‘It’s up to us to speak up’
When I was four years old, my father cracked me over the head with a rum bottle.
It’s one of my earliest memories. I was defending my mother from one of my dad’s drunken, abusive tirades, and I was bold enough to step between them to protect her.
“Don’t you cry.” That was all he said after he hit me.
Crying wasn’t OK. Emotions were taboo. I—and millions of other boys—were taught to bottle up our feelings and mind our own business—especially when it came to relationships. Too often in our society men are conditioned to never be too emotional.
That’s the culture we need to change if we’re going to end domestic violence—because this is not a problem that women can solve alone.
To this day, one of my biggest regrets is not addressing a domestic violence situation I knew about in college. I was friends with a girl whose boyfriend was abusive, and all my guy friends knew it, too. Instead of pulling him aside, or asking her if she needed help, we didn’t say anything to either one of them because it would have been an uncomfortable conversation to have—and we didn’t think it was our business. Thankfully, her friends rallied around her and eventually convinced her to get out of the relationship.
In order to have healthy relationships—and a healthy life—men have to be open to talking about and tackling difficult issues like domestic violence. Whether it’s with fathers, uncles, friends or coworkers, we have to take responsibility for starting that conversation. And we as men need to understand that being able to admit vulnerability is a strength, not a sign of weakness.
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