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Why I Rise - Embracing a New Way

Today's blog is shared by Nina Selvaggio.  Nina is an activist, who has spent her career trying to leave the world in a better place than she found it.  She is a new mom and that has brought a whole new meaning to her quest for social justice.  Nina lives and works in Boston with her wife, son and their adorable pug, Bella.

At 39 years old, I rise this year for different reasons than I have risen  in the past.

I refuse to accept violence against women and girls as a given and want to embrace a new time and new way of being.

Two years ago, my wife and I became mothers to a baby boy and in that same month, I read about the Gabby Giffords mass shooting in Arizona where 6 innocent people, including a little girl, were killed.  Since then, dozens more people have been shot and killed in mass shooting around the country by deranged young men. 

There is somethinfamily_photo.jpgg about how we are socializing boys that allows this to happen, but yet we aren’t having that discussion nationally.  We are focused on the mentally ill or the types of bullets that are sold or the access points to obtaining a gun.  Why aren’t we talking about why boys commit those acts of violence almost exclusively or that violent crimes in general, are disproportionately committed by boys and men?

What are we, as a country, telling boys about manhood, their emotions, expressing themselves?  Why aren’t we empowering boys to cry or be vulnerable or ask for help? Why do we accept violence by men and boys?

I grew up in a domestically violent household, where I witnessed my father hitting my mother until I was eleven years old.  My two brothers and I were 75% more likely to abuse or be abused as adults and through chemistry, luck, therapy, awareness, education and who knows what else…we have ended the cycle of violence.   

I broke the two+ generation cycle of violence that my family promulgated.  I don’t want my son to witness violence at home and he won’t.   I don’t want him to think lashing out physically is the only way boys and men can express themselves.  I want him to cry and ask for help and respect women, but mostly, I want him to recognize her humanity.  Her human dignity.  The common humanity they share. 

I want to raise our son with my wife in a new way.  It is a new time, where our marriage is legal in Massachusetts and our President speaks of my family’s love deserving the same protections and legal recognition as families headed by opposite sex parents.  It is a new time and it demands a new way of raising our boys. 

I want the violence against women and girls to end.  To end now.  I wanted it to end when I was 3 years old, then 7, then 12, 18, 23, 30, 35… and now that I’m almost 40, I’m tired of waiting. I am embracing a new way of being. 

We are embracing a new way to raise a boy. 

We aren’t letting people make heterosexist assumptions about him or pigeon hole his gender.  We encourage him to ask for help, use his words, express himself, validate his feelings, play with a vacuum or pots and pans, have pink dolls, drink from a cup with flowers on it and never hit another person. 

As he gets older, we want him to learn to respect everyone.  Homeless people, kids who are picked on, people who don’t look like him and all women and girls.

We want to do our part to stop the violence committed by boys and men and are taking this new opportunity to facilitate that change within our own home. 

It has to stop now.  And I have the power to do it…one boy at a time.  Who knows…maybe we will have a second son someday.


If you or someone you love has been a victim of sexual assault and could benefit from legal support and advocacy, please contact the Victim Rights Law Center. logo.png

The Victim Rights Law Center is the first law center in the nation dedicated solely to advocating for the civil legal needs of sexual assault survivors.  The VRLC provides direct legal representation to victims of rape and sexual assault in Massachusetts.  If you have been raped or sexually assaulted, we believe you have the right to make your own choices about how to respond to what has happened to you.  Our goal is to give sexual assault victims information regarding their civil legal needs to reclaim their lives.

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Showing 2 reactions

commented 2013-02-10 19:09:09 -0500 · Flag
This is a fantastic post, and I hope one day to read these words written by men.
commented 2013-02-07 10:40:25 -0500 · Flag
Yes! You are totally inspiring, Nina! I want to be a part of this effort as well – as we all should. I admire the way you and Jessica have raised Nico to be one of the sweetest and articulate little persons I have ever met and got the privilege to spend time with. xo, Liz