Skip to main content

To stem violence against women, men must step up

By Donald McPherson, Special to CNN
March 7, 2013 -- Updated 1607 GMT (0007 HKT)
Don McPherson says men must get involved to push back at the language, behaviors and conditions that contribute to a culture in which domestic violence is too common.
Don McPherson says men must get involved to push back at the language, behaviors and conditions that contribute to a culture in which domestic violence is too common.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Don McPherson: Not enough men speak out against domestic violence against women
  • He says violence toward women affects men, too. Yet culture ignores, propagates it
  • He says campaign "One million men. One million promises," to draw attention to it
  • McPherson: Men can help in many small ways. Set example in treatment of women

Editor's note: Don McPherson is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame, a feminist and social justice educator. Follow him on Twitter, @donmcpherson.

(CNN) -- Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten is the 2012 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year. Why? In large part because of Witten's tireless commitment to ending domestic violence. As a former professional football player and longtime domestic violence prevention advocate, I understand how gratifying it is to receive this honor from the NFL. For the men engaged in this critical issue, it can be a lonely road.

But now Witten has company in Dallas. Moved to action by a series of recent slayings, Mayor Mike Rawlings announced the launch of a citywide awareness campaign to show that domestic violence — and the culture that ignores or perpetuates it — has no home in his city. He's hoping at least 10,000 men show up to rally with that message on Dallas' City Hall Plaza later this month.

A drive to end domestic violence, led by men. It's an idea whose time has come, again and again; some men have been pushing it for decades. But now many are hearing the call.

Related: Beyond vomiting, how to prevent rape

Donald McPherson
Donald McPherson

As Rawlings said in a recent press conference: "In the past this has been viewed as a women's issue, but it ain't. It's our problem." The problem is not confined to a shocking spate of killings in Dallas, or to one major U.S. city. The New York Police Department reportedly receives 700 domestic violence calls every day. Domestic violence costs the United States more than $9 billion a year. More than 603 million women live in countries where domestic violence is not a crime. Globally, at least one in three women and girls are beaten or sexually abused in their lifetimes, usually at the hands of men.

What can men do?

Men do not just need to stop being violent. The vast majority of men are not violent. But men do need to stop being silent. Calling violence against women, whether street harassment or sexual harassment or rape or murder, a "women's issue" allows men to ignore it as if we have no responsibility for it or stake in ending it. We all have grandmothers, mothers, sisters, daughters and female friends and colleagues. Our lives are inextricably interwoven; women's issues of safety and equality directly affect our lives as men.

Become a fan of CNNOpinion
Stay up to date on the latest opinion, analysis and conversations through social media. Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion and follow us @CNNOpinion on Twitter. We welcome your ideas and comments.



Beyond that, women are humans, with the same rights to safety and freedom as men. It is therefore our moral responsibility to not remain silent or passively on the sidelines, but to be actively engaged in confronting this problem in every corner of homes, communities and societies.

Many men have already taken action. Men marched with women protesting December's notorious gang rape and murder in Delhi. Men worked with women to stop sexual abuse of women in Egypt's Tahrir Square. Men joined women in pushing for a serious response to allegations of gang rape in Steubenville, Ohio (and the social media vileness that followed). Here in New York, men have produced excellent videos calling on other men to stop street harassment.

I've been working since 1994 to bring men in as leaders and partners in stopping violence against women. Today, I believe we stand on the brink of a global tipping point. From Dallas to Delhi, the world is paying attention. Now is the time to stand up. That's why I'm joining Breakthrough, the global human rights group, in its "One million men. One million promises campaign." Starting March 8, over one year we will secure promises from men around the world to take concrete action toward stopping violence against women.

Advocate debunks domestic violence myths
The secrets of domestic violence
Spotlight on 16-year-old girl's plight

What can you do?

You don't have to be a mayor or an NFL player to have a major impact. You don't have to be like the New York City firefighters who recently tackled the guy attacking his wife with a meat cleaver in broad daylight. Small — even non-"heroic" — actions add up. Challenge norms. Change culture. Make violence against women unacceptable.

You can start with the discrimination and inequality that create the conditions in which violence happens. You can call out a friend who makes a comment that disrespects women. You can treat women well in front of boys and men who look up to you.

We all, men and women, can reject the script that gets played out in media every day that tells our boys to be unemotional and violent while objectifying girls at increasingly younger ages. The profound presence of media in our lives has only led to young people being exposed earlier and more often to salacious and sexual content. This media bombardment desensitizes our boys and girls to the reality of violence that is anything but the subtext of a life. Our silence only validates that script. We can speak out against it.

You can make sure your workplace's sexual harassment prevention polices are up to date. If you hear things getting violent next door, you can ring the bell or call the doorman or the cops. You can show that giving a damn about equality makes you a better man.

You can do this. We can do this. Together, men and women can build a safer world for all.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Don McPherson.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
July 10, 2014 -- Updated 1620 GMT (0020 HKT)
Frida Ghitis says a poll of 14 Muslim-majority nations show people are increasingly opposed to extremism.
July 10, 2014 -- Updated 1828 GMT (0228 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says spending more on immigation enforcement isn't going to stop the flow of people seeking refuge in the U.S.
July 10, 2014 -- Updated 2048 GMT (0448 HKT)
Faisal Gill had top security clearance and worked for the Department of Homeland Security. That's why it was a complete shock to learn the NSA had him under surveillance.
July 10, 2014 -- Updated 1841 GMT (0241 HKT)
Kevin Sabet says the scientific verdict is that marijuana can be dangerous, and Colorado should be a warning to states contemplating legalizing pot.
July 9, 2014 -- Updated 2047 GMT (0447 HKT)
World War I ushered in an era of chemical weapons use that inflicted agonizing injury and death. Its lethal legacy lingers into conflicts today, Paul Schulte says
July 10, 2014 -- Updated 1137 GMT (1937 HKT)
Tom Foley and Ben Zimmer say Detroit's recent bankruptcy draws attention to a festering problem in America -- cities big and small are failing to keep up with change.
July 10, 2014 -- Updated 1201 GMT (2001 HKT)
Mel Robbins says many people think there's "something suspicious" about Leanna Harris. But there are other interpretations of her behavior
July 9, 2014 -- Updated 2006 GMT (0406 HKT)
Newt Gingrich warns that President Obama's border plan spends too much and doesn't do what is needed
July 9, 2014 -- Updated 1753 GMT (0153 HKT)
Amy Bass says Germany's rout of Brazil on its home turf was brutal, but in defeat the Brazilian fans' respect for the victors showed why soccer is called 'the beautiful game'
July 8, 2014 -- Updated 1754 GMT (0154 HKT)
Errol Lewis says if it really wants to woo black voters away from the Democrats, the GOP better get behind its black candidates
July 9, 2014 -- Updated 2107 GMT (0507 HKT)
Aaron Carroll explains how vaccines can prevent illnesses like measles, which are on the rise
July 9, 2014 -- Updated 0008 GMT (0808 HKT)
Aaron Miller says if you think the ongoing escalation between Israel and Hamas over Gaza will force a moment of truth, better think again
July 8, 2014 -- Updated 2241 GMT (0641 HKT)
Martin Luther King Jr. fought and died so blacks would no longer be viewed as inferior but rather enjoy the same inherent rights given to whites in America.
July 9, 2014 -- Updated 1147 GMT (1947 HKT)
Alex Castellanos says recent low approval ratings spell further trouble for the President
July 9, 2014 -- Updated 0349 GMT (1149 HKT)
Paul Begala says Boehner's plan to sue Obama may be a stunt for the tea party, or he may be hoping the Supreme Court's right wing will advance the GOP agenda that he could not
July 6, 2014 -- Updated 1659 GMT (0059 HKT)
The rapture is a bizarre teaching in fundamentalist circles, made up by a 19th-century theologian, says Jay Parini. It may have no biblical validity, but is a really entertaining plot device in new HBO series
July 7, 2014 -- Updated 1749 GMT (0149 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette: President Obama needs to send U.S. marshals to protect relocating immigrant kids.
July 8, 2014 -- Updated 1903 GMT (0303 HKT)
Norman Matloff says a secret wage theft pact between Google, Apple and others highlights ethics problems in Silicon Valley.
July 8, 2014 -- Updated 2237 GMT (0637 HKT)
The mother of murdered Palestinian teenager Mohammed Abu Khder cries as she meets Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, West Bank on July 7, 2014.
Naseem Tuffaha says the killing of Israeli teenagers has rightly brought the world's condemnation, but Palestinian victims like his cousin's slain son have been largely reduced to faceless, nameless statistics.
July 9, 2014 -- Updated 2028 GMT (0428 HKT)
Danny Cevallos says charging the dad in the hot car death case with felony murder, predicated on child neglect, was a smart strategic move.
July 8, 2014 -- Updated 1326 GMT (2126 HKT)
Van Jones says our nation is sitting on a goldmine of untapped talent. The tech companies need jobs, young Latinos and blacks need jobs -- so how about a training pipeline?
July 7, 2014 -- Updated 1309 GMT (2109 HKT)
A drug that holds hope in the battle against hepatitis C costs $1,000 per pill. We can't solve a public health crisis when drug makers charge such exorbitant prices, Karen Ignagni says.
July 7, 2014 -- Updated 1133 GMT (1933 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says our political environment is filled with investigations or accusations of another scandal; all have their roots in the scandal that brought down Richard Nixon
July 6, 2014 -- Updated 1814 GMT (0214 HKT)
Sally Kohn says Boehner's lawsuit threat is nonsense that wastes taxpayer money, distracts from GOP's failure to pass laws to help Americans
July 7, 2014 -- Updated 1526 GMT (2326 HKT)
Speaker John Boehner says President Obama has circumvented Congress with his executive actions and plans on filing suit against the President this month
ADVERTISEMENT