Opinion | Domestic violence is a men’s issue

We often view domestic violence as a women’s issue. To create change, we need to shift the conversation.

Sam Knupp, Opinions Contributor

The Johnson County Domestic Violence Intervention Program announced in early March that they’ll soon be opening a larger shelter.

One in four women, and one in seven men have been abused by an intimate partner. DVIP development director Alta Medea-Peters said in a Iowa City Press-Citizen article that the organization has seen a 38 percent increase in the number of victims seeking its services since 2017.

We need to ask ourselves why this is and how we can solve it. And much of the solution lies in the way we frame the issue.

The public will often view domestic violence as a women’s issue, which erases men from the conversation. That’s a problem, not only because men are also affected by relationship abuse, but because most domestic violence perpetrators are men.

The U.S. Department of Justice reported that around 95 percent of reported assaults are committed by men against women.

We ask why victims stay in abusive relationships when we should be asking why people are committing acts of abuse in the first place.

While asking why victims stay with abusive partners can lead to a productive conversation about the dynamics of abusive relationships, people often ask the question with a lack of desire to know the actual answers.

Domestic violence victims are more likely to be killed after leaving the relationship. Economic abuse occurs in 98-99 percent of domestic violence cases, making it financially unfeasible for victims to leave. And victims also stay in relationships, because they don’t want to leave children or pets behind with their abusers.

So, with that out of the way, let’s focus on how we can prevent abuse from happening in the first place.

Author and anti-violence advocate Jackson Katz has said for years that domestic violence is a men’s issue. Katz believes in the bystander approach, stating that in the modern patriarchal society, men have the power to be heard saying certain things women don’t.

Because of this, it’s important for men to speak out and make themselves allies in the fight against domestic abuse.

Katz said in a 2013 TED Talk that the bystander approach aims to create a peer culture climate where abusive or discriminatory behavior is seen as unacceptable, causing men who act out in sexist ways to lose status, thereby disincentivizing the behavior.

We can achieve this by simply calling out sexist behavior and statements within our friend groups. It’s easier said than done. Calling out a friend who’s acting in a sexist manner takes more courage than participating in a protest but can potentially create more change.

Sexism is woven into almost every aspect of our society and rooting it out will take effort and cause discomfort.

Take media for example. Women are regularly degraded in music, movies, and TV shows. But people consume sexist media regardless, because they enjoy it — either because of or despite the sexism within it. And if people consume it, there’s no reason for the industries to change.

It’s the same reason men are often left out of the conversation pertaining to domestic violence. Both abusers and non-abusers benefit from the patriarchal society. Shifting the conversation would obligate people to change their ideals, give up control or perceived security they enjoy having, and exert effort they’d rather not exert.

To create the changes we desire, bystanders need to mobilize, and we collectively need to address domestic violence as a men’s issue.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.