Posted by: joshjasper | September 2, 2015

Men’s Abuse Against Women

I was packing my stuff up in my hotel room last night in East Lansing when I saw the news article about the woman who was raped and killed in our community.  Not again, I thought.

Early in my training sessions I ask attendees to stand.  I tell them we are going to do an exercise that will ask them to decide if they agree or disagree with a particular statement.  If they agree, they can move to the left side of the room.  If they disagree, they can move to the right of the room.  And if they’re unsure, they can stand in the middle.

“There’s a serious problem of some men being abusive towards women in this country.”  I usually repeat the statement two or three times to make sure it really sinks in.

After everyone has made their way to their respective areas, I begin to ask individuals why they ended up where they are.

95% of the 10,000+ people I have presented to in the last year report immediately to the left side of the room, while the remaining stand in the middle.  The unsure folks are there usually only to make the point that women can be abusive to men as well.  I validate their points and then ask the group what makes this a “serious” problem.

“One person being abused is too many.”

“That could be my mom, daughter, sister or wife.”

“Abuse isn’t just physical.  It can be verbal or emotional too.”

“I’ve experienced it.”

I make sure and repeat every answer and when everyone has shared, I move closer to the group and take a deep breath.  I thank everyone for participating and begin to share the only statistic they will hear throughout the 90 minute session.

Years ago a study was done in the United States for the purpose of understanding why people go to the emergency room.  This research was conducted throughout the country across class and race.  It had nothing to do with abuse.

They found that the leading cause of injury for girls and women between the ages of 15-44 comes from men.  More specifically, these women are going to the emergency room due to dislocated jaws, broken bones, burns and concussions.  It turns out that the total of the next four reasons why women go to the emergency room doesn’t equal the first.

I allow the room to stand in silence for a few moments to really feel the seriousness of this reality. Many heads are down and I can feel the discomfort in the air. Tears are beginning to well up in the eyes of a few.

I then ask how they are feeling.

“Sick to my stomach.”

“Pissed off.”

“Disgusted.”

“Afraid.”

I ask everyone to sit down and I then conclude the exercise with a final question.  “When asked if some men’s violence against women is serious, nearly everyone agreed immediately.  And when I shared with you the prevalence of this major public health issue, it left you feeling desperate for answers.  Knowing all of this, why do you suppose we all (including the dude that teaches this stuff) remain silent and do little to nothing to challenge this abusive behavior?”

Because certainly we all know that no one wakes up one day and decides out of the blue to knock their fiancée out in an elevator, or to rape their girlfriend or to attack and kill someone.  This abusive behavior starts well before the point in which we are left feeling helpless and without answers.  This stuff starts with boys being socialized to be tough, aggressive, macho, emotionless young men that have little to no opportunities to share their feelings and connect with others.  It starts when we begin to objectify young girls and women.

Maybe most importantly, this stuff starts and is reinforced through our maddening  and seemingly never-ending silence.

And now here we are again in our community asking the wrong questions while trying to direct responsibility to everyone but ourselves.

God.  We need help.  I fear too many of us are actually standing on the right side of the room.

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