The Men’s March Against Violence is Oct. 3 in Honolulu and I am thrilled to see people taking a public stand against domestic violence in our community. I am also reminded of the ever-present challenge of getting more men involved in this movement.

Last year, I attended a presentation of the #MeToo Survivors Circle at the Arts at Mark’s Garage in Honolulu. Produced by PlayBuilders of Hawaii Theatre Company, the production featured women sharing their true stories as survivors of sexual abuse and domestic violence.

That evening, along with about 60 other audience members, I listened and watched as the women shared deeply personal stories about being sexually abused, violated and assaulted. It was an eye-opening, often discomforting experience.

A part of me was in denial, because, after all, how could a person abuse and inflict such emotional and physical violence on another human being? This can’t be true, I said to myself, but in this case the truth literally did hurt.

After the 60-minute program, most of the audience members stayed for a one-hour discussion about how we as a community could inform and educate others about the far-reaching effects of sexual abuse and domestic violence. We also talked about how to empower both women and men who were affected by domestic violence and abuse.

Out of the approximately 50 people left in the theater, there were only three men, including me. How can that be, I thought? I got my answer later from one of the show’s organizers: “We invite men and they don’t show up. Many of them say, I’m not an abuser, what’s this got to do with me?”

My answer is: “everything.”

Screen shot from the Men’s March Against Violence, Hawaii Facebook page. 

Fellas, it’s time to burst the bubbles we often live in. As men, we need to learn about the causes and effects of abuse and violence to help others and learn more about ourselves. We can even help other men who have their own anger issues. We can influence our children, our boys and girls.

I have eight grandchildren, six girls and two boys. These grandkids are all between the ages of six and fourteen and at this formative time in their lives, I want to teach them the importance of self-esteem, boundaries and how to handle their anger in an acceptable way.

The answer is not to build more shelters and jails. Let’s be proactive and address this issue when these abusers are children. Abusers are not created overnight. Drinking too much alcohol doesn’t create abusers. The seeds of violence were planted well before the abuser first struck their partner or sexually assaulted a stranger.

Scars That Won’t Heal

Men, I urge you to also think about the thread that violence can produce, affecting many lives and leaving emotional and physical scars that never heal.

I know from experience. My half-brother, half-sister and stepmother were murdered by my stepfather in the 1960s. My biological father and my mother had to live with the grief until they passed away. I was blessed in a way that I was only four years old when they were killed so my memories of them are not as defined.

For me they were in my life and then suddenly they were gone. I didn’t find out how they died until I was an adult and that truth continues to haunt me today. Those deaths were preventable.

“Fellas, it’s time to burst the bubbles we often live in.”

Finally, as the Men’s March Against Violence nears, I want to encourage men who have been abused to not wear the shame and stigma of being an “abused man.”

I was in a long-term relationship in which I was physically attacked several times and emotionally assailed. Objects were thrown at me. I received a couple of fat lips and was nearly run over by a van. I shared this secret with only a few people. It was a long time ago, but the memory still lives, and it motivates me to help others.

Abuse and domestic violence are multifaceted issues that cannot be easily understood. I encourage everyone to be a force against domestic violence and abuse by joining in the Men’s March or by creating your own. Attend the upcoming “Bursting Bubbles” PlayBuilders production or make a donation to the Domestic Violence Action Center. Drag this issue out into the light so we can start being proactive and not reactive.

The true “shame” comes from not talking about it but instead taking it to the streets.

An earlier version of this commentary had the wrong date for the event. It is Oct. 3.

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