To Prevent Violence, Insist Men Stop the Abuse

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(WOMENSENEWS)–In the drive to end violence against women, even well-meaning allies can take a wrong turn.

Such was the case with a recent editorial in a small city newspaper in the progressive city of Northampton, Mass., two towns over from where I live. The community has a long history of working to prevent domestic violence, including longstanding collaborations among a variety of stakeholders, such as battered women’s shelters and the police, the district attorney’s office and, at 22 years, one of the oldest batterer intervention programs in the country.

"Seeking safety for women" was the headline of the Aug. 1 editorial published in response to the life sentence domestic violence murderer David W. Vincent III received. The brutal 2009 beating Vincent inflicted on his girlfriend Rebecca Moulton in Pittsfield, Mass.–plus not calling for medical assistance for the nearly eight hours following his assault–undoubtedly left many hearts aching and minds enraged. Unequivocally, the responsibility for what happened rests with Vincent.

"When their partners turn violent," the editorial reminded readers "women are at tremendous risk." Fair enough.

But what missed the mark, by a wide margin, was the editorial’s final sentence, which placed an onus on women that rightly belongs with men. "Unless we all help women understand the danger they face from violent partners and insist they seek safety, these tragedies will continue unchecked," the editorial concluded.

Burdening the Woman

Huh? It makes little sense to place the burden of preventing violence on the woman. Why "insist" she seek safety instead of emphatically and unambiguously demanding violent men stop abusing?

Becky Moulton, a "funny, creative, smart and sweet" woman, as the editorial described her, is more than a symbol of the domestic violence epidemic that continues to plague society. Her senseless murder presents us with an opportunity to commit (or recommit) ourselves to preventing such acts. That opportunity will be compromised, though, if nonviolent men are not part of the effort.

It’s time to shift the paradigm from women seeking shelter from men’s violence to insisting angry men stop abusing their partners. And, we need that shift everywhere–our educational system, media, sports culture, government, the courts, faith communities–so we can collectively lay to rest a damaging, outmoded view of men and masculinity.

That shift also means teaching boys and girls (and men and women) to look at relationships through the lens of equality. The old-school belief of men dominating women, which sanctions misogynistic music videos, produces television shows that objectify women and denigrate fathers and fails to confront privileged men (most often, white) flouting their entitlement, all must be loudly and relentlessly challenged.

Begin With Education

We’ve come a long way from the days of police turning a blind eye to family violence perpetrated behind closed doors. But we have to do more than just arrest and jail perpetrators, or order them into batterer intervention programs. We have to begin educating elementary school boys and girls about respect in relationships before their ideas about gender solidify.

Imagine clergy, policymakers, coaches, parents and teachers articulating a vision of a better world, a healed society and a cooperative community. And imagine that the final sentence of a newspaper’s domestic violence editorial read: "Unless we educate boys and men about healthy relationships–including teaching nonviolent, conscious communication–some men will continue to believe dominating and abusing women is acceptable behavior and domestic violence tragedies will continue unchecked."

Women have a right to expect that they no longer have to work to prevent domestic violence alone. Since the majority of men are not violent, it is time for them to speak out about the abuse a minority of men perpetrate.

Doing so is one way to honor the memory of Rebecca Moulton and offer a small measure of consolation to her family. To repair a culture of violence, where domestic abuse murders too often still occur, can we do anything less?

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Rob Okun is editor of Voice Male magazine, a psychotherapist and an equal rights justice of the peace in Amherst, Mass.  He can be reached at

4 thoughts on “To Prevent Violence, Insist Men Stop the Abuse

  1. A first, long comment is in moderation, and my 2nd one was lost. This is my 3rd, and I’ll try to keep it short. For one, I’m a DV survivor, and activist to expose what happens AFTER women get restraining orders, and the collective silence on this among classic “raise-the-conscience” type education-oriented endeavors among “DV advocates.”

    I don’t know this woman, but I am working with women (survivors) in your state and other states (south, midwest, west coast) by internet & phone to expose the domestic violence/fatherhood/familycourt industry collaborations.

    The two links I have to Becky Moulton show me two basic facts: one, her boyfriend was 13 years old (27 to 40) and two, he had a daughter. I am wondering did he have custody of that daughter, and if so, what does that say about the court system? Or even if he had regular visitation, what was the prior relationship?

    One of the things I had to unlearn after filing my RO was being too trusting of people or groups that wanted to “help” and, even when I did correctly see where that “help” had a back-end bill (a heavy one), I did not know enough about my own courts and governmental systems (including enforcement — police, county sheriffs) to protect myself.

    The fact is, this society is probably not ready for equality between the sexes — too many institutions depend on maintaining the subjugation of women by men, and let’s not forget, the subjugation of certain classes and kinds of men by other men, AND women, who get to set policy, pontificate in think tanks, publish their pontifications, collaborate association by association, and in many cases, accumulate wealthy partners to continue doing this while women die, and kids are then left with one less parent, or sometimes two less. Or the kids also die in the process.
    This shows the ages, and is from 2009, reporting her death.
    This shows that he had a daughter, and is from 2011, reporting the charges:
    “The Berkshire Eagle reported that his lawyer has questioned the prosecution’s witness list, which includes the defendant’s daughter. ”

    Anyone, probably, could look up his background, in between going “what a shame” and “what a terrific loss.” His daughter is around somewhere, and does she have a mother? What the daughter has for a father is a murderer, and I’d almost lay a bet (might be wrong, but chances are) that part of what this wonderful 27 yr old was doing in this man’s life was helping him keep that daughter away from some other woman, who may have left him for similar reasons. People don’t just up and murder someone out of the blue, the capacity and intent is there earlier.
    This (2011) is his criminal defense attorney (state-appointed?) going to bat for him. . .. . which is that attorney’s job.,_Massachusetts
    Sounds like since 2000 forward, Berkshire County has no county government, the state absorbs functions.

    Perhaps someone concerned this doesn’t repeat itself (though it will) might take the time to look up Mr. Vincent’s prior relationship and see what happened that his daughter had to have a murderer (Alleged!) for a father now, and if this related to his girlfriend’s moving in with him. Was there financial co-dependency, did he need her to babysit, or what?

    Then look at this organization which is quite powerful in massachusetts, as in several other states, and is not very, ah, “feminist’ in leanings:
    Probate and Family Courts Resource Page, Massachusetts Courts. Please note only ONE link under “domestic violence” (center of table of links) and the top left link under SELF HELP is “AFCC Shared Parenting” (click on it, suggested) and to the middle right, another link to “AFCC” with a warning you are leaving the Massachusetts Court Site.

    If we want to honor this particular woman, take some time and FIND OUT about the situation in some slightly non-traditional terms. Because even though (it seems) Rebecca did not have children, and was not? in the courts, she was involved with a man who probably had been, in fact she moved IN with a man who had been, and ended up dead.

    I am a mother also, and all of us to date are alive. It took approximately 10 years — and a real fight — after filing a restraining order (that was unenforceable anyhow) to get some separation, and it cost me too much! it cost our kids TOO much! This should not be a life sentence, whether it results in an execution or it results in a life-long fight to survive as a person and an independent entity with a few civil rights.

    There are many “crisis in the courts” groups around, but I think it’s fair to say that MOST of them are into the ‘educate everyone” mode — either education the general populace about it’s bad to bully women and kids, OR the “educate judges” mode. This is a laugh, because so many judges already belong to organizations that are themselves dedicated to educating the rest of the world (and at my site, I can prove that’s literal, not figurative) about their relative places in it, i.e., your kids are OURS til they turn 18, and so are your lives. Accountability is optional, but compliance with our paradigm is essential.

    I am speaking a little cryptically about nonprofit organizations that function as money laundering (too often, though not always) and about which most of us know just too little. I have been studying AFCC, the related, and associated groups (including the DV groups) particularly diligently after I lost my kids to a batterer overnight, and realized afterwards they’d been sitting on information that could’ve helped prevent this.

    I do have to go now, but blog consistently at (for starters). I am a Christian feminist that is (presently) conscientiously boycotting church attendance, in particular after watching so many pastor’s & deacon’s wives (etc.) in DV support groups, some of who had tried to kill them, and after reporting a close call myself to my own pastor(s), who tried to just not talk about it. A pattern which will be followed in their flocks as well. It’s safer, probably, outside certain such “flocks.”

    Economic violence is violence, and it’s time to understand how this works in the field of “domestic violence.” I’m thinking of doing a follow-up post about one of the WeNews funders (that I’ve run across before) for an example of how there just MIGHT be a better way not to try and stop worldwide violence, but defend ourselves and our loved ones, LOCALLY, against it the next time round.

    This has more to do with the tax system and child support/welfare than it does with DV rhetoric, which I believe most people know by now, anyhow and have either accepted or rejected, period.

    If anyone actually researches the Rebecca Moulton case on-line, please comment on my blog, because I have some MA contacts and we are making a major difference on both coasts (East/West — I’m from California) and will incorporate this. “domestic violence” is a term, a concept, and also a theory. However, in some circles, it’s a calling card to funding, with zero responsibility to actually stop criminal assaults on women. We need to know that (Rob Okun. . . . ??). I was conversing (by email) with Barry Goldstein and NOMAS about this a few weeks ago and hope to continue. I LOVE sensitive and thoughtful men, and have known many of them and worked with them, but not a one was able to prevent the crimes against me or my kids; they helped me survive the aftermath.

    I also believe younger women (not to blame them, for sure) should be VERY cautious about engaging romantically with a man that much older. It may work, but there may be a reason he wants a younger model after having used up the first one. It’s so flattering to say, “I’m better than that bitch, she treated him wrong.” Suggestion: Get both sides of the story, if possible, before moving in.

    PS. a lot of my material is based on the work of Liz Richards (1993),, who is still active. However, as it wasn’t being blogged actively enough (people are not paid to blog that kind of information), it didn’t grab my attention in time to make a difference in my children’s lives. That’s why I blogged and developed it further, coming up on three years now.

    I am still struggling some with PTSD, as there are still abusers in my life (family of origin) who were behind the overnight child-stealing for financial and pride reasons. There is so much to be learned from women who have gone through this, and from (I’d like to add) men who have gone through being extorted by the child support system into paying off the AFCC crowd by either taking some of their program-funded (fatherhood, parenting, divorce, etc.) classes, or going back to jail for failure to pay up. These are the environment separations take place in, and it’s good to know about.

    • I do agree that men should step-up and participate in the fight to end violence against women. This is an issue that has been going on for decades and no one will admit that so many women, each year, are losing their lives at the hands of people that once said I love you. And the said thing about it, their are laws against violent crimes, but the crimes against women are treated as separate issues. Some women lose their lives by the hands of strangers, simply because they are women. I am a victim of domestic violence. My ex-husband use to beat me for no reason. I guess he looked at me and thought, it seems like a good day to beat the heck out of my wife. He was an alcoholic and when he had one too many drinks, I would become his punching bag, and a lot of times, so did our children. I am no longer married to him, but it took my over 20 years to cut myself loose from his manipulation. I pray that as men join in the fight to help women, they will begin to touch other men to step-up and be men. I wonder, if the men that refuse to join this fight, are men that also abuse their spouses, or mates. I find that a lot of time, people shy-a-way from most issues that they too, are guilty of, or have been involved in at some point in their lives. Thank you so much for letting me share my thoughts and concerns about domestic violence against women. I will revisit this site because this is an issue that is close to my heart, and I want to be able to help as many women overcome domestic violence as humanly possible.

  2. I loved your comment- and it was not too long. It was exactly what needed to be said. I am a survivor of DV as well and the court system was HORRIBLE. When my minister ex-husband violated his parole and contacted me -the police and courts could have cared less. There was only 1 advocate for the DV courtroom and she was of course -over worked with an entire courtroom to herself.
    I think the only time they take notice is when some is killed, or worse the children are killed. We have got to stop the madness behind DV. Yes it takes education, and time etc… but it starts with the courts and the police ENFORCING what they have established!

    J’Anmetra Waddell

  3. The White Ribbon Campaign to bring men into the movement to end violence against women was started by the late Jack Layton and some of his colleagues after the 1989 “Montreal Massacre” that killed 6 women engineering students. Layton was the leader of the Official Opposition Party in Canada’s Parliament and a tireless worker for social and civil rights. Canadians would really appreciate it if Americans would acknowledge (or even know about) the deep and pervasive grief being felt across Canada this week by the lose of Jack Layton – an optimistic and inspiring leader who died of cancer this week at the age of 61.