In a hurry to get to appointments, I was quickly walking through the parking garage. Unexpectedly, a man’s voice called out to me in a muffled echo through the concrete encasement of the stairwell, “I read your book! That’s exactly how my relationship is!” I looked down to see a face looking up at me halfway between the second and third flight of stairs. My look of puzzlement must have revealed the only thought stuck in my head, “Hmmm. Okay. My book was for women.” He continued, “You know, The Attractive Trap.” In continued surprise and gratitude, I was finally able to say, “Thanks so much! That means a lot. I hope you’ll write a review.” He did, and through my network I learned that he courageously filed for divorce. Today, he’s in a happy relationship.
Fast forward a year later. While seated at a table for an annual domestic violence fundraising luncheon, I listened intently as a 55-year old male told his story of domestic abuse. He described the continued physical, mental and emotional abuse he endured for many years. In shame, he and the predictable four women who accompanied him on the stage, each told their riveting stories of abuse and ultimate escape. As I looked around the room, eyes were wide, heads were nodding and tears were flowing.
How did I miss this? Why are we not talking about the full spectrum of abuse more? In the last two years, women have been coming out in droves to share their stories of toxic relationships and living in domestic abuse. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men have been victims of severe physical violence in their lifetime.
As I shared in my last blog, women stay for many reasons – even while abused. Shame is a primary reason women AND men remain trapped in silence. Regardless of gender – it’s about time! It’s about time we ALL started speaking up. What can we do to get more men to talk about their current lives of desperation in embattled relationships or their heroic stories of escape? What can we all do to make sure men are comfortable, safe and confident in sharing their stories the way women are starting to come out?
Here are some possibilities:
- Domestic violence ads need to start featuring males as well as females in their awareness campaigns. By seeing their faces on an ad linked to abuse, maybe men can follow this lead with their voices and actions as a cry for help.
- The campaigns should be on the stalls of male restrooms and fitting rooms and in male-targeted media to reinforce to men, “Hey, dudes, it’s not just about the women!”
- We all need to talk about female and male abuse more. In my book and presentations, I typically only refer to women. That’s because I have a heart for women who are trapped in toxic and abusive relationships. It’s now my goal to also acknowledge that domestic violence isn’t just about women. There are many men trapped who need to be set free as well.
Women have been advocating for each other for years on many issues. We still have miles to go before we sleep. It’s time for women and men to make sure the voices of everyone who is currently struggling and who have struggled in abusive relationships to be heard are counted.
As the echoes hopefully begin through the proverbial stairwell of today’s culture, we’ll probably be more shocked and saddened than we can begin to imagine.
Men, stand up, speak your voice, and be counted.
#MENtoo #metoo #itsabouttime #whywestayed