Help organisations that deal with victims of violence against women say it is crucial that more men speak out against the problem and get involved in changing attitudes in society. They say everybody needs to be part of the effort to find solutions, not just women.
One of the leading advocates of this strategy is the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who launched the Network of Men Leaders in 2009. This is made up of current and former politicians, members of civil society groups, religious and cultural leaders and other public personalities.
The UN website dedicated to the campaign, which is called UNiTE To End Violence Against Women, has this to say on the issue: ‘Too often, boys and young men are taught to equate masculinity with the use of violence and dominance over women and girls. Too often, such behaviour is met with silence and is tolerated by other men. This only serves to normalise gender inequality and negative stereotypes.
‘Men have a crucial role to play as fathers, brothers, friends, decisionmakers, and community and opinion leaders, in speaking out against violence against women and girls and ensuring that priority attention is given to the issue. Importantly, men can provide positive role models for young men and boys, based on healthy images of masculinity. For many years, women around the world have led efforts to prevent and end violence, but today more and more men are adding their support to the movement.’
There are numerous groups around the world that are active in getting men to take more responsibility on the issue. One of the largest is called the White Ribbon Campaign, which was formed in Canada in 1991, a few years after an anti-feminist killed 14 women engineering students in a massacre at a polytechnic school in Montreal. People are encouraged to wear white ribbons as a sign of solidarity with global efforts to stop violence against women. The campaign group now has a presence in some 60 countries around the world, including in Europe.
The White Ribbon Campaign in the UK was formed in 2004. It supports a range of campaigns and projects, including training courses for young people to try to change attitudes towards women. For example, one of the latest projects highlighted is for males and females aged between 16 and 25 ‘to give them the skills and knowledge they need to safely intervene in situations where they experience language or behaviour they feel should be challenged’.
The UK group says it is an educational organisation that aims ‘to encourage reflection and discussion that leads to personal and collective action among men’. With the help of donations, it does educational work in schools, workplaces and in the community, and it supports local women’s groups. It says it also raises money for the global educational efforts of the White Ribbon Campaign and speaks out on issues of public policy.
When help organisations attempt to raise awareness about violence against women, and the need to have specific laws and policies to deal with it, they often get questioned about domestic violence committed by women against men. Yes, it does exist, say the women campaign groups, but the vast majority of victims of gender-based violence are female. This must be dealt with separately, they say, with more focus on where the need is greater.
The White Ribbon Campaign also deals with the question about violence against men on its website. It says: ‘Every act of violence is wrong and everyone, whether male or female, has the right to a life free of violence. Statistics show that domestic abuse against men is increasing in the UK and we do not deny or belittle women’s violence against men or violence in same-sex relationships.’
But it goes on to say: ‘However, we must remember that men, though, remain by far the main offenders, with the numbers convicted increasing from more than 28,000 in 2005 to just over 55,000 in 2010.’
Like in other countries, the UK has a variety of helpline services available for people who find themselves in different situations involving violence. There are helplines for female victims and male victims, but also for the perpetrators of violence who are seeking help to stop being violent. The UK also has a special helpline for those who are experiencing violence from a same-sex partner.
By Seamus Kearney.
Some useful links in the UK:
For women suffering violence:
For men suffering violence:
For people suffering violence from a same-sex partner:
For perpetrators of violence (male and female):
White Ribbon Campaign in the UK