An Essential Path to Safety and Justice

By Men Stopping Violence

Emerge Center Against Domestic Abuse’s leadership in centering the experiences of Black women during Domestic Violence Awareness Month inspires us at Men Stopping Violence.

Cecelia Jordan’s Justice Begins Where Violence Towards Black Women Ends – a response to Caroline Randall Williams’ My Body is a Confederate Monument – provides a terrific place to start.

For 38 years, Men Stopping Violence has worked directly with men in Atlanta, Georgia and nationally to end male violence against women. Our experience has taught us that there is no path forward without listening, truth-telling and accountability.

In our Batterer Intervention Program (BIP) we require that men name with exacting detail the controlling and abusive behaviors they have used and the effects of those behaviors on partners, children, and communities. We don’t do this to shame men. Rather, we ask men to take an unflinching look at themselves to learn new ways of being in the world and creating safer communities for all. We’ve learned that – for men – accountability and change ultimately lead to more fulfilling lives. As we say in class, you can’t change it until you name it.

We also prioritize listening in our classes. Men learn to hear women’s voices by reflecting on articles like bell hooks’ The Will to Change and videos like Aisha Simmons’ NO! The Rape Documentary. Men practice listening without responding as they give each other feedback. We don’t require that men agree with what is being said. Instead, men learn to listen to understand what the other person is saying and to demonstrate respect.

Without listening, how will we be able to fully understand the effects of our actions on others? How will we learn how to proceed in ways that prioritize safety, justice, and healing?

These same principles of listening, truth-telling and accountability apply on the community and societal level. They apply to ending systemic racism and anti-Blackness just as they do to ending domestic and sexual violence. The issues are intertwined.

In Justice Begins Where Violence Towards Black Women Ends, Ms. Jordan connects the dots between racism and domestic and sexual violence.

Ms. Jordan challenges us to identify and excavate the “relics of slavery and colonization” that infuse our thoughts, daily actions, relationships, families, and systems. These colonial beliefs – these “confederate monuments” that assert that some people have the right to control others and take their bodies, resources, and even lives at will – are at the root of violence towards women, white supremacy, and anti-Blackness. 

Ms. Jordan’s analysis resonates with our 38 years of experience working with men. In our classrooms, we unlearn entitlement to obedience from women and children. And, in our classrooms, those of us who are white unlearn entitlement to the attention, labor, and subservience of Black people and people of color. Men and white people learn this entitlement from the community and social norms made invisible by institutions working in the interests of white males.

Ms. Jordan articulates the devastating, present-day effects of institutional sexism and racism on Black women. She connects slavery and the terror Black women experience in interpersonal relationships today, and she illustrates how anti-Blackness infuses our systems, including the criminal legal system, in ways that marginalize and endanger Black women.

These are hard truths for many of us. We don’t want to believe what Ms. Jordan is saying. In fact, we are trained and socialized to not listen to her and other Black women’s voices. But, in a society where white supremacy and anti-Blackness marginalize the voices of Black women, we need to listen. In listening, we look to learn a path forward.

As Ms. Jordan writes, “We will know what justice looks like when we know how to love Black people, and especially Black women…Imagine a world where Black women heal and create truly just systems of support and accountability. Imagine institutions made up of individuals who pledge to be co-conspirators in fights for Black freedom and justice, and commit to understanding the layered foundation of plantation politics. Imagine, for the first time in history, we are invited to complete Reconstruction.”

As in our BIP classes with men, reckoning with our country’s history of harm to Black women is the precursor to change. Listening, truth-telling and accountability are pre-requisites for justice and healing, first for those most harmed and then, ultimately, for all of us.

We can’t change it until we name it.

Rape Culture and Domestic Abuse

Written piece by Boys to Men

              While there has been much debate about civil war-era monuments, Nashville poet Caroline Williams recently reminded us of the often-overlooked stake in this issue: rape, and rape culture. In an OpEd entitled, “You Want a Confederate Monument? My Body is a Confederate Monument,” she reflects on the history behind the shade of her light-brown skin. “As far as family history has always told, and as modern DNA testing has allowed me to confirm, I am the descendant of black women who were domestic servants and white men who raped their help.” Her body and writing function together as a confrontation of the true results of the social orders that the U.S. has traditionally valued, especially when it comes to gender roles. Despite the robust amount of emerging data that links the traditional gender socialization of boys to a range of public health crises and violence, today, across America, boys are still often raised on an old-school American mandate: “man up.”

               Williams’ timely and vulnerable exposé on her own family history reminds us that gendered and racial subordination have always gone hand in hand. If we want to confront either, we must confront both. A part of doing that is recognizing that there are very normalized objects and practices that litter our daily lives today in America that continue to support rape culture. This isn’t about statues, Williams reminds us, but about how we want to collectively relate to the historical practices of domination that justify and normalize sexual violence.

               Take for example, the romantic comedy, in which the rejected boy goes to heroic lengths to win the affections of the girl who is not interested in him—overcoming her resistance in the end with a grand romantic gesture. Or the ways that boys are lifted up for having sex, whatever the cost. Indeed, the traits that we often ingrain into young boys every day, connected to long-standing ideas about “real men,” are the inevitable foundation for rape culture.

               The implicit, often unexamined, set of values contained in the cultural code to “man up” are a part of an environment in which men are trained to disconnect from and devalue feelings, to glorify force and winning, and to viciously police each other’s ability to replicate these norms. Substituting my own sensitivity to the experience of others (and my own) with the mandate to win and get mine is how I learned to become a man. Normalized practices of domination link the story that Williams tells to the customs that are present today when a 3-year old little boy is humiliated by the adult he loves for crying when he feels pain, fear, or compassion: “boys don’t cry” (boys discard feelings).

              However, the movement to end the glorification of domination is growing, too. In Tucson, on a given week, across 17 area schools and at the Juvenile Detention Center, nearly 60 trained, adult men from across communities sit down to participate in group talking circles with around 200 teenaged boys as a part of the work of Boys to Men Tucson. For many of these boys, this is the only place in their life where it’s safe to let down their guard, to tell the truth about how they are feeling, and to ask for support. But these sorts of initiatives need to gain much more traction from all parts of our community if we are to replace rape culture with a culture of consent that promotes safety and justice for all. We need your help expanding this work.

            On October 25, 26, and 28, Boys to Men Tucson is partnering with Emerge, the University of Arizona and a coalition of devoted community groups to host a groundbreaking forum aimed at organizing our communities to create significantly better alternatives for teen boys and masculine-identified youth. This interactive event will take a deep dive into the forces that structure masculinity and emotional well-being for the young people in Tucson. This is a key space where your voice and your support can help us make a huge difference in the type of culture that exists for the next generation when it comes to gender, equality, and justice. We invite you to join us for this practical step towards cultivating a community in which safety and justice are the norm, rather than the exception. For more information on the forum, or to register to attend, please visit

              This is just one example of the large-scale movement to cultivate love’s resistance to ordinary cultural systems of domination. Abolitionist Angela Davis characterized this shift best when she turned the serenity prayer on its head, asserting, “I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept.” As we reflect on the impact of domestic and sexual violence in our communities this month, may we all have the courage and resolve to follow her lead.

About Boys to Men


Our vision is to strengthen communities by calling men to step up to mentor teenage boys on their journey towards healthy manhood.


Our mission is to recruit, train, and empower communities of men to mentor teenage boys through on-site circles, adventure outings, and contemporary rites of passage.

Response statement from Tony Porter, CEO, A Call to Men

In Cecelia Jordan’s Justice Begins Where Violence Towards Black Women Ends, she offers this powerful truth:

“Safety is an unattainable luxury for Black skin.”

Never in my lifetime have I felt those words to be more true. We are in the throes of a struggle for the soul of this country. We are stuck in the push-pull of a society confronted by its darkest demons and its highest aspirations. And the legacy of violence against my people – Black people, and particularly Black women – has desensitized us to what we are seeing and experiencing today. We are numb. But we are not abandoning our humanity.

When I founded A Call to Men nearly 20 years ago, I had a vision to address intersectional oppression at its roots. To eradicate sexism and racism. To look to those at the margins of the margins to articulate their own lived experience and to define solutions that will be effective in their lives. For decades, A Call to Men has mobilized hundreds of thousands of male-identified aspiring allies to women and girls. We have called them into this work, while holding them accountable, and educated and empowered them to speak out against and take action to prevent gender-based violence and discrimination. And we can do the same for those who want to be aspiring allies to Black people and other people of color. You see, you can’t be anti-sexist without also being anti-racist.

Jordan ended her response with this call to action: “Every interaction with a Black woman brings either the opportunity to address domestic violence and slavery, and atone for systemic harm, or the choice to continue to follow violent societal norms.”

I am honored to work alongside an organization such as Emerge that is willing to embrace the humanity of those being oppressed, particularly Black women. The willingness to step out in front and support their stories and experiences without diluting or editing for self-comfort.  For providing leadership to mainstream human service providers, unapologetically acknowledging, and seeking real solutions to ending the oppression of Black women in the delivery of services.

My role, as a Black man and as a social justice leader, is to use my platform to elevate these issues. To lift up the voices of Black women and others who face multiple forms of group oppression. To speak my truth. To share my lived experience—even though it can be traumatic and is primarily for the benefit of furthering White folks’ understanding. Still, I am committed to using the influence I have to pursue a more just and equitable world.

I second Jordan’s call and strive to meet each interaction with the intention it deserves. I implore you to join me in doing the same. We can create a world where all men and boys are loving and respectful and all women, girls, and those at the margins of the margins are valued and safe.

About A Call to Men

A Call to Men, works to engage men in taking action against domestic abuse through personal growth, accountability and community engagement. Since 2015 we have been proud to partner with Tony Porter, CEO of A Call to Men in our work to become an anti-racist, multicultural organization. We are grateful to Tony and the many staff at A Call to Men who have provided support, guidance, partnership and love for our organization and our community over the years.

Justice Begins where violence toward Black women ends

Cecelia Jordan is a community rooted teacher, poet and transformative justice practitioner. Her organization, Love in Public, develops authentic learning experiences for justice-oriented organizations.

In response to My Body Is a Confederate Monument by Caroline Randall Williams. Thank you, Ms. Williams (@caroranwill), for telling this pivotal truth. 

“Do you think your great-great-great-great grandmother was raped?” 

-This is my father’s question in response to the bold statement: I have raped colored skin. I flail in the sea of misogyny, and explain, “an enslaved person cannot consent.” 

“Well I’d hate to think a Black woman couldn’t make a white man fall in love with her,” he says. I am disgusted. 

He retorts, “I just don’t see what any of that has to do with domestic violence.”

I am a Black queer masculine-of-center woman, an educator, a restorative justice practitioner, a sister, an auntie, a granddaughter, a niece, an unapologetic hood nerd, poet and survivor. My life purpose is guided by a not-so-simple question: how do we heal from harm to embrace a politic of care and build systems rooted in love? If “love is what justice looks like in public,” as Dr. Cornel West says, then we must focus our efforts on those most impacted by injustice. This will require us to step out of our comfort zones, and extend compassion to the people who experience generational harm and are denied access to resources. If we, as a society, cannot believe that Black enslaved women could be raped by their masters and overseers, how can anyone fathom that Black women are currently victims of intimate partner violence?

When a Black woman is harmed, they will blame our attitudes, our clothing choices, our pasts, and assume we don’t feel pain. The fact is, our attitude, our unapologetic commitment to unbridled truth, is built in response to society’s abrasive apathy. We still talk about slavery in connection to violence because Black women are still dying in the hands of systems, and because we all make up systems, Black women are dying in your hands. You are responsible for the relics of slavery and colonization. You are responsible for your thoughts, actions and behaviors toward Black women. You are responsible for believing us, or continuing to uphold contrived, inhumane, hypersexualized fantasies where Black women and girls are harmed because we make rapists fall in love with us. All of these anti-Black ideas must be uprooted.

In Circle, where space is held to uncover shared values and build relationships, I’ve learned two things: most non-Black people are not in deep relationship with Black folx, and once “made aware” of this reality, most admit to causing massive amounts of harm. Intentionality does not reverse the impact of the harm caused: pushing Black women out of their jobs, using Black friends to discuss racism, adopting Black children to not seem racist, teaching Black students to be respectable, ignoring racist jokes amongst family, leaving anti-Black behavior at work unchecked. Seemingly quiet personal adherence to such rules at the expense of Black life is to be expected in a society that follows the rule of law at the expense of Black life.

Safety is an unattainable luxury for Black skin. Domestic Violence Awareness Month gives us a haven to  address this unspeakable truth alongside the always-present elephant in the race conversation: what about Black on Black violence? Yes, Black women are four times more likely than their white peers to be murdered by a boyfriend or girlfriend, and twice as likely to be killed by a spouse. We are harmed by our cousins, uncles, brothers, friends and lovers. Black on Black violence, or interpersonal violence amongst Black people, is symptomatic of a society that creates educational, medical, media, and legal barriers on Black life.

To be Black woman is to be a constant shield and target. Holder of a society’s pleasure and pain. To be strong, eloquent and cold. To be confident, beautiful and bitch. To be mammy, maid and slave. To breastfeed the child that will later be your master. To be violated but nobody calls it violence, just a symptom of a violent society. To be too much and never enough. While our institutions fortify this violence, its roots can be found in the bloody soils of chattel slavery. Here, in our closest interpersonal relationships, we are socialized in abuse. Though less visible, our relationships are confederate monuments, too; they reap terror through our family structures, work systems, and our lives.


In the U.S., Black and Indigenous women face higher rates of domestic violence than women of all other races. The rules that govern our society make it clear that our criminal legal system is not interested in consequences for people who hurt women. Instead, it is designed to incarcerate and re-enslave our people through a Constitutional loophole. If we consider the 13th Amendment to be a systemic noose, then our criminal legal system is a slave monument constructed upon the belief that some are more worthy of humanity than others. Old sayings like “what happens in this house, stays in this house” serve as a reminder that our culture is not only rooted in silencing victims, but in protecting the village; in the hood and the modern day slave quarters where the boys in blue enter like overseers and deliver their so-called version of justice.

Our current version of justice is inherently violent, inhumane, and outdated. We see that violence seeps through domestic soil and grows more domestic violence. In the present-pain of a massive epic fail, we do not want our harmers fatally punished, incarcerated or disposed of—we want healing. And still, when Black women decide to break the silence, we are too often dismissed or made complicit in racist attacks on our people. We fight for scraps of hormone-induced power because it feels like we have none. We stay in abusive relationships because we are always trying to save our people.

We will know what justice looks like when we know how to love Black people, and especially Black women. Loving us is not about returning to the goodness of whiteness, but about acknowledging the violence of white perversion and the falsities of its “truths.” Imagine a world where Black women heal and create truly just systems of support and accountability. Imagine institutions made up of individuals who pledge to be co-conspirators in fights for Black freedom and justice, and commit to understanding the layered foundation of plantation politics. Imagine, for the first time in history, we are invited to complete Reconstruction.

In this generational war on Black people, it is Black women who face violence on multiple fronts. In honor of this month, and in the days, months and years to come, make time to see and listen to the Black women in your life. Don’t speak, don’t argue, just remember you can never even begin to imagine the immense amount of unspeakable pain we carry, both epigenetically and in this lifetime. Be of service and stay late to help; don’t ask for uncompensated labor. Buy lunch and cook dinner; gift money, for no reason at all. Learn about the true history of this country—about systemic violence and anti-Blackness. Talk to your folx and find ways to hold people accountable. And above all, build deep relationships with people committed to communal transformation, radical policy change, and resources every system in this country needs.

Every interaction with a Black woman brings either the opportunity to address domestic violence and slavery, and atone for systemic harm, or the choice to continue to follow violent societal norms. Know that this awakening will change everything. We must change everything in the name of love, of future, and in the spirit of Black women who continue to carry our movements toward justice.

To take action, visit Love In Public and help provide safe learning and healing spaces for Black folx during Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and in the months to come.


 About Love In Public. Love in Public provides authentic and tailored learning experiences to justice-oriented organizations to build strong relationships, center the identities and experiences of those most pushed to the margins, and catalyze those findings to inform a path toward organizational change and sustainability.

We integrate critical pedagogy, restorative justice, and healing practices into our learning work which is based in theoretical understandings of Black queer feminism, Latinx Critical Theory, Tribal Crit, and more. Together, we engage in simulations, poetry, speech, and opinion writing workshops, gallery walks, improvisation theatre, deep listening activities, and circles.


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