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Men best at talking men out of domestic violence

Michael Flood, Australian activist and associate professor of sociology. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

Michael Flood, Australian activist and associate professor of sociology. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

No one is better at convincing a man to end domestic violence than a fellow man, according to an Australian expert.

“Research shows that men listen much more to men than to women. That’s unfortunate, as it could mean we don’t always respect women’s voices.

“However, it also means that men can be powerful advocates. When men speak out – at work, at church, in a community – other men are more ready to listen and give more authority to what they say. This means that men have a very important role to play,” Michael Flood, an Australian academic, activist and educator told this newspaper.

An associate professor of sociology, Dr Flood is currently conducting research on the impact of programmes that try to engage men in preventing violence against women.

One such programme in Australia is the White Ribbon campaign, which sees male ambassadors advocating not only against violence towards women, but also on how to be a good role model for children and how to challenge sexism within communities.

When men speak out – at work,at church, in a community – other men are more ready to listen and give more authority to what they say

“It is important to involve men because men are part of the problem and part of the solution. To end domestic violence, we will have to change not only men’s behaviour, but also their attitude.

“Most men do not use violence. However, they tolerate it or do not see anything wrong with a man taking advantage of a drunk woman, for example,” Dr Flood added.

Asked about the local scenario, chairman of Men against Violence Aleksandar Dimitrijevic noted that the largest challenge for the NGO was to bring men on board.

Many, he said, still considered domestic violence to be a private matter and would not speak up when they knew of abuse next door.

The NGO’s main concern is that children and teenagers often reflect the attitudes of their parents – including such apathy – in their own way of thinking.

Dr Flood wants to encourage Maltese men to take ownership of the issue and be ready to tell an abusive friend that domestic violence is not acceptable.

The researcher was speaking to the Times of Malta about his visit as part of the Australian High Commission’s Public Diplomacy programme, which includes the collaboration of the Men Against Violence NGO, the President’s Foundation for the Wellbeing of Society and the University of Malta.

Among other activities in Malta, he led training workshops with some 300 personal and social development teachers and social services officers.

He believes that to end violence there needs to be a change in mentality. One way of accomplishing this is to stop school-age children from adopting the mentality that domestic or sexual violence is OK.

Children, he said, could have classes on healthy relationships along with mathematics and English lessons.

Schools in Australia teach students how to have healthy and respectful relationships by resolving conflicts peacefully and refraining from pressuring someone into having sex, for example.

Men Against Violence aims to engage boys and men of all ages to stand up and end all forms of violence, particularly that against women and girls, whether it is domestic violence, dating violence, sexual abuse, harassment, stalking or rape.

Violence against women affects everyone, and that is why the association focuses on preventing it – for the benefit of all men, women and children.

Find more information from [email protected] or look for the Men Against Violence Facebook page.

The benefits for men of ending inequality and violence against women

• Gender stereotypes limit men. Men are taught that they need to restrain emotions and show that they are tough, hindering relationships and even stopping some from consulting the doctor about health issues.

• Men’s lives would improve greatly if the lives of the many women around them – including their daughters, sisters, wives and partners – improved and became safer.

• If there were less violence against women, communities would spend less money on victims and abusers, and instead invest the funds in hospitals and schools.

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