in the U.S. as a result of domestic violence. Every nine seconds, a woman in the U.S. is assaulted or beaten. It is the most common cause of injury for women ages 18 to 44, and it leads to an increased incidence of chronic disease, such as heart disease, stroke and cancer, in women later in life.
What can we do about this? One of the most important things we can do is to take it seriously, take responsibility for our actions and lead by example. Men should work to create a culture that rejects violence as a way to deal with problems. Men should speak up against messages that say violence or mistreating women is OK. Men need to raise their children to respect others —after all, respect begins at home.
We call upon men to take a stand and redefine what “Man up!” truly means. Real men must no longer stand by, remain silent and allow abuse in any form to occur. And because domestic violence affects entire communities, everyone should take steps to help those who are being abused. If you’re a friend, set up time and a safe place to talk. Listen with an open mind. Above all, don’t judge, shame or blame. Be supportive. Remember, this is very hard and can be embarrassing, humiliating and painful. If the friend is hesitant about leaving or decides to stay, continue to be supportive.
If, however, your friend expresses a desire to leave, help them develop a safety plan that includes packing the most important items and finding a place to stay. If you’re being abused or you know someone whom you suspect is being abused, know that there is help available online at www.womenshealth.gov andwww.girlshealth.gov. You can always call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233 or 800-787-3224 (TDD). There are also resources for teens; visit loveisrespect.org, call 866-331-9474, or text loveis to 22522.
Let’s teach our sons and daughters what healthy relationships look like, and let’s be clear that true love means respect and should NEVER hurt. We call on you to act and be mindful and attentive of the scourge of domestic violence in all of its forms, not just during Domestic Violence Awareness Month, but EVERY day!
Ron LeGrand is former vice president of public policy at the National Network to End Domestic Violence and the father of six sons.
Omari Hardwick is an advocate for domestic violence prevention, founder of Bravelife Films, and stars in the hit drama Power on STARZ. His wife, Jae Hardwick, is the co-founder of Bravelife, and together they have teamed up with Sign for Delivery, an organization with a mission to help women dealing with domestic violence.