As a man, learning that another man has hurt a woman you love, your sister, aunt, mother, cousin, best friend, colleague, or whom ever she is, can be one of the most heartbreaking, horrendous pieces of information. It shakes the foundations of your masculinity. It makes you question what it is to be a man in a culture that supports and enables male violence. I am writing this post for you, in an understanding that we aren’t all predatory creatures, that there are good, trustworthy, understanding and compassionate people amongst us. And in that light – it is up to us to take the women we love, hear them, cradle them, acknowledge them, honour the strength it takes to speak up, and the toll revelations can take on their psyche. Here’s some stuff, fellas. 🙂
1. When she tells you – the first thing you should do is thank her… thank her for trusting you enough. For seeing the goodness in you… Because every ounce of difficulty you have in hearing what she has to say is vastly outweighed by what she has experienced and the impact it has on her.
2. When she tells you – she isn’t asking for you to “fix” the problem, solve it or change it in any way. Men, in the most part, are creatures of action. We like to change, fix, solve, even out of the most compassionate places. This cannot be done. When she tells you, she is looking for your support, nothing else.
3. When she tells you – check your reaction.. Don’t talk over her, interrupt her, disbelieve her, minimize her, invalidate her, make her situation worse. This in many ways is a replication of what she suffered and how society will treat her as she chooses to come forward further. Anger is also understandable, but it isn’t helpful. If you need to process your feelings, there are places that can help you, but this is not a time for your opinions or beliefs.
4. When she tells you – tell her you love her unconditionally. The most overwhelming feeling for someone experiencing these problems, is shame, is a belief that they will never be good enough for anyone ever again. she needs you to make her feel validated, understood, and most of all, good enough. This will be an ongoing process, and you need to be absolutely present for all of it as hard as it is.
5. When she tells you – understand where her experience comes from, and try to do something about it. Violence against women is a manifestation of the power dynamic between sexes. Think about how power plays out in your own life. How do you treat the women in your life? how do you express power in your workplace, family, school, or social setting. This is extremely confronting, but absolutely neccesary, not only for her, but to work towards a world without the problems she’s experiencing.
for the blokes: if you are concerned about your own violence – www.mensline.org.au
if you are in Victoria and wanting advice and support for a loved one call the Centre Against Sexual Assault 24 helpline on 1800 806 292 or Nation wide family violence and sexual assault helpline 1800 737 732