I’m a community organizer addressing men’s violence against women within the South Asian immigrant community.
“We have to connect with women’s organizations nationwide and learn about what they are doing. How do they speak to men and boys about this issue?” asked my supervisor. As I began to call my colleagues, I kept being directed to the same man who was an advocate on this issue.
We spoke a few times over the phone but our first meeting was at a domestic violence conference where we had both been invited to speak about our respective efforts to engage men. “Hi!” he said, extending his hand confidently to engulf mine in a firm handshake. “We’ll be meeting over at that table to discuss the details for tomorrow’s panel. Would you join us?” I excused myself from a conversation with a colleague to join him at the table.
He spoke of his work at a women’s shelter and how men’s violence against women was, in fact, alienating and destructive to men as well. But, a man at the helm of a shelter’s outreach efforts was unheard of. Many panelists and attendees were vehemently opposed to a man leading any aspect of the women’s movement. I initially concurred, but, over time, I came to realize that men’s role as the primary perpetrators of violence against women necessitated that they become an active part of the dialogue toward change.
There was much learning that came after that panel discussion, particularly as the two of us began to date.
Over the past 2 weeks, I’ve had a few conversations with folks who, upon hearing that I’m leaving an abusive marriage, asked “did he physically hit you?” and “what did he do?”
I know these people are well meaning and didn’t mean to come across in any particular way, but I am left feeling like I need to justify what happened to me. Perhaps I should just be grateful that at least they aren’t asking me “what did you do to cause it?” which I’ve heard numerous times from some in my family. But really, what could one possibly do/say to cause someone to threaten to kill you or attempt to kill you? Must I have concrete examples to use such a loaded word like abuse?