How Fraternity Men Can Help Fight Domestic Violence
Updated October 19, 2023
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. It's the perfect time for fraternity men to show a true commitment to protecting women and maintaining healthy communities and families. As I read Felecia Commodore’s “Black Sororities and Violence Against Women Awareness,” I realized that we cannot sit on the sidelines and pass up the opportunity to lead this important national conversation. If so many of us can be so steadfast in protecting our mothers, sisters, daughters, nieces, wives, etc., why can't we do the same for other women? Let's put on the table that men are also victims of domestic violence, so some of our very own frat brothers may also be victims of domestic violence. Women, however, are still primary victims.
The statistics, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), are staggering. For example:
Women between the ages of 18-24 are most commonly abused by an intimate partner.
Women abused by their intimate partners are more vulnerable to contracting HIV or other sexually transmitted infections due to forced intercourse or prolonged exposure to stress.
The presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation increases the risk of homicide by 500%.
1 in 15 children are exposed to intimate partner violence each year, and 90% of these children are eyewitnesses to this violence.
Victims of intimate partner violence lose a total of 8 million days of paid work each year.
Up to 60% of victims of intimate partner violence lose their jobs due to reasons stemming from the abuse.
1 in 10 women have been raped by an intimate partner (data on male victims are unavailable).
Between 2003 and 2008, 142 women were murdered in their workplace by their abuser, 78% of women killed in the workplace during this timeframe.
1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner, including behaviors such as slapping, shoving, pushing, etc.
Studies suggest that there is a relationship between intimate partner violence and depression and suicidal behavior.
There are five things that fraternity men, especially members of the Divine Nine, can do to help increase awareness about domestic, dating, and sexual violence. Dr. Halima Leak Francis, a member of Zeta Phi Beta, served as a for chief philanthropy officer for the Texas Muslim Women’s Foundation (TMWF), an agency that provides services for domestic violence victims. She provided insight for this very important piece.
1. Create a barbershop-like atmosphere to openly discuss violence against women.
It may seem cliché but the barbershop is one of the safest spaces for Black men to openly discuss sensitive issues in a masculine way. The fraternal bond is especially a catalyst for this kind of healthy conversation. Creating this safe space at chapter meetings and informal gatherings gives us opportunities to challenge each other with questions like, “What would you do to someone abusing your mother, your daughter, your sister, or your niece?” It helps to hear ourselves and our brothers discuss our attitudes about protecting others.
2. Create a culture that truly values women.
Women enjoy attending fraternity events where we cater to them. But, for real, for real, we have to go beyond roses and chocolates to show women that we value them. Let's level up. Correct brothers who are rude to women. Educate brothers who do not understand how their actions may negatively affect women. Take notes from brothers who show genuine care and respect for women. Also, take time to publicly recognize women who achieve great things, especially if they had to cut through gender discrimination to achieve those great things.
3. Produce domestic violence awareness events.
Fraternity chapters across the country already do this. Bravo! Going forward, chapters should continue their efforts and always remember to include domestic violence professionals and agencies in these events. On college campuses, fraternity chapters should consider visiting their respective health centers for consultation about hosting relevant, meaningful events. Most importantly, produce events that provide safe spaces for people to express their thoughts and empower each other.
In 2013, the City of Dallas produced a huge men’s rally for domestic violence awareness. I was pleased to see all of our Divine Nine fraternities and other fraternities support the rally, but let’s take real action. Some domestic violence shelters need help with things such as facility repairs and beautification. We can also volunteer for organizations such as batterers intervention programs. Volunteering gives us the opportunity to learn from professionals about the dimensions of domestic violence.
5. Say something.
It’s great to partner with organizations for events but we know people in our circles who are victims of domestic, dating, and sexual violence especially on college campuses. We have an opportunity to use the influence of our brotherhoods to protect others. Instead of gossiping and/or “pleading the Fifth,” consult with professionals to get victims help. Ultimately, the best thing is for us to get educated. Examples of great resources include the Collin College Dignity Initiative, the Red Flag Campaign, and the Domestic Violence Hotline. Please share any resource you come across with your frat brothers. Most importantly, take notice of the countless stories on social media and the stories you hear personally and share them, as well.
One valuable lesson I learned from TMWF is that the fight against domestic violence is a fight for healthy families and communities, not fights against individuals. That being said, domestic violence is not an opportunity for us to play hero. Not only are there statistics to remind us of the dangers of getting personally involved in domestic violence disputes, but many of us probably know of situations where someone attempting to step in was seriously harmed or killed.
Here's the biggest lesson. Domestic violence isn't always obvious. Victims hide their pain. That means there is a good chance that someone you care about has a domestic violence story that you have never heard. While fraternity men can’t do everything, I know that victims would appreciate our willingness to do something.