Gender-based violence happens around us every day. As per data from the Canadian Women’s Foundation, women are the targets of the vast majority of this violence. Partly due to a lack of accountability by men in their immediate circles – think “locker talk” or a “boys-will-be-boys” mentality. These ideals can and will lead to gender-based violence. This type of violence can be physical, psychological, or a combo of both shown in the many relationships that have an unequal balance of power and control.
What is Gender-Based Violence?
Gender-based physical violence is the most prominent and overt form of gender-based abuse. We all talk about how we would step in and stop it if we saw it. How we could never let our friends assault someone or use the excuse of “the people around me couldn’t possibly be like this.” These assumptions blind us from seeing the red flags before the violence, which usually happens behind closed doors.
Gender-based emotional violence lurks deeper in the shadows and is, objectively, harder to spot. It has low visibility and is challenging for most people to discuss. It is silent and often overlooked because society tends to give people, especially men, the benefit of the doubt. These small behavioural outbursts we see in public are often small glimpses of a more significant issue happening in private. It is also well-known that this emotional damage creates longer-lasting effects for the victims. On a neurological level, a victim’s brain chemistry changes when experiencing emotional abuse – similar to PTSD.
Turning a blind eye to micro-occurrences, outbursts, harmful conversations amongst colleagues, “locker-talk,” and other problematic behaviours that pop up in everyday life allows these issues to fester. Ultimately, it falls on individuals to help mitigate these situations in their day-to-day lives. To notice the behaviour early on and to call for an end to it, to change the priority given to all types of gender-based violence, and ultimately, to hold abusers accountable.
How can men help against Gender-Based Violence?
So, where do we go from here? As men, husbands, fathers, and friends, it is time to stand up and become He for She. The occurrences of inappropriate comments or gestures are the catalyst. The more frequent the behaviour, the higher the tolerance for inappropriate transgressions. Every six days, a woman is killed by her intimate partner, and a close family member or married relationship perpetrates more than half of the violent acts committed toward women.
These facts make it more urgent than ever that we need to end gender-based violence and make faster gains than we have currently been achieving. What are men and males going to do about it?
We can start by just heading over to heforshe.org and looking through some of their resources as to how men can help create a more equitable world for women and start the conversation with concrete plans on how to achieve these goals.
Ways to challenge Gender-Based Violence
Heforshe recommends, “Start with where men and boys are coming from, but don’t get stuck there. Take chances, be challenging, and show respect for men by challenging stereotypes and sexist assumptions about men and boys”. We need to start with what we know to be true to us. It opens us up to hearing the views that challenge us and make us uncomfortable.
We must challenge the abuse of power and ideas that justify gender-based violence. One of the simplest ways for men to do that is to speak up in the face of inequality by breaking the frequency of behaviours that lead to complacency. We need to challenge our peers when they speak disrespectfully of others because individuals have the most significant impact when it comes to changing human behaviour.
Finally, we must be supportive of the individuals who have faced violence or are currently dealing with it. Listen and offer your nonjudgmental support by telling them the violence is not their fault and that they deserve to be treated with respect, regardless of the situation. Let them know you do not blame them. The most valuable thing you can offer is respect and take their claims seriously. For more resources, visit the Canadian Women’s Foundation.
We need to be proactive in our everyday actions
Suppose we don’t talk about gender-based violence with any regularity. It shouldn’t take an event’s finality to cause us to act. We need to be proactive in our everyday actions.
We look both ways before crossing the street to ensure that a car doesn’t hit us, and we do these actions every day to ensure we are safe. We take proactive and preventive steps every day, sometimes without even realizing it. So why do we idly sit by when those around us may be contributing to gender-based violence? It is time to stand up, use our voices, and take the necessary precautions to stop the violence before it happens.
If we can all stand together, we can make a difference.
If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call 911 or your local emergency services (police, fire, ambulance).