These and Those: M.A.D.V.O.W. - Men Against Domestic Violence On Women

Last night, I had the opportunity to attend an event coordinated by an up-and-coming movement called M.A.D.V.OW. - Men Against Domestic Violence On Women - for its third annual social hosted in a lounge space donated by Barça restaurant and tapas bar in Hartford. There was spoken-word, music, food, and most compelling, stories of survival relayed by women and men- (including a personal testimonial by musical guest, Heshima Moja ) - who’ve been profoundly affected by domestic abuse.

One survivor relayed how she spent years shuttling back-and-forth between her relationship with a physically and emotionally abusive man and her family, who she stayed with whenever she’d leave him, before finally seeking refuge at a shelter for abused women. During her time there, she gleaned insight and encouragement from advocates and other survivors, who helped her feel empowered and strong enough to rebuild her life and move on and away from her abuser for good. Another survivor stressed the importance of patience from friends and family and pointed out how many survivors don’t willfully fall in love with men who’re abusive; but with men who’re initially charming and loving before setting out to isolate their victims and gradually subject them to abuse.

Poets read performance pieces inspired by personal experiences and the event’s host gave harrowing accounts of having lost two loved ones to violence and the pain of not seeing proper justice meted out to the perpetrators; one of whom has been a fugitive for the past ten years and may not even be in the country.

A professor recounted growing up seeing his mother suffer years of abuse at the hands of his father and how it came to a head after he shot his father in the leg during a scuffle, which resulted after he came to his mother’s defense. He said his father was adamant about accepting blame so his son wouldn’t go to jail and to enable him to finish college and not have to endure having a record. He said the encounter left an indelible impact on him, and drove him to become an advocate for victims of sexual assault and violence. After a chance meeting with a woman during a social event, he now volunteers his time helping train and empower survivors at an organization based in Naugatuck, CT called Jane Doe No More.

One of the oft-emphasized and most important messages last night was the destructiveness of victim-blaming; “One of the worse things you can say to a woman suffering from abuse is to call her stupid for going back or ask why she won’t leave.” A survivor said. “Abusers isolate victims from their families and friends, a lot of times they don’t have money, nowhere to go. They don’t have an escape plan and remember abuse can happen to anyone, we didn't do anything wrong other than fall in love with someone we didn’t think would hurt us.” She said.

Men spoke about how social-engineering often discourages them from discussing the violence they see perpetrated against women and how their silence (particularly when they know of friends and acquaintances who’re abusers) makes them complicit. “It’s not something you discuss with your friends on the basketball court or at the barbershop, but if we see it or know about it, we need to speak up.” Christian, one of the event coordinators, said.
 The male demographic in the room were encouraged to sign a pledge to help increase awareness about domestic abuse and to help end it when they see or know about it. Proceeds from M.A.D.V.O.W. III were to benefit Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence (CCADV) to aid in their prevention efforts and to help educate young men and boys to be the leaders of tomorrow's fight to end abuse.

I definitely learned a great deal more listening to people’s stories, and I can’t think of a better way to have spent a Saturday evening and I  hope the M.A.D.V.O.W.  movement continues to gain momentum as they work to increase awareness.

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