By Dean Obeidallah
Guys, face it: we are the problem here. And all of us should be doing something to stop violence against women.
“3 women are killed every day in the US by domestic violence. Who is killing them? It is us men.#YesAllWomen”
Sure, I’ve been known to tweet intentionally provocative messages in the hope of angering those who disagree with me on political issues. But when I recently launched the above 88-character tweet in response to the Santa Barbara killer’s misogynistic manifesto, I truly thought it was something that all men would agree with. But man was I wrong!
I was immediately bombarded with angry tweets from outraged men. Here’s a little sample:
“I certainly haven’t killed any women lately. If you have something to confess, you should probably call the police.”
“Better round up all of us white males, cuz all we do is rape and murder women”
“Women don’t generally attack men. Instead they chose innocent, defenseless targets like their own 4 year olds.”
“He’s desperate to get laid”
Most of the angry tweets I received were from men who identified themselves in their Twitter profiles as conservatives. But that has no bearing on who is actually abusing women. As Dr. Jessica Pearson, a clinical psychologist who specializes in forensic assessment, explained: “Domestic violence knows no limits. It occurs in every socio-economic, religious, racial, and ethnic group in our country.”
Here’s my plea to my fellow men regardless of your political leanings: Please don’t be defensive when the issue of domestic violence is raised. We need to have an honest discussion about the issue. Recognize the reality that it is us, men, who are solely responsible for domestic violence against women. It’s not in any way the fault of women.
More women in the United States have been killed by their husbands and boyfriends during the time of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars than U.S. troops fighting those wars.
We are the ones who are killing three women a day. In fact, more women in the United Stateshave been killed by their husbands and boyfriends (11,766) during the time of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars than U.S. troops fighting those wars (6,488).
We also must accept that it is us, men, who abuseone woman every 15 seconds. Just look at the numbers from Philadelphia alone. In 2012, there were more than 107,000 domestic violence cases reported, and close to 2,000 visits to emergency rooms by women attacked by men they were in relationships with or had previously been involved with.
True, men can be the victims of domestic violence, but 85 percent (PDF) of victims are women. And thankfully the number of cases of domestic violence has dropped (PDF) in recent years. However, a recent study found that many emergency rooms have been failing to properly identify domestic violence victims, consequently, there is widespread underreporting.
Here’s something that may shock many women: Many men, including myself up until recently, truly have no idea the extent of domestic violence that women endure on a daily basis. I only became aware last year after becoming active with the organization Breakthrough, a global human rights organization that strives to make violence and discrimination against women unacceptable.
Before then I had no clue that the NYPD receives 700-plus phone calls per dayfrom women who are victims of domestic violence. Nor was I aware that on a typical day, there are more than 20,000 phone calls (PDF) placed to domestic violence hotlines nationwide. It was as if my eyes had been opened to an epidemic that was happening right in front of me the entire time but for some reason I didn’t see it—or possibly choose not to see it.
Despite this reality, and in the same week as the Santa Barbara misogynistic inspired killing spree, Glen Beck’s network The Blaze presented a comedy sketchmocking the federal government’s report on the number of women who reported they were sexually assaulted on college campuses. The host of the show, Stu Burguiere, ridiculed the idea that women should report being raped if they were pressured into having sex. He even joked: “It is possible to have consensual sex while drunk or high” because after all that’s what we see in “beer commercials.” Translation: Guys, it’s cool to treat women any way you want.
So what can men do? First of all, don’t make assinine sketches like The Blaze did mocking any woman who complains of sexual assault or domestic violence. Second, as Mallika Dutt, the President of Breakthrough urged, men should no longer subscribe to the philosophy of “it’s none of my business.” Dutt recommended: “If you see a friend or family member abusing his wife or girlfriend, start a conversation and urge him to seek help,” adding, “The more we break the silence, the more chances we have of ending the abuse.”
And Rita Smith, the executive Director of National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, offered a simple suggestion to men: Change the dialogue in your peer groups by not telling jokes or making comments that belittle the impact of domestic violence or sexual assault. She also recommended that men call out friends who make sexist comments. Keep in mind that experts have found that “men are more likely to listen to other men when it comes to the perpetration of violence.”
So my fellow men/dudes/bros, don’t be silent when you see abusive behavior toward women or hear comments that perpetuate misogyny. Plus don’t put off seeking help if you need it. Collectively these actions will not only change cultural norms but they could save the lives of women across our nation—including the life of your own wife, girlfriend, or daughter.
Dean Obeidallah is a former lawyer turned political comedian and writer. He is a frequent commentator on various cable-news networks. He has also appeared on Comedy Central’s “Axis of Evil” Special, ABC’s “The View” and he co-directed the comedy documentary, “The Muslims Are Coming!” His blog is The Dean’s Report.