Reaffirming the Violence Against Women Act is Every Man's Moral Obligation

By Timothy King 2-02-2012
"Domestic Violence." Illustration by Ira Gelb via Wylio
"Domestic Violence." Illustration by Ira Gelb via Wylio

One in 5 women have been raped in their lifetime and nearly 1 in 4 women have been victims of severe physical violence by an intimate partner.

Mothers, daughters, sisters, wives and partners physically, emotionally and spiritually violated.

This is a moral shame not just on the men who committed these crimes but on ALL men.

It wasn’t until 1920 that the 19th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States was ratified. It reads:

The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Men in this country live with a legacy of viewing and treating women as less than human. Our past reveals that we have not always recognized the image of God as fully present in our sisters.

While not every man has committed a crime of violence against women, all men are responsible to make sure such crimes end. The statistics show that rape and assault are not isolated incidents but rather are a consistent and constant part of our society and culture.

It won’t end the crisis, but the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), is an important tool, giving an avenue of response to women who have been victimized. The VAWA was first passed in 1994.

Sojourners joins nearly 40 other faith based organizations in a letter of support for its reauthorization, which reads:

VAWA is our nation’s single most effective tool in responding to the devastating crimes of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking and provides lifesaving programs and services.

Since the original passage of VAWA in 1994, the legislation has dramatically enhanced our nation’s response to violence against women. More victims report domestic violence to the police; the rate of non-fatal intimate partner violence against women has decreased by 63%; and VAWA saved nearly $14.8 billion in net averted social costs in just its first six years…

The 19th Amendment affirmed that women are fully human and deserving of the right to vote. While always true, it took a long time for our constitution to catch up and give a legal affirmation of their full humanity. The re-authorization of VAWA is an opportunity to do the same by improving the access and help that women can receive when they need it.

We need to create the kind of society where rape and sexual assault are not only illegal but unthinkable.

Men need to make it clear to other men not only that violence against women is totally unacceptable but  the kind of attitudes and actions that don’t respect the image of God in women are intolerable as well.

Tony Porter a co-founder of A Call to Men, an organization committed to ending violence against women, told Rebel Magazine in an interview:

“Domestic violence is rooted in sexism, patriarchy and male domination and that collective socialization contributes to violent behavior,” Porter said. “One of the founding principles of most societies was that women and children belonged to men -- that they were property, and that thinking still exists, to varying degrees, in many cultures.”

The same article quotes Katie Gentile, the Director of the John Jay College Women’s Center in New York City. She argues, “One thing that shows up in all the research is that male peer groups are one of the most predictive factors for whether a man is going to be violent in his relationship with a woman.”

All men sometimes are guilty actions and attitudes that might not be “illegal” but certainly do contribute to the kind of culture that has allowed pernicious violence against women to exist. VAWA is important, but it won’t end the violence.

For that, we need to go to the root of the problem, and that’s men.

At the end of its report, Rebel Magazine included a list of 10 things men can do to stop violence against women. Let’s start here:

10 Things Men Can Do To Prevent Domestic and Sexual Violence

1.     Acknowledge and understand how male dominance and aspects of unhealthy manhood are at the foundation of domestic and sexual violence.

2.     Examine and challenge our individual beliefs and the role that we play in supporting men who are abusive.

3.     Recognize and stop colluding with other men by getting out of our socially defined roles, and take a stance to prevent domestic and sexual violence.

4.     Remember that our silence is affirming. When we choose not to speak out against domestic and sexual violence, we are supporting it.

5.     Educate and re-educate our sons and other young men about our responsibility in preventing domestic and sexual violence.

6.     Break out of the man box: Challenge traditional images of manhood that stop us from actively taking a stand in domestic and sexual violence prevention.

7.     Accept and own our responsibility that domestic and sexual violence will not end until men become part of the solution to end it. We must take an active role in creating a cultural and social shift that no longer tolerates violence and discrimination against women and girls.

8.     Stop supporting the notion that domestic and sexual violence is due to mental illness, lack of anger management skills, chemical dependency, stress, etc… Domestic and sexual violence is rooted in male dominance and the socialization of men.

9.     Take responsibility for creating appropriate and effective ways to educate and raise awareness about domestic and sexual violence prevention.

10.  Create responsible and accountable men's initiatives in your community to support domestic and sexual violence prevention.

Tim King is Communications Director for Sojourners. Follow Tim on Twitter @TMKing.

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