Balancing Act

Stand-up comic takes a stand on violence against women

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Pete Dominick is a stand-up comedian who's not laughing.

He's got two daughters — a 6-year-old and a 9-year-old — and he's had enough. Enough of the misogyny and the rape statistics and the men who are living in denial about the kind of world his girls are inheriting.

"I want men to know how often women are being assaulted, how often women are being raped," Dominick told me. "I want them to know how common it is and how underreported it is and how small the consequences are."

Dominick, host of "Stand Up With Pete Dominick" on Sirius XM, has teamed up with Women Thrive Worldwide, a nonprofit that advocates for men and women to work together for increased economic prosperity and decreased fear and violence around the globe.

He's the public face of the group's #DadsForDaughters campaign, which seeks to raise awareness about violence against girls and women and asks fathers to sign the following pledge (which you can find at womenthrive.org/take-dadsfordaughters-pledge):

As a father, I will do whatever I can to realize a safer, more equal world for women and girls. I will …

1. Teach my children that violence against women and girls is wrong.

2. Recognize that this isn't just about my children. Around the world millions of women and girls are threatened by physical or sexual violence.

3. Support legislation and policies that help stop violence against the world's women and girls.

4. Encourage other fathers — and other men — to stand up and speak out to stop violence against women and girls.

The movement is gaining ground. Dominick's pal Stephen Colbert urged his 6 million Twitter followers to take the pledge recently.

"There has to be a shift, and it's my generation that has to make it," Dominick, 38, said. "If you think your daughters are immune to sexual assault, you're just wrong. It doesn't matter your level of education or your income or your race. This is an everybody issue."

It's also an everyday issue. There are an average of 237,868 victims of rape and sexual assault each year in the United States, according to RAINN (Rape Abuse and Incest National Network). Every two minutes, the group says, another American is sexually assaulted.

"My kids will never starve," said Dominick, who lives with his family in New York. "I'm pretty sure of that. But they will be put in a situation where a man makes them uncomfortable. They just will. And it's my job as a father to do everything I can to teach them everything I know and learn everything I can from them and advocate for more fathers to teach their daughters and their sons that that is not acceptable. The way the world is now is not acceptable."

#DadsForDaughters arrives at an especially heated moment in our culture. Coinciding with an international conversation about violence against women, which was itself inspired by Elliot Rodger's misogyny-filled rampage and fueled by the attendant #YesAllWomen campaign, Dominick's message feels more relevant and urgent than ever.

"I'm part of a generation of dads who are going to do better at this," Dominick said, audibly fighting back tears as we spoke by phone. "I wasn't even trying to become a father when I became one. And my daughter changed my life. Every day she teaches me. She's my everything. Both of my girls are, and my wife. My everything."

He's not willing, he said, to be complicit in a culture that puts them inherently, just because of their gender, in danger.

"The standard you walk by is the standard you accept," he said. "I don't accept this standard. I want to believe my girls will grow up in a society where even though sex is everywhere, that doesn't mean anyone has the right to it."

I want to believe that too.

hstevens@tribune.com

Twitter @heidistevens13

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