By a recent estimate, more than 15 million children are exposed to domestic violence in their homes in the US. Many others are direct victims of child abuse. Statistically, half of these children are male. That means that there are millions of men in the US (and around the world) who have been traumatized by the terror of violence. A percentage of these men become perpetrators themselves, but the majority does not. Even though men and boys are taught not to share stories of vulnerability and to hide most of their feelings, it is very important that men who have witnessed or suffered violence speak up. As more men step forward with their stories, other men will follow their lead. This is how a movement is created and who would be better at fighting against violence than survivors of direct and indirect abuse.
Here are some things you can do:
- Before sharing your story, it can be helpful to embark in a journey of self-reflection and healing. Most people who have been exposed to violence benefit from receiving help and support from someone trained in understanding the impact of trauma. This could be a trusted person from the community, like a pastor, or it could be someone who works as a counselor or therapist. As part of receiving support, it is important to develop an emotional safety plan, in case past trauma gets stimulated by present circumstances. It can be painful and difficult to deal with violence that was witnessed or experienced in our lives, and it’s helpful to have support to be able to deal with the past and live well in the present.
- If you feel safe, share with your close friends part of your story. It might help them understand the gravity of the problem. Also, if you decide to interrupt their inappropriate jokes or comments, there is nothing more powerful than to tell a first-person story. For instance, you can say, “this is the way my father treated my mother and it is painful for me to hear.”
- If you were exposed to abuse as a child and are in a process of healing, you might want to consider sharing your story to a wider audience, either by writing it or speaking at an event. This is not an easy process and it should only be tried, if you have strong support around the process of “coming out” as a survivor. The support can come from family, friends or professionals.
The Historias de Hombres project featured in the Tools and Materials section is a program that engages men in sharing their own stories to promote awareness in their communities.
A speakers’ guide has been developed by the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence in multiple languages to help support survivors who want to tell their stories.