What will you tell your son?

I suggest you watch this short clip before proceeding:


“She won’t be the only one,
she’s not asking
what you’re going to tell your daughter
she’s asking
what you’re going to teach your son.”

There’s no dispute that domestic violence has now reached epidemic proportions in the world. Here in the US of A, 1 in 4 women are abused by their partner in their lifetime. Our mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts, grandmothers, and friends; we all know a victim.

So when does the violence end?
The past year I’ve worked as a domestic abuse crisis counselor with heavy academic and activist involvement in the anti-violence movement here in San Francisco. I can tell you, from the inside, that the violence has become so massive, so monstrous, that all of the–albeit EXTREMELY limited–resources go toward helping the people who have already been abused. Survivor outreach is important and necessary in a society where “domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women between the ages of 15 and 44, more common than automobile accidents, muggings, and cancer deaths combined” (Surgeon General’s Office). Obviously, we cannot cut off the help for victims.

But what are we doing to PREVENT it? Will this cyclic abuse continue forever? Reality is, the numbers are growing, not diminishing.

To prevent male on female abuse (by far the most common type of abuse, but definitely not the only type of abuse), we must begin combating against the idea that being masculine means being violent. Just as Gibson indicates, it is my belief that we must be talking to young people, especially young men, about healthy relationships, anger management, and nonviolent communication. I argue that we should start these discussions during childhood. We learn the most during our childhood, and the messages that we get are reflected in our behaviors for the rest of our lives. Personally, I have used schoolyard violence in my little brother’s life to talk to him about violence and the treatment of people–and more specifically, the treatment of women. I’ve found that having open, gentle lines of communication with each other as well as giving him specific things to say/do when he’s in difficult situations has helped tremendously to nurture his compassion and empathy.

If it were up to me, violence, just like sexuality, would be a talking point in every home and school across the nation starting around age 3 or 4, executed in a thoughtful and age appropriate fashion. The conversations would revolve around (1) acknowledging what’s going on around us, (2) how to deal with anger and stress, and (3) fostering excellent communication skills. We often start this conversation young (i.e. “No hitting, Tommy!”), but don’t continue it (i.e. “Let’s talk about other ways to deal with being angry, son.”)

I plan to delve into the execution of these 3 violence prevention objectives in the future. For now, the question remains: what will you tell your son?

For further information, see my video “When Love Gets Violent. You can also visit my “sex+ toolbox” where you will find 10 tips for men to prevent gender violence and a nonviolent communication guide among other (lesser related) tools.

*Wow. To all the men freaking out about male victims, this is an article about VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN as should be very clear from the beginning. Why can’t I just FOR ONCE talk about violence against women without every man freaking out and feeling personally victimized? Does it always have to be about you? Do you not see the irony in that? Like a caucus on racism and insisting on talking only about racism against white people. Yes, we know that it exists; yes, it should be dealt with–but HELLO? That doesn’t change the fact that racism is a systematic problem that affects mostly people of color. Despite however defensive talking about gender issues might make you feel, this isn’t an attack on men, and any rational human can see that. That’s right: NOT ALL MEN ARE VIOLATORS and NOT ALL WOMEN ARE INNOCENT and I NEVER said they were. I’m here to talk about a major problem that presently and historically has had a gargantuan impact on my world. If you have a problem with that, this isn’t the blog for you. THANKS.