Addressing male violence involves everyone

There are many reasons for violence, and women and even girls can be violent and can provoke violence, but there;s no doubt that most violence and in particular the most damaging violence is from men, and boys learn from that.

Australian Dr Michael Salter, Associate Professor of Criminology at Western Sydney University, has written in the Sydney Morning herald about the complexities of preventing violence.

A few years ago, I was speaking to an Aboriginal educator about his work with men’s groups. I asked him how he got men to engage with the issue of violence against women. He said that he started every workshop by asking the men, “What kind of father do you want to be? What kind of husband? What kind of man do you want to be?”

He went on to make a comment that has always stayed with me. I return to it again and again in my anti-violence work. He said, “I’ve seen the hardest, hardest, most brutal-looking men reduced to tears in that very moment because everybody, I think, wants to be good.”

Almost everybody wants to be good, to be better.

No boy grows up aspiring to hurt the people he cares about. We all want to live in families and communities characterised by security, warmth and trust.

However, violence destroys these relationships.

Violence is not a strategy in which men win and women lose. With violence, everybody loses.

The reason men and boys need to help prevent violence against women is very simple. For as long as this violence persists, it will continue to eat away at the relationships that sustain us and make our lives
meaningful.

To end violence against women, we need to work with people where they are at: in communities and institutions where change is needed, and even wanted, but hasn’t yet taken place.

This is challenging work, because it means engaging respectfully with diverse groups who have a range of views about gender relations and equality. However, it is by bringing men and boys into the conversation that we can understand what they want out of their lives, show how violence is an obstacle to achieving those dreams, and find non-violent solutions.

Men and boys ‘into the conversation’, individually and as groups, is important. Especially men and boys who are having problems with violence – and also women and girls who are subjected to violence, and are mixed in with violent lifestyles.

The best way that men can help prevent gendered violence is to collaborate with women to build families and communities we are proud to be a part of: where violence and inequality has no place, and everyone wins.

Sounds good. It is difficult to achieve, because intergenerational violence has been a problem for a very long time, and learning less violence, and more equal relationships, will take time to turn things around. This involves men and boys, and women and girls, learning how to deal with violence better, and how to avoid and prevent violence – the things that cause and provoke violence as well as violent acts themselves.

It’s complicated, but we need to get much better at dealing with and preventing violence.