October is Domestic Violence Month, but in our current socio-political climate, most of us don’t need a calendar announcement to be reminded of this insidious abuse.
The #metoo movement, the recent Supreme Court Justice hearings, the fall from grace of several prominent business, entertainment and political leaders – all of these events mark a critical time in our history. They have brought sexual assault out of the shadows and into the mainstream.
Domestic violence – otherwise known as Intimate Partner Violence (or IPV) – does not discriminate. It affects women, men and children of all ages, cultures, socio-economic backgrounds and racial groups. Victims of IPV deserve our primary focus, of course. But researchers are also concerned with understanding the motivation of abusers.
We’ve known for many years that domestic violence is often an intergenerational issue. And we also know that most victims are women, and most abusers are men. Since boys and girls tend to mirror the gender roles that parents exhibit, it’s critical to examine what fathers are teaching their sons about how they move about in the world, and how they relate to others. Some of these lessons may reflect what has been labeled “toxic masculinity”, a phrase coined by the Mythopoetic men’s movement of the 1980s and 1990s. It was initially considered a male response to the teachings of feminism, but more currently we use the phrase to refer to behavior that is sometimes aggressive, hurtful or abusive. It’s helping us as a society kick off discussion around what it means to be a man.
Actor, filmmaker and entrepreneur Justin Baldoni (yes, “Jane the Virgin” fans – that Justin Baldoni!) presented a TED talk last year entitled “Why I’m Done Trying to Be Man Enough”. He talks about the kinds of things he learned from his father, and why some of them created conflict for him socially. It raises issues around societal expectations and the evolution of his behavior and attitudes toward women.
These kinds of conversations aim to promote awareness of domestic abuse. If we can gain more knowledge about where violence begins, we can provide better support to survivors and ultimately work toward an overall reduction of intimate partner violence.
If you or someone you know is the victim of physical, verbal, sexual or emotional abuse, please visit: Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN)