“Are you safe?” The nurse asked me. “Are you afraid of anyone right now?”
I was in the doctor’s office. My fiancé had insisted on driving me there. He was my Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, my secret abuser. He could go from gentle to furious in seconds, warm hugs giving way to shoves that left me black and blue.
But in the moment, I froze. At 44, I felt ashamed to be engaged to a man who hurt me. I thought I knew better. I’d seen domestic violence play out in my childhood home. I’d volunteered in shelters for battered women, marched to Take Back the Night years before.

“No, I’m fine,” I said to the nurse. He was just outside in the waiting room.
In the wake of waves of allegations about sexual assault and abuse by Harvey Weinstein and other powerful men across industries, the world is grappling with the reality of the many ways in which men in the 21st century—including celebrities, politicians, and heads of news organizations—continue to harm women.
It’s an important but fragile moment. The media’s coverage of sexual harassment and assault appears to be at a turning point. But for real change to happen, we all need to be open to reconsidering the cultural beliefs about gender that we’ve internalized, consciously or not. That means, crucially, redefining our ideas about what kind of behavior is normal or natural—most importantly, the idea that male aggression toward women is ingrained in human biology.

The man I loved made similar claims. He thought his violence was predestined—a part of men’s innate nature. “We’re all attack dogs,” he said of himself and his friends. “We’re just different breeds.”

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