Sir Patrick Stewart, also known as Charles Xavier and Captain Picard, spoke last Friday at the UN Hotel in New York City about the issue of men ending domestic violence. Stewart’s talk served as the kickoff for “Ring the Bell,” a movement that hopes to inspire 1 million promises to end the violence against women.
Stewart has spoken before about his experiences living in a home with an abuser (in this case, his father)– including a talk given in 2009 to Amnesty International, embedded above– and how he has dealt with feeling angry, out of control, and violent in the past.
While violence against women is framed as a “women’s issue,” up to 94% of abusers in intimate relationships are men. Don’t be mistaken by this statistic– women can certainly be abusers, and men can certainly be abused, but statistically speaking men are more likely to be the perpetrators of violence. This means that men speaking out against domestic violence and intimate partner abuse, particularly to other guys, can be a huge step in eliminating all kinds of IPV.
So you’re not Captain Picard, and you barely have the ear of a few close friends, much less a national audience– what can you do to prevent violence and abuse?
For starters, challenge the conditions that cause domestic violence. IPV is all about power and control– and in most (not all) situations, about men exerting power and control over women. One of the ways this happens is through jokes. Humor takes concepts, ideas and ways of thinking and normalizes them, or makes them acceptable. This is why a lot of people take sexist jokes seriously– because a sexist (and unfunny) joke about a woman making a sandwich normalizes an unequal power relationship between men and women. If you hear one of your friends making a joke that demeans or degrades women, tell them it’s not funny.
Actions, of course, speak louder than words. Make sure your own behavior towards women is respectful and kind, just like it would be toward anyone else in your life. Whether you’re at work, school, practice or with your family, set an example for younger boys by treating women the way you would want to be treated.