How can actions directed toward changing male behaviour support anti-violence initiatives?
Until now the issue of violence against women has been discussed as if it were a women's issue and problem, and the topic has mainly been how women victims of violence can be helped and supported. Now the perspective has decisively widened; this is the worst problem of the men's world. The questions now being asked are: Why do men abuse? Why are men violent? Can they be helped to rid themselves of violent behaviours?
In order to effectively reduce violence, recent conferences concluded that the issue should be addressed in several ways and at various levels. For example:
> analyze different forms of masculinity and work towards changing the violent forms
> reveal the values that glamorize violence
> question male ideals, such as "honour"
> transform the upbringing of boys
> value fatherhood
> criminalize violence against women in all forms
> integrate gender perspective into school education
> establish support and therapy networks for men
> encourage men to establish their own voluntary activities
> protest violent and aggressive sports
> develop security structures based on cooperation, not military force
> increase the proportion of women in politics
> promote equality between men and women through legislative, administrative, educational and cultural means.
Hilkka Pietila, Finland
The White Ribbon Campaign (WRC) is an organization of men working to end men's violence against women. As part of a recent campaign, the Canadian WRC office supplied 500 education and action kits to schools, beyond the 1,500 that had been sent out in previous years. These include a number of workshop modules and are designed for use throughout the year. White Ribbon campaigns were run in partnership with different organizations and by local community White Ribbon groups. There were campaigns with four major retailers involving over 1,000 stores and publicized in 1.2 million household flyers. Four large corporations ran in-house campaigns. Several national unions and a number of provincial federations of labour distributed White Ribbon materials.
Campaigns were held in at least seven universities, many high schools an at least one faith community. Over 100 municipalities formally proclaimed White Ribbon Week and the legislatures in three provinces and the federal parliament called on their members to wear white ribbons. Public activities ranged from a small group of men staffing a literature table in a public place to a large group organizing a major event that attracted dozens of key public figures.
A special fundraising effort to support women's groups dealing with the impact of violence against women was carried out as part of the national and local campaigns. We distributed about $50,000 to women's groups through two partner women's organizations.
White Ribbon began in Canada and, while it has spread to other countries, its awareness and education activities in Canada are the most advanced. We believe that making Canadians, in particular, Canadian boys and men, aware of the problem and the underlying causes has helped decrease violence.
Ian Russell, White Ribbon Campaign, Canada
I am a Latina working in the state of Georgia in the United States with immigrant families affected by domestic violence. So far we have had good results in helping men to stop their physical violence against their partners. We work with the courts; the men referred to our program are mandated to attend 24 sessions, the longest time permitted under state law. Our rates of recidivism are extremely low, 5%. We also offer separate groups for abused women and their children. We have found that when services are offered for men and children, abused Latinas tend to use services for themselves much more readily and for a longer period of time. Another feature of our intervention program is the fact that the weekly sessions are held at a Catholic mission easily accessible by public transportation. I think that the message this sends helps to keep the men in the program and, hopefully, the women and children a little safer.
Despite all of this, we still have a long way to go. Even after the men cease their physical violence, they continue to use verbal and emotional abuse. Also, the occurrence of marital rape in these families (and I suspect in families of many ethnicity's) is an ongoing issue of great concern. I agree with discussion list member Dianne Post that it is much easier to change behavior when the batterer is just beginning to use violence than when he consistently uses violence to deal with the women in his life.
One of the most important elements that we can bring to interventions is a clear goal of working towards the safety of women and children. That, coupled with tremendous respect for the individual while holding him accountable for his behavior and attitudes, in one of the strongest tools we may have towards decreasing this tremendous - and universal - social ill.
Julia Perilla, Atlanta, USA