First, he began to tell her what to wear when they went out, and I did nothing because, obviously, he cares what she looks like.
Then, he came home from a bad day at work and told her the house looked like crap and said she was a pig, and I did nothing because it is his house, isn’t it?
Then, he started calling her bitch and stupid fat whore when he was angry, and I did nothing because I give money to breast cancer research and wear a pink ribbon;
Then, he warned her not to go anywhere with her bitchy best friend, and I did nothing because he was just trying to protect her;
Then, when she did meet her best friend for lunch, he put his fist through the wall a foot from her head, seething with anger and spittle, and I did nothing because he did tell her not to, didn’t he?
Then, he told her not to go anywhere without him, and I did nothing because it’s not really my business;
Then, when she did, he showed her the gun he bought, and I did nothing because I am active in the peace movement;
Then, when she threatened to call the police, he told her they wouldn’t believe her, and I did nothing because they can handle this type of thing;
Then, when she told him she didn’t want to have sex anymore and he forced her, I did nothing because she’s his wife, isn’t she?
And then, when she said she was leaving him, he said he would commit suicide if she did, and I did nothing because it was just an idle threat;
And then when she did leave, he found her and shot her, and I did nothing because it was too late.
And besides, isn’t there some kind of woman’s group that could have dealt with this? Stephen McArthur
Stephen is an Advocate & Community Outreach Coordinator for CIRCLE, a Domestic Violence Agency in Washington County, Vermont. I first saw Stephen’s poem in a shared Domestic Violence Group on LinkedIn and was encouraged by his simple message – men, as a peer group, allow other men to abuse.
Stephen writes: Engaging men is a challenge in our work to end men’s violence against women. Simply put, many men pull back, their eyes glazing over, saying to themselves “this is not about me. I am a good man, and I am glad someone is doing something about these poor women.”
Most men are not abusive and violent with their intimate partners. But almost all men maintain a silence about this violence. I think a lot of men are embarrassed about the male culture of violence, the sexism, the gender stereotyping, the hyper-masculinity of advertising, television shows, movies, videogames, and some music videos. Some men are threatened. Some men are not interested. And some men just don’t care.
But for those men who are well-intentioned, who might end up caring to the extent they actually want to do something, it must be about informing them, educating them, and giving them something simple to do: hand out flyers, help make signs, approach businesses for donations, bring their own personal expertise to educating more people in the community.
The poem’s intention is to help men listen to the real voices in their heads that most possess, and that’s the voice that says “I can do something to help end men’s violence against women”.
What Stephen writes makes me say let’s go further. Let’s have men mentoring men on what healthy, loving intimate relationships look like. Let’s open the door to conversations between men when the evidence points in the direction of abuse, be it verbal, financial or physical. Let’s give men more than posters and signs; let’s give them tools to teach men, the willingness and the courage to call men out reminding them who is being abused…their daughter, their sister, their mother, their niece, their friend, their co-worker…
Let’s give men the power to say “I refuse to stand by and let you abuse!”.
*inspired by Martin Neimoller’s ” When They Came For Me.”