Dudes: We Need to Lead in Ending Violence Against Women
My mouth fell open in disbelief the first time I heard this statistic: The NYPD receives an average of 700 calls a day from women seeking help in a domestic violence incident. I can’t tell you why I wasn’t aware of the epidemic of violence against women in our country until that 2013 meeting with Breakthrough, a global human rights organization. After all, I consider myself a pretty well-informed guy. I read the newspaper every day. I’m on every social media platform imaginable. (No, not Tinder, but almost everything else.)
Yet I was oblivious of how many women were suffering or, worse, killed on a daily basis by men in the United States, and I know I’m not alone in that.
After that meeting, I looked up the statistics because I had to check for myself. I am a former trial lawyer, so I’m still as suspicious as ever when people tell me their so-called facts. Sure enough, the Breakthrough representative was correct. As I have since learned, in New York City alone, police responded to more than 260,000 domestic violence calls in 2012—that’s one every two minutes.
It gets worse from there, if that’s possible. On average, three women are killed every single day in our country by a boyfriend, husband, or ex. When you add it up, more women are killed in the United States by domestic violence: 11,766 died between the 2001 terror attacks and June 2012. In that same period, 6,488 people died when you combine the deaths in the 9/11 attacks and soldier deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan.
I assumed that if the rest of my male friends (the real ones and those on social media) heard about these numbers, they too would be motivated to do something about it. What I never guessed was that many of them—not all, but more than I expected—would become defensive when I raised the issue.
Consequently, they would become angry, saying things like “Tell it to the guys hitting women!” I was shocked. As I learned, many men take any discussion of the issue as an accusation. They felt I was inferring that they have committed this despicable act.
Others would not get angry but would become dismissive of the seriousness of the issue with comments like “Well, it’s not bad as it used to be” or “You do know that men are victims of domestic violence by women.”
Now, from a purely statistical point of view, those last two comments are correct. The rate of domestic violence, along with most violent crimes, has dropped since the 1990s. However, people working on the front lines helping victims of domestic violence have not seen a decline in cases they are handling. To them and to the women suffering, it’s as bad as ever.
True, not all victims of domestic violence are women. However, 85 percent are, meaning women are clearly bearing the brunt of the violence.
At this point, I started to think about what can I do using my skill set to raise awareness about this topic in way that would make my fellow men not become defensive. My skills consist of telling jokes or suing people. So I went with comedy. Last year I worked with Breakthrough to produce a comedy benefit that we hoped would reach people who would never attend a lecture on violence against women. Thankfully, that show sold out.
So we are at it again this year with an even bigger show that will be taking place in New York City on Aug. 19. The show is called “Dudes Against Violence Against Women.” It features a great lineup of male comedians (and a hilarious female emcee).
Why are all the comedians men? Well, to be blunt, men need to be the ones taking the lead on this issue. The goal of the show is to spark a conversation, “dude to dude”: If you see something you suspect is domestic violence, don’t be silent. Instead, talk to those involved, especially the guy. If there’s a problem, encourage him to seek help. There are myriad organizations out there that want to help.
Maybe we can’t have an immediate impact on issues like reducing the big money in politics or stopping Donald Trump from saying asinine things. But we can have an impact on violence against women in a way that could save someone’s life. So what do you say, my fellow dudes—isn’t it time we stand together to end violence against women?