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Breaking out of the 'Man Box'
Advocates seek men to step up on domestic violence issues
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In a domestic violence situation, the male is generally perceived as being the aggressor or offender.
That mindset of thinking doesn’t come without merit. Overall, women are victims in domestic violence, which include physical, emotional, mental and sexual abuse, incidents about 85 percent of the time. One in four women will be a victim at some point during their life.

The number of domestic violence incidents against women in the City of Conyers almost mirrors the national average. According to the Conyers Police Department, there have been a total of 2,006 document cases of domestic violence over the last 10 years. In nearly 80 percent of those cases, the male was the offender.  For Rockdale County, in 2013, there were 420 reports and 1,127 calls for domestic violence situations; out of those, 124 men and 44 women were arrested.

And since men are committing these crimes at the fastest rate, it’s time for more men to speak out against the violence happening to women as well, says Derek Marchman, a Rockdale County courts family violence consultant.
“The thing is domestic violence advocates for the most part have been women. For the most part, a lot of the victims are women. It is time for men to step up,” he said. “The biggest thing in terms of family violence is that we as men have to do more. Think about, we’re 90 percent of the reason why it occurs.”

Men need to protest

The most important things a man could do to aid in the battle against violence against women are protest like so many women already do and don’t fall victim to the bystander effect, the act of witnessing or knowing about a women being abused and not intervening in some way, says Marchmen.

Marchmen, who gives speeches around the country on this issue, sees it often that men will only speak out against domestic violence when a family member or friend is involved but rarely ever for a stranger.
The main reason is because guys follow the “guy code” of that’s not my business so I’m going to stay out of it or they didn’t know what to do when the situation was unfolding, says Marchmen.

Speaking at a conference on domestic violence geared toward men in September, Marcus Delgado, chairman of Partnership Against Domestic Violence, echoes Marchmen’s stance that men need to do more to be on the preventative side of domestic violence.

Delgado, the first male chair of the PADV, a nonprofit domestic violence organization in Georgia, says that a key to getting men to become activists is to break the stereotype that this is a women’s issue.

Ted Bunch, co-founder of A Call to Men, a national violence prevention organization providing training and education for men and boys, says that there’s an overwhelming majority of men who do not commit domestic violence offenses and the role they must play is speaking out against it and cultural things that promote it.
“This is not an indictment of manhood,” he said at the same conference as Delgado. “It’s an invitation to be part of solution.”

Don’t be a bystander

Marchmen offers this advice to men who may not be sure how to react if they find themselves in a bystander effect situation.

It’s ok to say, “I don’t know what the situation here is, but what you’re doing here is wrong. No one should be treated that way,” he said. “Half the time people just need to know that people see them doing something wrong. It’s not an issue of saying the right words. The biggest thing is taking some form of action.”
The co-founder of A Call to Men, Tony Porter, adds that men may find it hard to join in the fight against domestic violence because they’re stuck in what Porter calls a “Man Box,” which is stereotypical gender socialization roles.

Some key ideas of Porter’s “Man Box” is that men are strong physically, while women are weak and thus inferior, not being allowed to show interest in women outside of a sexual context and fear of being thought of as gay, which is also perceived as a sign of weakness.

Being trapped in this box makes men afraid of associating themselves with anything that they feel might make others perceived them as weak, inferior or homosexual, says Porter.

Neither ignorance nor fear are excuses for not making the right decision.

“When it comes to bystander effect, don’t let not knowing what to do interfere with what’s right,” he said. ““There’s enough mad women going, “This is wrong,” or picketing and working in shelters. This is not a woman’s issue. This is a communal issue.”

Women support

But, Conyers resident Pamela Lowery doesn’t think it would be a sign a weakness at all on a man’s part to join the battle against domestic violence.

Lowery, 53, was a victim of domestic abuse from her ex-husband for 12 years. That time period began when she was 20 years old. She’s been remarried to a different man for 17 years now and is a mother to a 15-year-old son.
She would welcome men supporting victims of domestic abuse with open arms.

“That would be awesome,” Lowery said of men who haven’t been domestic violence offenders advocating against the crime.

Men as victims

While the number of reported cases of domestic violence against women are going up, which could be interpreted as a positive sign that more women are seeking help, the number of cases where men are victims are still relatively low.

Vickie Stevenson, director of Project ReNeWal, a shelter for victims of domestic violence living in Rockdale, Newton and Walton Counties, believes that men are victims of domestic abuse a lot more times than what gets reported, or rather, a lot more than they’ll actually admit.

There’s added level of shame when a male admits to losing to a female.

“It’s very hard for a man to say a woman got the best of them,” said Stevenson. “There’s a lot of shame in (a domestic violence situation) for women, but I think there may be more for men.”

Homosexual relationships could be more of a risk for males than a heterosexual one. Stevenson says the violence against men in homosexual relationships seems to be more extreme.

She recalls when one male victim broke his leg because his boyfriend pushed him out of a moving car.

In another incident, a guy escaped the stronghold of his abusive boyfriend by moving out of the state and into an apartment with a male roommate. The estranged boyfriend eventually found the guy and murdered his roommate.
“They’re really, really hard on each other,” said Stevenson. “It may be that they’re more dedicated (to the relationship).”

Stevenson adds that social pressures and stresses could contribute to the harsher level of violence among homosexual couples.

“When you’re in a relationship like and you’re fighting society to be together, the break-up could be harder to bear.”

Project ReNeWal has assisted 3,149 clients since it started. Of those, only 425 were men seeking help.