The question is – how do we talk about the prevalence of violence against women in our communities without blaming and shaming the boys and young men in the room?
Just the other day I was approached by a member of our community who felt strongly that boys are being blamed for the violence that exists in this world in the R+R workshops. I was concerned that this was a total misconception of what actually goes on in our workshops and that it was not based on reality.
Before I began working with SWOVA I worked as a substitute EA in both the middle and high school, which gave me a unique opportunity to sit in on circles with SWOVA staff, faculty and students. What I experienced was a radical movement of inclusion for everyone.
In the mainstream we view violence prevention as a predominately female issue. The danger in this rhetoric is that is divides the problem into an “us vs them” model where blame lands on both sides. In reality violence prevention is a human issue that needs both men and women to address if we are going to build a new paradigm.
What I see during the SWOVA sessions now as a facilitator are young women and men having the hard conversations. We have the hard conversations about bullying, homophobia, racism, gender identification, sexism and violence. At times these conversations can be uncomfortable as we come face to face with our own biases, but I see the youth from all identities taking the plunge and diving in. I see difficult questions being raised as we learn to listen to one another.
Yes, we look at perpetrators of violence, the role the media plays, and how we contribute to continuing this imbalance but also what we can do to change it. Part of this dialogue requires looking at the statistics around violence to gain a better understanding of what is going on in communities across this county, for with knowledge comes power. Boys and men face a great deal of pressure in this world that has far reaching impacts in their lives and the lives of everyone they choose to be in relationship with. I see the young men stepping up and gathering a personal toolkit to help them navigate their way though.
Emma Watson’s (of Harry Potter fame) recent speech to the UN summed it up best when she described the role she sees for men in violence prevention. “Men (should) take up this mantle so that their sons have permission to be vulnerable and human too, reclaim those parts of themselves they abandoned, and in doing so, be a more true and complete version of themselves.”
Sharyn Carroll, R+R Facilitator
SWOVA – Empowering Youth for a Better Tomorrow