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The Truth About the Fact: An International Journal of Literary Nonfiction

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Thursday, February 20, 2014

Victims of the Same Violence

Last year I joined an all female service organization on my college campus called Belles. Throughout October, Domestic Violence Awareness Month, we held silent protests on campus. During these protests we stood along busy sidewalks holding posters with domestic violence statistics. We received various reactions from students, both good and bad. One thing that we could agree on during our reflection was that male students either seemed particularly uncomfortable or disconnected to our protests. Uncomfortable because they may have thought this was an attack on men and disconnected because domestic violence is a women’s issue. Or so I thought.

During a reflection one meeting we watched a Ted Talk with Jackson Katz, an anti-sexist male activist and speaker. I quickly learned that the commonly accepted idea of domestic violence being a women’s issue contributes to the problem itself. Katz argues that by referring to domestic violence as a women’s issue it gives men an excuse to “tune out” because the matter does not apply to them. 

Another problem with calling this a women’s issue is that people are asking the wrong questions.  A lot of time people victim blame women when they first hear of an assault. They ask, “Well, what was she doing in that situation?” and “What was she wearing?” I have been guilty of this too. The truth is, knowing whether she was wearing short shorts or tight pants is not going to stop her abuser from attacking again. Also, I can assure you that nothing she was wearing justified what happened.

These questions do not get to the root of the problem. What we really need to be asking is: Why did this man do what he did? Why do so many adult men abuse young children? These questions are not meant to attack the perpetrator because in all fairness, it is more than likely the that the perpetrator was a victim of domestic violence too. In fact, the perpetrator is nothing but a minute spec in the whole picture because he or she is simply a product of his or her surroundings. 

“What about all the boys who  are profoundly affected in a negative way by what some adult man is doing against their mother, themselves, their sisters? What about all the young men and boys who have been traumatized by adult men violence?” Katz states, “ The same system that  produces  men who abuse women produce men who abuse other men. Most male victims of violence are the victims of other mens violence. So that is something both women and men have in common. We are both victims of men’s violence.”

This concept of perpetrators being victims themselves never crossed my mind. I knew that children who grew up witnessing domestic violence were more likely to abuse others in their adulthood, but I never considered them to be victims. It is unrealistic to think that we can decrease domestic violence by punishing all abusers; therefore, it is important to understand where the abuse derives from. 

According to Katz, we need to change the practices and socializations of men into something that will not lead to abusive outcomes. Sports culture, pornography, and various institutions play a huge role in the construct of men in our society. 

Katz then introduces the bystander approach. A bystander is not a victim or perpetuator, but a friend, a colleague, a teammate, or coach. When bystanders hear sexist, degrading, or racist commentary, Katz believes it is their responsibility to intervene because if one does not intervene they are accepting the statement as it is. 

This concept seems easy enough, but it is definitely easier said than done, especially in the male culture. It is difficult for a male to intervene without being considered sensitive. Katz gives the example of a group of men playing poker and one man making a sexist joke. I could imagine it being difficult to stand up and say something like “Hey man, that is not funny, that is sexist. Think about your mom and sister.” It will create an awkward moment for everyone on the table and instead of being commended for a morally right comment, the guy who spoke up will probably be called a pussy. 

I could imagine this scene happening in several other settings as well; however, this awkward moment of tension is worth it. I agree with Katz who states that the bystander approach will “create a pure culture climate where the abusive behavior will be seen as unacceptable.” He wants our cultural climate to get to the point where anyone who acts in sexists ways, will lose status. 

I cannot wait for the day that the obnoxious guy that yells “faggot” or “slut” across a party or locker room will be looked down on more than the guy who is “sensitive” enough to call him out. 

Watch the complete Ted Talk here:

For more information on domestic violence visit:

Alexandria Rousset 


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