#MeToo: Groups working to change behaviour

There are organizations on the Island and throughout the province working to change the cultural norms that allow harassment and sexual violence against women to persist.

“We are working with men to change their behaviour and seeing some awesome results. The men we’re talking about are brothers, husbands, leaders and the men in our lives,” said Anne Taylor from Haven Society in Nanaimo. She said any man engaging in abusive behaviour, on a spectrum from controlling words to violence, can benefit.

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She noted not all victims are women and not all abusers are men, but this is the predominant dynamic.

“I think we live in a culture where sexual harassment is the norm,” she said. “Find a woman who hasn’t experienced it. You can’t.”

> For more on #MeToo, go to timescolonist.com/more

Taylor said one of the foundations of changing that is to look at the underlying social causes that allow this abuse to happen. And men need to take responsibility to do some of the work, she said.

Programs such as Haven Society’s Men Choose Respect and others are working to do just that.

Men Choose Respect

This Nanaimo-based program uses personal, partner and group work to support men who want to change abusive behaviour toward their partners.

“It’s not uncommon that men will encourage other men to come,” said program manager Theresa Gerritsen. “A lot of the discussion is about the kind of father and partner they want to be and how they’re socialized about what it means to be a man.”

Gerritsen said one of the most valuable question that arises is asking men to consider what it would look like “if safety was the foundation of their relationships. What would they do differently in their lives?”

For more information, visit: havensociety.com

Project Respect

Project Respect is a youth-based program, run through the Victoria Sexual Assault Centre, that uses arts and theatre to raise awareness about sexualized violence, stereotypes, gender and power imbalances.

Prevention manager Elicia Loiselle said the program doesn’t have core funding, but still manages to reach about 1,000 students in middle and high schools throughout the region each year, support a youth action team and host consent workshops and community events.

“We break down some of the root causes and talk about gender expectations and stereotypes and gender labels,” Loiselle said. “These can be words like ‘slut’ and ‘slut-shaming.’ We also unpack men’s sexuality and issues like dominance and control.”

Loiselle said the workshops explore what consent looks like in person and online, using different scenarios. For more information, visit: yesmeansyes.com

Be More Than a Bystander

In 2011, the Ending Violence Association of B.C. joined forces with the Canadian Football League to create the Be More Than a Bystander Program, which has brought public awareness sessions to more than 100,000 students across the province.

“It was clear to many of us doing this work that we were not reaching men in the way we needed to make a difference,” said executive director Tracy Porteous.

High-profile B.C. Lions players lead talks about respectful behaviour and standing up against abuse and violence against women.

“Men listen to male leaders. And we know the vast majority of men do not commit rape or assault or harassment. But the ones that do are prolific and largely unchecked. So imagine if that vast majority starts to speak up.”

Porteous said the program encourages men to speak up and not be silent about harassment and abuse, whether it’s a demeaning joke about women or something more serious.

“To not speak up is living giving a stamp of approval,” she said, noting the football team has seen a change in its own organization, from the more respectful locker-room tone to adopting policies against abusive behaviour.

“In three decades of doing this, I’ve never seen a more successful way of talking about gender-based violence,” Porteous said. The program will include several stops on Vancouver Island in 2018. For more information, visit: endingviolence.org

Additional Programs:

Know More at Vancouver Island University in Nanaimo: This program was created as a resource along with the school’s Sexual Misconduct Policy and Procedure. It focuses on public awareness and support at campus events. For more information, go to: adm.viu.ca/ sexual-violence-and-misconduct

Moosehide Campaign: The Moosehide

Campaign began as a grassroots movement among Aboriginal men and their families in 2011 to inspire men to join in ending violence against Aboriginal women.

It has grown to include non-Aboriginal men in the campaign to end violence against women and children, with moosehide pins being used as symbols of solidarity and an annual gathering in Victoria.

For more information, go to: moosehidecampaign.ca

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