Men and Domestic Violence (December 6, 2015)

Traditionally, the methods of dealing with domestic/intimate partner violence have involved helping the person being abused, male or female, to leave the relationship and find a safe space elsewhere. Currently, professionals in the field are focusing on reaching out to the perpetrators of the violence, who are usually, but not always, the men.

Counselor and social activist, Marcus Kissoon, says there is a need for a change in societal attitudes towards domestic violence. “At the end of the day, the person that lashes out is at fault because they are hurting themselves and they’re hurting another person. If you treat the men who have the aggression and the abuse problem, then we save many women. So I really am all about intervention for women, but really and truly my core preventative measure is train young men, train young boys, and train men to not deal with unhealthy situations with aggression, violence and abuse.”
Executive Director of the Caribbean Anti-Violence Institute, criminologist Renee Cummings said abusers act from a set of attitudes and beliefs about how men and women should relate in intimate relationships. “Abusers believe they have a right to enforce their will on their female partners. This belief, rooted in sexism and misogyny, is supported and tolerated by the society in which we live, a society that has historically condoned the use of violence against women.”
“A stereotypic language of hyper-masculinity creates a reality where gendered language socialises boys to apply aggression, competitiveness, power, ruthlessness, and strength to everything they do. From the bedroom to the boardroom, it is all about male dominance. Negative male socialisation expresses itself in violence against women, violence against other men, and violence against themselves where a lot of men participate in self-harming behaviours, because from early they are taught to limit emotional expression, bundle up their rage, stifle their feelings and repress their pain.”
Renee said while men needed to be offered an opportunity to change, they also needed to be held accountable. She said this is only possible when there is an ability to impose swift, consistent, and meaningful sanctions for abusive behaviour. This ability rests almost exclusively with the justice system through arrest, prosecution and sentences of incarceration, probation, restitution or fine, or some combination of these. “We need swift prosecution, robust anti-harassment and anti-stalking legislation, offender rehabilitation programs that treat with men and women who use violence in relationships and multi-agency approaches and coordinated interventions to domestic violence and interpersonal violence.”
In addition, Renee called for batterer’s intervention programs. “We need evidence based programmes for men that assist them in understanding and managing their anger through self-regulation strategies. Men need to know they can access help and treat with issues such as anger, rejection, jealousy and the fear of being alone after a relationship is over.”
There is also need, on a national level, for the development of violence reduction strategies to reduce domestic violence and the overall frequency of interpersonal violence.
Marcus further added that there is a loss of a sense of empathy in society. “Our men, our culture of crime is because we’re losing a sense of empathy. People cannot see another human being sad and step back and react to it. People are hearing women crying when they are being raped, people are hearing children crying, but yet no-one is empathizing with that or able to relate to that emotion. We honestly need to focus on what we teach our young men and that aggression and violence is not the way to deal with their feelings.”

Men and violence: “A stereotypic language of hyper-masculinity creates a reality where through gendered language boys are socialised to apply aggression, competitiveness, power, ruthlessness, and strength to everything they do. From the bedroom to the boardroom, it is all about male dominance. Negative male socialisation expresses itself in violence against women, violence against other men, and violence against themselves where a lot of men participate in self-harming behaviours because from early they are taught to limit emotional expression, bundle up their rage, stifle their feelings and repress their pain.”

Why some men abuse women: “Abusers act from a set of attitudes and beliefs about how men and women should relate in intimate relationships. Abusers believe they have a right to enforce their will on their female partners. This belief, rooted in sexism and misogyny, is supported and tolerated by the society in which we live, a society that has historically condoned the use of violence against women.”

Abuser accountability: “We must hold men accountable and offer them an opportunity to change. Abuser accountability is possible only when there is an ability to impose swift, consistent, and meaningful sanctions for abusive behaviour, a role that rests primarily, if not exclusively, within the justice system, through arrest, prosecution and sentences of incarceration, probation, restitution or fine, or some combination of these. We also need to create batterers intervention programmes.”
What should intervention programmes look like: “We need evidence based programmes for men that assist them in understanding and managing their anger through self-regulation strategies. Men need to know they can access help and treat with issues such as anger, rejection, jealousy and the fear of being alone after a relationship is over.”
Criminal justice response: “We need swift prosecution, robust anti-harassment and anti-stalking legislation, offender rehabilitation programmes that treat with men and women who use violence in relationships and multi-agency approaches and coordinated interventions to domestic violence and interpersonal violence. On a national level, we have also got to develop violence reduction strategies to reduce domestic violence and the overall frequency of interpersonal violence.”

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