One in four women in the United States will experience domestic violence at some point in their lives. Many more will suffer from sexual assault. Yet, for reasons that are hard to understand, these issues are still considered taboo subjects. Too often, the women who have been affected by these crimes suffer in silence.
This needs to change. As men, we need to do better. We need to create an environment in which the women in our lives feel comfortable enough to open up about their experiences with domestic violence and sexual assault. Only then can we begin to support them in the way they deserve.
Why This Conversation Needs to Happen
The first step in addressing any problem is admitting that it exists. When it comes to domestic violence and sexual assault, too many men remain blinded by denial or ignorant of the fact that these issues affect the women in their lives on a regular basis. This needs to change. We need to start having honest conversations about these difficult topics so that we can begin to address them head-on.
Having this conversation is not easy, but it is necessary. The women in our lives deserve our support, and they should never feel like they have to suffer in silence. So please, take the time to ask the women in your life about their experiences with domestic violence and sexual assault. It could make all the difference in the world.
How to Have This Conversation
If you're not sure how to start this conversation, that's okay. Here are a few tips that might help:
Choose a time when you can talk without being interrupted. Let her know that you want to have a serious conversation and that you're there for her no matter what she has to say.
Be prepared to listen more than you speak. This is not about you; it's about her experiences and feelings. So try to resist the urge to interject your own opinions or experiences into the conversation unless she asks for them.
avoid judging or shaming her in any way. Remember that she is already dealing with a lot of pain and self-doubt; she doesn't need any more of either from you.
Offer your support but don't try to fix her problems for her. She may not be ready or able to discuss what she needs from you just yet but let her know that you're there for her when she's ready.'
Believe her unconditionally. It's estimated that only 2-10% of all reports of sexual assault are false, so chances are good that she's telling you the truth. Even if you have doubts, it's important that you give her the benefit of the doubt and believe what she's saying.
No one should have to suffer through domestic violence or sexual assault alone. If you're a man with women in your life, it's time to start having honest conversations about these difficult topics so we can begin supporting the women we love in the way they deserve—with compassion, understanding, and respect."