Today is the International Men Day, so some may suggest it’s not the appropriate day to talk about what I’m going to talk about. It’s also the day after Mike Pence has been protested against by the cast of a Broadway production he went to see last night, and the day President Elect Donald Trump asked the theatre to apologise for it. In a way, Donald Trump himself is a good reason to talk about this today. However, I think a lot of the issues that affect men that are being highlighted today are interconnected to the cause I’m going to talk about.
Last week I have made a journey to the Surrey suburbs beyond the posh side of Croydon where I live to go to a concert fundraising for a charity. I didn’t know the artist before booking, but it was a cause that is extremely dear to me. Violence against women. 1 in 3 women experience violence in their lifetime*, and one was me. I was one of the lucky ones who are still here to tell their story, but that’s not the story I want to tell today. It’s not out of shame or timidity, but rather an intention to keep sharing the life that 2 women a week* no longer have. Two women every week are killed by their partners, current or former. These women won’t be raising their voices and hands to sing along to Philippa Hanna like we did on Saturday. They won’t wear funny hats and take pictures in a photo booth like we did. They will never drink prosecco chatting with their friends. And so on.
It was a few days after the Sandilands accident and at time of remembrance of the sacrifices of the wars, and November is the month the Catholic Church dedicates to remembering and praying for the dead, so the sobering realisation of the privilege of life with all its difficulties has been following me around. It was a great night. I cried a lot, as it seems to be the case in that venue (I think most “God moments” in my life has happened in that church) but it was mostly great fun.
Philippa has well deservedly been on tour with a wealth of great names in the music business, and has an amazing voice and stage personality (and backstage too, she is lovely). Her songs are relatable as most people will have walked in her shoes at some point or another, and the music is catchy anyway. But it’s her words that I think were the most poignant. I couldn’t think of a better singer to pair up with such a charity.
“But i believe that I’m worth it, even if I’m not perfect. There’s only one of me”
Self-esteem is something that doesn’t come easily, not even to Christians. We are told we are the precious daughters of the King of Kings, who delights in us, but we don’t really believe it deep down. It is especially harder to do when you are broken. And that’s, I believe, why Mandy and Peter called the charity Restored. We serve a God that heals and makes us whole. A God that restores. I’ve read “Am I Beautiful?” by Chine McDonald earlier this year, and it was at times a painful read, lifting the veil to what being a woman is like. She never touches the issue of abuses directly that I can remember (I may be wrong), but low self-esteem is probably the most obvious consequence. Some might say a cause too, but many women have been broken into shadows of their former selves by their circumstances. Nobody is strong enough on their own.
And I guess this is the point of this incoherent rambling. In the past few weeks I have come to realise how lucky I am to be surrounded by my friends, and how much we have gone through together. It also made me realise that it hasn’t always been the case for me, and so it’s only reasonable it’s also the case for many others. One of the aims of Restored is to make sure victims of violence have someone to turn to. Someone not only to listen and be there, but also to offer help and support. Someone to walk alongside them on their journey to be restored.
The 25th of November is White Ribbon Day, to raise awareness of the issue of violence against women. I hope you will join me in supporting Restored so that one day (that we hope will be soon) no woman would have her life impacted by violence. Men have an important role to play for two reasons: the toxic masculinity that is often behind violence affects them too, especially those who can’t fit that stereotype, and the other reason is that some women end up trying to affirm themselves against men by turning abusive in return. And also because every woman is someone’s daughter, maybe someone’s niece, someone’s sister, or girlfriend or wife. She’s someone’s friend. That’s why one of the campaigns run by Restored is First Man Standing. The US election results feel like we’re telling our children that the bully will be successful in the end. Many aren’t comfortable with that. If you’re one of that many now it’s a good time to do something about. Let’s show the young people and children in our society that there is a better way, and that love never fails.
*Statistics from UN as reported on the Restored website