Where are the men?

We have been here so many times before. Violence against women is rampant in our state. Violence against women has been rampant in our state forever. Violence against women is an epidemic not unlike Covid, only putting on a mask doesn’t do anything for it except to hide some of the bruises.

It seems as though we go through cycles where we talk about this problem, bemoan its ubiquity in our state and then move on without ever actually seeing any resolution. What seems even more amazing than the dull roar of this repeated lament is the fact that money doesn’t seem to make a difference. We’ll take federal grants because we are Alaska and never say no to federal money. But if money really worked, we would have solved this problem years ago.

I don’t think throwing more money at it will do much towards ending the violence. Money will build more shelters for women and children escaping the violence. That’s helpful. And yes, children arrive at these shelters too. Sometimes they arrive physically intact if emotionally destroyed. But sometimes they show up with as many bruises on them as mom has on her. Being a child in Alaska is a guarantee for far too many children that they too will be beaten.

So why does this problem seem so intractable? We’ve been working at it for decades now and don’t seem to have made much of a dent. What are we doing wrong?

I’d argue, yet again, that the problem is not what we as a state are doing wrong as much as it is the problem of the men in this state not doing something right. They should be making it clear to abusers that they are not welcome in polite society – or any society for that matter. But the men remain disgustedly silent with few exceptions. They still hunt and socialize with the abusers. They offer these abusers no consequences for their actions except an occasional look.

We clearly need to work on convincing women that they deserve better than a black eye every Saturday night and an apology on Sunday morning. But women are only half of the equation. Men are the other half and they are pretty much getting away without consequences.

This is especially hard in the villages where there is often no public safety to call and where the woman and her children are dependent on the man for food and fuel throughout the winter. If your choice is starving or getting hit, you’ll probably choose getting hit. Meanwhile, that hunter will go out with his buddies, bring home his kill and then get drunk,  and beat his woman up right after she makes his strew. I’ve seen it. I’ve experienced it. I know how hard it is to take a stand when you are standing alone. Other women may shelter you for awhile but eventually you have to go home again because you have nowhere else to go.

So in all this violence, where are the men of this state? Where is their voice in condemning their hunting budddies? Why are they so silent?

Sadly, I will probably be writing about this for years to come – same story, same song, same lament. I’ll be on my deathbed and my last piece of writing will be on the role men need to play in stopping this tidal wave of violence in our state. Because nothing seems to make to make a difference. Nothing seems to make them want to have a voice, a loud voice, in this issue. Instead, they keep their heads down and participate in councils, assemblies, church boards and hunting parties with abusers.

When it comes to violence against women, it’s not only the man with the closed fist who is doing the damage. It is every man who accepts this action in their friend or relative. Is it easy to call out someone for this? I don’t know. You tell me which is easier – seeing your sister in the store with bruises on her face and pretending nothing is wrong or refusing to have that abuser as part of your social circle?

It’s just so frustrating that words are simply not adequate. Better you should see the women who arrive at shelters, when there is even a shelter to arrive at. Look at how dead their eyes seem. Look at how frightened the children are. Tell me then that I shouldn’t be hearing the voices of men all over this state condemning the violence and ostracizing the abusers. But all I hear is silence.