A Boy’s Trauma, One Man’s Violence, and How Two Men Want to Heal the World – Part 3
In Part 1, I described the wounding Scott Harrison and I experienced and how it led to heightened separation, anger, and violence. In part 2 I examined the connection between trauma in our families of origin and later violence in our lives. Here I am going to take a closer look at how violence against women relates to the world’s lack of clean water.
Jed Diamond finds his calling in healing trauma and violence one family after another
One of the first clients I saw when I started my practice as a consultant was a man named Michael. He was a tall guy with calloused hands and the look of a man you didn’t want to mess with. He had been referred by the courts as an alternative to prison for beating his wife. He was resilient and grumpy for most of our first few sessions. “I don’t really have a problem,” he told me. “None of this would have happened if my wife hadn’t called the police. She told them I hit her, which was wrong. I hardly touched her. “
It took many months of counseling before he finally told me this story about his childhood. “My father was a police officer and I loved him with blind devotion,” he told me. “I didn’t see my father often as a child because he worked long hours and I often slept when he came home.” Michael was silent long before he continued. “But when I saw him, I would run to him and wrap my arms around his neck as soon as he walked in the door.”
Michael’s face lit up for a moment as he continued.
“I remember a game we played when I was maybe four or five years old. I climbed on a chair and shouted, “Catch me!” when I jumped into his arms and squealed with joy. “
“I remember the day it happened …” The silence again. But this time there was a slight tremor in his voice as he continued.
“I climbed up on the chair as always and yelled” Daddy, Daddy, catch me “as I flew through the air with my arms outstretched …” Michael swallowed hard and looked across the room and saw a scene he couldn’t imagine could. “But just as I was reaching for him he turned away and I hit my head on the table as I fell to the floor. I was stunned when I was on the floor and my chin was bleeding profusely. He picked me up and laid me on his lap and told me to calm down. “
Michael’s words were firm. His eyes were wet and tears ran down my cheeks as he repeated his father’s words. “Baby boy, you have to learn … you can’t trust anyone in this life, not even your own father.”
Michael sighed. “I never really remembered that scene until now. I just know that I never reached for him again. That day something in me died or was buried. I don’t know. “Michael paused as he thought.” There were other lessons along the way to empower me and make myself a man. I just thought it was … but I always miss my father still and jump into his arms. “
When I learned about Michael’s life, I began to understand the impact childhood trauma had on our lives. I also wondered what kind of childhood his father must have had to believe that this kind of behavior was necessary to strengthen his son for life as a man.
Although I’ve worked with many men, women, and families over the past 52 years, I’ve mostly worked with men who have become irritable, angry, aggressive, and at times violent towards their families. I’ve learned that every violent man I’ve worked with has experienced violence at some point in his life, most commonly in the family he grew up with.
Since 1969, MenAlive, an organization I founded, has helped more than 50,000 men, women and families. I describe my own healing journey in my book The Irritable Male Syndrome: Understanding and Managing the 4 Main Causes of Depression and Aggression.
How male violence and the water crisis affect women
Healthy men recognize that our primary role in the world is to protect and serve, but too few of us stand a chance to make a difference around the world. Too many women are affected by male violence and the water crisis is killing women. When speaking with Scott about the work they are doing to bring clean water to the world, he made it clear that their job is not just bringing clean water to people around the world, but women and girls too rescue.
“We met young girls who run in the heat of the Sahel zone to collect water from 1000-year-old holes,” he told me. “We met women in Ethiopia who go to the river before sunrise and only come back after lunch. We even met mothers in Mali who sometimes sleep next to an open water source so that they can come first when the water fills up the next morning. “
This time adds up. “Worldwide, women and girls spend an estimated 200 million hours every day collecting water,” said Scott.
“This stress robs women and girls of time to study, time to be a child, time to earn an income, time to rest and time to spend with the family. For hundreds of millions of people Being born female means that life revolves around collecting water. Everything else comes second. “
Even more than robbing women and girls of their time, it can rob them of their lives. “Even when they’re sick and injured, women have to take the physically strenuous walk for water every day – returning with a 40-pound canister,” says Scott. “They often cross dangerous terrain. We’ve heard heartbreaking stories of wildlife attacks, women falling from cliffs in Ethiopia, and girls unable to swim and drowning in open water springs in Uganda. “
I’ve learned that one of the most common threats to women and girls on their way to water is falling victim to gender-based violence. “We have met too many women and girls who have been subjected to horrific sexual assault: young girls like Grace and Sarah in Uganda,” said Scott.
I cried when I heard their story and thought of my own daughters and granddaughters. “The sisters went out for walks every day to collect water for their families,” said Scott. “One day, on her way back from the lake, Grace was attacked by a group of men and one of them sexually assaulted her. Weeks later, she found out that she was pregnant. Grace was 14 years old. Not long after, her sister Sarah was also attacked, sexually assaulted, and pregnant on the same route to the water. “
The results were heartbreaking. “Both sisters dropped out of school and fought the stigma of being young, unmarried, and pregnant in their community. It was a devastating and debilitating time. “Imagine if these were your sisters or daughters. What would you do to keep this from happening to them? But it doesn’t have to be that way. Clean water can save lives, and men can help.
“Today Grace, Sarah, and all the women in their village no longer go to the lake to collect their water,” says Scott.
“Thanks to our local partner in Uganda, GOAL, they have a well in the middle of their village that women can access without fear of being attacked by anything or anyone. Until everyone has met this basic need, women around the world will wake up every day and put their bodies on the line to collect water. “
Healing male violence and bringing clean water into the world are related
For most of human history, humans lived in equilibrium with the natural world. We lived with clean air and clean water. Six thousand years ago we changed our two million year old heritage and began to dominate nature. What we have done to the natural world, we have done to ourselves, women, children, and other men.
As Dr. Riane Eisler says in her book Der Kelch und die Klinge and more recently in the book with Douglas P. Fry about the advancement of our humanity: How domination and partnership shape our brain, our life and our future: “There are two major cultural configurations at opposite ends of a continuum: the partnership system and the rule system. “Our roots are in partnership, and men can lead the way to return to our roots in partnership.
Healing male violence has been my life’s work. My vision is to bring together a million men who are committed to healing male violence in the world, starting with a collaborative effort with Scott Harrison and Charity: Water. I would love to see a million men come together to end the violence that caused our separation from the earth and bring clean water to everyone. Like the Million-Man March in Washington DC in 1995, I envision a Million-Man March to end violence in the world. It would be a gathering of men genuinely ready to protect and serve.
For more information on how you can join our efforts, please email me at [email protected] and include “End Violence, Bring Water” in the subject line.
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