Patti Giggans talks about the power of The Y Factor and the men that are leading the charge.
This article originally appeared at 1in6.com.
I had the privilege recently of attending the national summit of a new initiative lead by Esta Soler and her team at Futures Without Violence and the Waitt Institute for Violence Prevention called The Y Factor: Men Leading By Example. The event saluted and encouraged activists and survivors who are committed to ending violence against women and children. We were treated to an assuredly rare event: a conversation between Willie Mays and Joe Torre, two great and generous men. Willie Mays, frail yet still quite charismatic, recounted how as a player and a coach, he mentored the young ball players coming up by guiding them with a clear yet gentle and non-judgmental hand. Joe Torre told his family story as a witness and victim to his police officer father’s abuse of his mother. He spoke honestly and candidly about how terrified he was of his father’s rage and how he would try not to go home to avoid it. He has made it his mission to speak out about the impact of family violence and with his wife Ali Torre has created The Joe Torre Safe At Home Foundation, which creates safe rooms in schools for kids to seek safety and get help. The safe spaces are named Margaret’s Place, in honor of his mother.
The power of the Y Factor event was significant in that more than 50% of those present were men. While I was listening to several men speak out about their own childhood trauma and speak up for the traumatic experiences of others as children and as adults, I was struck by how important this is and how rare it still is to hear men speak about them. When men and boys are encouraged to come out from behind their masculinities and break through the silence, healing begins. That healing can be stopped or stunted if that intimate spoken truth is not received. Trauma needs acknowledgement and it needs to be attended to. Trauma will be acted out if it isn’t acted upon. This requires the teller to have someone to tell. We all have to find ways to create a culture that is receptive and safer for those who suffer from childhood sexual abuse, family violence, sexual violence and all kinds of violences to speak their truths. We have to work much harder to make it safer and even welcoming for men and boys to disclose, reach out, ask for help and be received.
If each and every one of us could commit to learning how provide that “Margaret’s Place,” therein lies a paradigm shift that would transform the world. We could create the possibility of living in a world where we all become “Enlightened Witnesses,” as Alice Miller, the childhood trauma researcher and author advised. We would go beyond being bystanders for each other and be witnesses for and to each other.
This month of April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and Child Abuse Prevention Month, with Denim Days happening all over the country on Wednesday, April 25th. (For more information on Denim Day, and to register to participate, visit www.denimdayusa.org.) Many people will speak out publicly—including electronically—for the first time or disclose to another person. We can practice our “enlightened witnessing” by really listening—not with our ears but with an open heart. When we have the opportunity to be this witness, we can acknowledge the person’s truth without judgment and with compassion by our full attention and by our presence. We can be the receiver of the story that the teller will have a told. We can be a “Margaret’s Place.” Thank you, Joe Torre, for being both a teller and a told.
Patti Giggans is the Executive Director of Peace Over Violence. Peace Over Violence is dedicated to building healthy relationships, families and communities free from sexual, domestic and interpersonal violence. She is also the Vice-President of the Board of Directors for 1in6.
Photo credit: Flickr / NHS Confederation