A Silent Majority Helps No One
By Kristy Trautmann
Revolutions happen all the time. Scientific discoveries. Elections. Technical innovations. Diagnoses. Babies are born. Loved ones die. The world rearranges itself, sometimes in an instant, to appear fundamentally different. The preposterous becomes ordinary, as mundane as the ability to ask your phone a question and get a response laced with cheeky attitude. The ideas we leave behind become quickly anachronistic, like being unreachable when on vacation or in the car. It’s hard to imagine a past that was commonplace only a decade ago.
Forty years ago, almost no one spoke about domestic violence or rape. Women were just beginning to gather around kitchen tables and take the risk to tell their long-held secrets to each other. Today, men are joining women in talking more openly about it and demanding that things change. While we’ve come a long way in our willingness to talk about family violence, the revolution isn’t over yet.
Just a few weeks ago, FISA held a focus group of local high school girls to ask them about sexual harassment at school. These are things they reported happening every day: catcalling, spreading of sexual rumors, jokes and comments about girls’ appearance, being touched inappropriately, sexting. In their high schools (public, private and parochial), there is a culture where young men get laughs and approval from their friends for treating girls like objects, or worse. The comment that stayed with me the most was, “Guys trade nude photos of girls like Pokemon cards.”
Around the country, every day, kids are growing up and starting to date. Most know friends who are in unhealthy relationships, and it’s easy for them to come to see controlling behaviors as normal. To many, being in a relationship means: demanding a partner’s passwords; checking text messages to see who they are in touch with; acting jealous if they spend time with other friends or family (or hobbies or studying).
Unless we (as parents, teachers, mentors, coaches, neighbors, family, friends) are very loud and very clear about what healthy relationships mean, our kids will remain confused about how to tell love from abuse.
We believe that only a small minority of men are abusive to women. We believe that the overwhelming majority of men promote healthy, respectful attitudes towards women and relationships. But a silent majority helps no one. That’s why four years ago, we began the Father’s Day Pledge to end gender based violence. On Father’s Day—a day when we recognize and thank fathers and other good men for their role in “fathering” kids—we also ask these same men to stand up, and in no uncertain terms, pledge their commitment to ending violence and putting those beliefs into action.
Every revolution starts with an idea, and with a few people willing to take the risk to do something different. Take the first step by signing the Father’s Day Pledge.
Kristy Trautmann is executive director of FISA Foundation.