I remember distinctly the moment that I finally got it. That I understood. The moment when I realized that violence against women was more than just an issue the company I work for had taken on as a priority philanthropic cause nearly twenty years ago. That it was my issue, my problem. That it was a man’s issue. All of a sudden, for me it was finally personal.
I was fortunate not to have grown up in a home with domestic violence. Had never been in a relationship where violence was prevalent. I was, and am, blessed to be in a loving marriage with three healthy, happy, and often rambunctious and loud, little boys.
The story I read in the newspaper that particular morning suddenly made it all seem very real. The story was about a young man from a prominent and wealthy Dallas family who didn’t take no for an answer one night. The teenager and his girlfriend had been making-out in the back seat of his car; he didn’t stop when she said, “STOP,” and he was being charged with rape. How unbelievably awful! Her life scarred and potentially ruined. And his too, for that matter. How could he do this? Why didn’t he stop? Then the judgment came – how could he not know better? Why didn’t his parents, his dad, teach him better…talk to him? But maybe they did. And then the worst thought yet: oh God, what if my boys ever did something like that?
All of these horrific scenes flashed through my head of one of my now sweet little boys, grown up and more than misbehaving: hurting another person, hurting a woman. And then suddenly, it was all clear to me. It hit home. This is our problem! This is our issue! There is no violence against women—no domestic violence, no dating abuse—without the abuser. And that’s us! We men are the problem! And how scary, how truly horrific, that the only role we men have played in this issue up until now, is being the problem!
Men must have another role, a larger part to play in the fight to end domestic violence. What I’ve come to fully understand since I read that article nearly three years ago, is that it’s just not enough for us men to be good guys. It’s not enough for us to not abuse our spouse, girlfriend or loved one. It’s just not enough to read articles every day about women who are hurt in our society by men who say they love them and for us to close the page and say, “What a shame, glad I’m not that type of guy.”
Don’t get me wrong, there are many men—some who are quite organized, articulate and vocal—that have been speaking loudly and passionately about ending violence against women for some time. They have been and will continue to be champions. They get it. But the majority of men—the majority of people, in fact—do not get the role of men here. We men have a larger part to play in ending violence against women, and it’s more than just not being abusive. I understand that talk is cheap and real change comes with action. But I’ve come to believe that the biggest job we men have in ending violence against women is just that: talk. Talking to our sons about what it means to be a gentleman; talking to our daughters about what they should expect and not accept in a relationship; and, perhaps most important of all, talking to each other—other men—about what it means to be a real man.
It takes a lot of courage for a man to speak up to another man and say, “I see the way you talk to your girlfriend. It’s not okay. In fact, it’s completely unacceptable.” It takes courage for a man to say to another, “I know you hit your wife and I want nothing to do with you.”
Courage? Really? How hard could it really be for a man to speak up when confronted with an opportunity to do something, you ask? But here’s the problem. We tell ourselves stories. We tell ourselves that we don’t know the circumstances. We weren’t there. We don’t really know the situation. We shouldn’t interfere. We don’t want to judge. We might offend our buddy if we speak up to him about such a personal matter. Offend him?
The fact is that it’s offensive that in the year 2014 one in four women and one in three girls will experience abuse at the hand of a man who says he loves her! It’s offensive that a child would grow up in a home with domestic violence thinking that abuse is a normal part of relationships. And it’s offensive the only role men have played is as the abuser!
The message must be clear and simple: A REAL MAN WILL NEVER HURT A WOMAN! Period. End of story! Now, let’s start talking!
Crayton Webb is Vice President of Corporate Communications and Corporate Social Responsibility for Dallas, Texas based Mary Kay Inc. Crayton oversees the company’s global media and public relations team and is also responsible for Mary Kay’s global CSR and philanthropic efforts. Crayton is chairman of the men’s auxiliary for Genesis Women’s Shelter in Dallas, HeROs (He Respects Others, #itsoffensive), and was recently appointed to the board of the Texas Council on Family Violence in Austin, Texas. Follow Crayton on Twitter: @craytonwebb.