Kasandra Perkins’ Murder – Some Things Keeping Three Guys Up at Night

Jovan Belcher‘s murder of Kasandra Perkins should be keeping us up at night. Families, communities, football fans, men – we all have reasons to be upset by this murder.

For us three guys, there are some specific things keeping us lying awake these past few nights.nfl DV

1.  Almost nobody in the mainstream media is saying it. But for those of us who do this work, the Belcher case sounds like domestic violence. A lot. And domestic violence (DV) happens. A lot. Most men reading this know someone who has been affected by it. Perhaps we witnessed it ourselves. The majority of DV is never reported. And while it can be committed by anyone against anyone, 1 out of 4 women in the US are abused by men in their lifetime[1]. On average, three times a day in the U.S. a man kills his female partner or ex-partner.[2]. It happens. A lot. While this case is tragic and shocking, it is not by any means uncommon. So, why are we pretending this case is something else? Why are we so afraid to confront the reality that we all know?

The reality of domestic violence in the US goes far beyond this small paragraph. It has kept us up many nights. But it’s not the reason we’re writing this today.

2.  Media coverage of domestic violence tends to suck. Big time. When DV does make headlines, it is often grossly distorted to the point of doing more harm than good. Predictably, we are seeing: victim blaming, minimization, denial or distortion of the “facts”. And as with other celebrities and athletes of color – racism, mostly coded.  Some examples of all too common headlines and (lack of) discussion about domestic violence:

Two examples that we like a whole lot more:

Members of the media need to be held accountable when they perpetuate victim-blaming myths. This has also kept us up many nights. But the reason we’re writing this today-the reason we’ve been up nights these past few days – is….

3.  Domestic violence is also a MEN’S ISSUE.  Belcher’s case shows us this, dramatically and poignantly. It is a men’s issue because it affects our lives, all of us, whether we are aware of it or not. And usually we are very aware. But we don’t admit it.

We need to ask ourselves:

How are we as men – and the men in Jovan’s life – working to ensure that this never happens again?

Are we men challenging those (news outlets, our families, even our fantasy football leagues) who blame victims of domestic and sexual violence for someone else’s choice to control, abuse, and even murder?

Are we as men okay with men committing violence against women? If not, what are we doing to stop it?

This, THIS is what is keeping us up at night.

Men’s silence. Our own deafening silence.

Our silence in the face of this epidemic of violence is intolerable. How dare we men turn a blind eye when our brothers, fathers, uncles, co-workers and teammates commit violence against the women in our lives? Against women we have never met?

How dare we men stay silent? Women have been speaking, yelling, begging, arguing for decades (centuries!) about domestic violence. Women have been educating us about it, and waiting for us to stand with them as allies – waiting for us to finally end our silence.

And where are we? It is time for us as men to PUT UP OR SHUT UP. Either we start speaking out en-masse against men’s violence, or admit publicly that it isn’t a priority for us. That we actually don’t care about the consequences of violence against women.

But silence is not acceptable anymore. It can’t be. Too many women (along with a growing number of men) have worked too hard for too long. Domestic violence is too well known. Too many are injured and dying for us to stay silent anymore. There are no excuses left. Really, there never were.

If this confuses you, inspires you, angers you, just plain affects you in any way then join us at Masculinity U…or Joe Erhmann – Coach For America, or the National Organization for Men Against Sexism, or Men Can Stop Rape, or A Call to Men, or Men Stopping Violence, or the White Ribbon Campaign, or Coaching Boys Into Men, or Promundo, or the dozens of other men’s and women’s organizations doing the work we should be doing.

In the wake of Jovan Belcher’s actions, support the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, or the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, or the Rose Brooks Center, or the Kansas City Anti-Violence Project, or your local domestic violence organization. Donate goods to them, contribute money, volunteer for them – call them and see what they need. Write to Congress – urge them to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act before it expires at the end of the month.

Or start your own damn group.

And share this with the men in your life.

Sincerely and in brotherhood,

Joe Samalin, Sacchi Patel, and Ben Atherton-Zeman


[1]Tjaden, Patricia & Thoennes, Nancy. National Institute of Justice and the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, “Extent, Nature and Consequences of Intimate Partner Violence: Findings from the National Violence Against Women Survey,” (2000).
[2] Bureau of Justice Statistics Crime Data Brief, Intimate Partner Violence, 1993-2001, February 2003. Bureau of Justice Statistics, Intimate Partner Violence in the U.S. 1993-2004, 2006.

Acts of Kindness: Countering Bullying in our Schoolyards

This is a  look at bullying from a mental health perspective that I originally wrote for bringchange2mind.wordpress.com. We will also look at bullying from a masculinity perspective in a couple of weeks. However, since the two aren’t mutually exclusive and since this topic needs all the attention it can get, here goes:

My heart may have been irrecoverably broken this week. Each and every day this week there seemed to be a new story about a student lost to suicide. People are waking up to the fact that there is an epidemic of bullying in our country and all too often it is ending in tragedy.

I’ve been suicidal before. I get brought up to the edge by a chemical imbalance, but what keeps me there thinking about taking my own life is self-loathing. A self-loathing that was fostered by making the wrong friends in grade school and sticking by them after being constantly demeaned. A self-loathing that was fostered after being called out for being overweight. A self-loathing that was fostered by being made to feel too smart by my classmates and not good enough by my father. It took me a long time, a great therapist and good friends to get over all that. But too many young people aren’t giving themselves that chance.

Bullying is a fact of life. From the time we start kindergarten until we graduate from college, we are faced with “school-yard bullies” Some kids are just mean and haven’t been taught a sense of right and wrong. Others have an abusive home life that fosters the belief that doing wrong is right. Now, we can love these bullies and hope that they grow and change and mature, but the reality is that eradicating bullying from our society is unlikely.

Let’s work under the premise that bullying will always exist and the bullied will always be suffering as a result. We can try and be punitive. We can confront bullies with fists or we can sentence them to detention and never change the behavior of others. It’s futile. We aren’t going to win playing this game. We need to change the rules of the game. We need to change the game itself.

To be honest, the bullies aren’t where we need to be spending the majority of our energy. It’s the bystanders at whom we need to take a hard look. So many of us watch people getting harassed and never respond. If we do respond, it is to challenge or report the bully. All too often, we forget to support the bullied student. We need to counteract anger with love. If there will always be premeditated acts of hatred, we need premeditated acts of kindness. Random acts of kindness are all well and good, but that’s not what this situation requires. We will never get anywhere in fits and starts. We need to take every opportunity to affirm the people in our lives. We need to build their defenses up before these incidents take place.

We all must realize that our words and action carry serious repercussions. Words carry weight. They can affirm someone or they can break them down. We need to build people up. We are losing far too many people to keep doing the same old thing. I doubt that we will ever “cure” depression, but we can bring an end to this senseless loss of life taking place in our communities and across our country.

I’ve seen people argue that suicide is without exception, a byproduct of mental illness. Speaking from someone who has gone through severe depressive episodes, it is important to know that the behavior is triggered by something. You may have a warped sense of reality, but it is in fact still reality that you are looking at. A rational person might look at being publicly humiliated and bullied and be able to cope with the ramifications. A depressed person might look at the same situation and thing that their world is over and they have no choice but to end it. That is what we are fighting. That is what we need to prevent. Tell your friends and family what they mean to you. Tell your classmates that you care. Tell your neighbor that they are important to you. Together, we can make this a better world to live in and one that our friends stick around to see.