As young boys in Trenton, New Jersey, my brother and I grew up behind the closed doors of a home often engulfed with the haunting cries and unspeakable images that predictably come with horrific acts of domestic violence.
Huddling together, we would squeeze our eyes shut, muffle our sobs and, without a sound, wordlessly agree that during those frequent occurrences of violence, our best survival plan was to blanket our pain and fear with silence.
We dared not to breathe, lest we further provoke the man who was hitting our mother. Instead, we silently and fervently willed the violence to stop. It did not.
Like so many children who are victims, witnesses or survivors of domestic violence, my brother and I regularly endured such inescapable and sickening violence in silence. Who would hear us anyway? Who would help our mother; who would help us? And most of all, who in the world possesses such all-encompassing power that they can, once and for all, make such harmful violence stop?
As an adult, the answer to that question is clear to me. We all have the power to help eradicate domestic violence. Instead of turning away, we must step forward. Instead of silence, we must speak up. For those who think their inaudible cries are not heard, let us be the ones who hear them. Let us be their voice.
Some have wrongly claimed that domestic violence is a “woman’s issue.” But the facts are more than sobering: Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women — more than car accidents, muggings and rapes combined. Ten million children witness some form of domestic violence every year; every day more than three women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends; men are twice as likely to abuse their wives if they witnessed domestic violence as children.
It largely has been the voices of women speaking up for their sisters who face domestic or relationship violence. Women have been burdened with the responsibility to educate the rest of us, not only about the physical injury but also the devastation to a woman or child’s spirit and soul.
In the decades I’ve served as an advocate to end domestic violence, one truth is abundantly clear to me: Domestic violence is predominantly a man’s issue. As a man, husband and father, part of my mission in life is to break the silence. It is men who must not only hear but heed our call to action to end domestic violence.
Men have the power to say no to domestic violence. As men, we must speak up and say domestic violence will not happen in my home, in my neighborhood, on my campus, on my team, in my workplace or in my circle of family and friends.
As men, we cannot be silent; we must not be bystanders to this behavior. Individually and collectively men have tremendous influence over other men, especially young men. We must use our power and our platforms to bring hope to those who want to believe that a new life, a better life, awaits them.
Violence against women and children is a choice. Choices have consequences.
The choice to harm a woman or child has lifetime implications both physically and psychologically. I’m lending my voice and my platform to challenge all men to take a stand and demand that none of us allow violence against women and children to occur in our presence.
It is an honor to speak Monday at the 17th annual Mending Broken Hearts with Hope luncheon to benefit the Shelter for Abused Women & Children in Collier County.
I am in awe of the work that is being done by the shelter and am humbled to be a part of their mission.