A father's power -- why men must talk with their kids about domestic violence

Two weeks ago I tuned into the “Sound of Change,” concert in London that was raising money to advance women’s issues in education, health and justice.

I was drawn to the program for many reasons—the star studded line-up and a curiosity to see how such a broad platform—helping women—could be tackled with such a huge net.

I was also drawn to the concert professionally, so to speak.As the CEO of a company that has for years dedicated its philanthropic efforts to helping women, I was curious to see if our work would intersect in any way. While our philanthropic efforts have resulted in helping thousands of women overcome economic challenges, the work I am most proud of centers on bringing an end to domestic violence.


Although, I am sure the broadcast met a number of its goals and was able to provide support to many worthy organizations that are combating domestic and sexual violence, I was sorry that the often hidden and stigmatized issue of violence against women, arguably the most important issue holding women back globally, was not elevated even more prominently, given the tremendous opportunity for radical visibility that the concert offered.

It got me thinking about other opportunities to socialize the issue further—and I realized Father’s Day was that opportunity.

There are so many voices talking about domestic violence, but few as important, influential, or effective as a father to his children.

Perhaps the greatest gift we can give our children is the ability to have and sustain healthy, mature relationships, built on respect and trust.

I firmly believe that talking about the problem and educating about healthy relationships can reduce the violence and protect our children. And men can have a powerful impact if our children hear directly from us why healthy relationships must be a priority.

And yet, I’ve seen a survey sponsored by the Avon Foundation for Women that shows that these conversations are not happening. Three out of 4 men in this country say they have not talked about domestic violence or sexual assault with their children. Thus, despite the pervasiveness ofdomestic violence and sexual assault,many people feel like they are something they’d rather not discuss—yet alone bring up with their kids.

That is why I am supporting a new effort, called NO MORE (www.nomore.org), to break through the silence surrounding these problems and get men—fathers— talking about the issue.

NO MORE starts with a symbol – a blue circle that I wear as a pin.

Just by wearing it, I open the door to questions. “What does that blue symbol mean?” and “Why are you wearing that?”

The little blue pin even gave me the chance to tell my own three sons that having healthy relationships is as important a goal and value as any that I could hope for them. Violence and abuse, power and control, are never OK -- ever.

Being self aware and reflective about their relationships is essential -- as is helping their friends become self-aware as well.

There was power in that discussion with my boys; especially as I shared personal stories of hard encounters I had as a child in a home that was characterized by an unhealthy relationship between my parents.

I am now wearing this little blue symbol as a way of saying NO MORE beyond my inner circle. We, as a society, need to say NO MORE —we need to lose our tolerance and patience for domestic violence. The little blue pin is my way of spreading that word.

I hope fathers join me in teaching their sons and daughters about healthy relationships part of their missions as fathers.

Bringing an end to domestic violence and sexual assault will start with people like us—everyday people—standing up and saying NO MORE.