By the HELP Committee and Havre Public Schools
The recent presentation of "The Vagina Monologues" and the Cup of Prevention fund-raiser here in Havre highlighted the fact that February was Violence Against Women recognition month. Our community's response to these two activities was very substantial. However, the persistent question comes up again. If we want to prevent and stop violence against women, how do we do it? Since intimate partner violence is primarily a crime against women, the logical prevention suggestions would be aimed at behavior by men or boys.
The following information from the Endabuse Organization gives some valid, proven, common-sense suggestions about how today's men can coach boys into the caring, respectful men of tomorrow.
What you can do
Now more than ever, the boys in your life need your time and energy. Your son, grandson, nephew, younger brother - the boys you teach, coach and mentor - all need your help to grow into healthy young men.
Boys are swamped with influences outside of the home - from friends, the neighborhood, television, the Internet, music, the movies - everything they see around them. They hear all kinds of messages about what it means to "be a man" - that they have to be tough and in control. There are numerous conflicting and some harmful messages being given to boys about what constitutes "being a man" in a relationship.
Boys need your advice on how to behave toward girls. Boys are watching how you and other men relate to women to figure out their own stance toward girls. So teach boys early, and teach them often, that there is no place for violence in a relationship.
Teach early. It's never too soon to talk to a child about violence. Let him know how you think he should express his anger and frustration - and what is out of bounds. Talk with him about what it means to be fair, share and treat others with respect.
Be there. If it comes down to one thing you can do, this is it. Just being with boys is crucial. The time doesn't have to be spent in activities. Boys will probably not say this directly - but they want a male presence around them, even if few words are exchanged.
Listen. Hear what he has to say. Listen to how he and his friends talk about girls. Ask him if he's ever seen abusive behavior in his friends. Is he worried about any of his friends who are being hurt in their relationships? Are any of his friends hurting anyone else?
Tell him how. Teach him ways to express his anger without using violence. When he gets mad, tell him he can walk it out, talk it out, or take a timeout. Let him know he can always come to you if he feels as if things are getting out of hand. Try to give him examples of what you might say or do in situations that could turn violent.
Bring it up. A kid will never approach you and ask for guidance on how to treat women. But that doesn't mean he doesn't need it. Try watching TV with him or listening to his music. If you see or hear things that depict violence against women, tell him what you think about it. Never hesitate to let him know you don't approve of sports figures who demean women, or jokes, video games and song lyrics that do the same. And when it comes time for dating, be sure he knows that treating girls with respect is important.
Be a role model. Fathers, coaches and any man who spends time with boys or teens will have the greatest impact when they "walk the walk." They will learn what respect means by observing how you treat other people. So make respect a permanent way of dealing with people - when you're driving in traffic, talking with customer service reps, in restaurants with waiters, and with your family around the dinner table. He's watching what you say and do and takes his cues from you, both good and bad. Be aware of how you express your anger. Let him know how you define a healthy relationship and always treat women and girls in a way that your son can admire.
Teach often. Your job isn't done once you get the first talk out of the way. Help him work through problems in relationships as they arise. Let him know he can come back and talk to you again anytime. Use every opportunity to reinforce the message that violence has no place in a relationship.
Remember, boys (and parents) aren't always perfect. We all make mistakes. Take time to talk about learning from the past to make a better future. If you want to stop violence against women, reach out to a boy in your life.
For more information on preventing domestic violence, contact Lin at the HELP Committee and Boys & Girls Club of the Hi-Line at 265-6206.