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Society aims to include men in domestic violence solution

For more than 30 years Nanaimo’s Haven Society has helped women and children who have been victims of domestic violence find a better life through programs, services and advocacy.

Now the society is reaching out to men and school-aged boys in an effort to address the problem of violence with those who practise it, or those who are vulnerable to becoming violent.

To help launch Haven’s inclusion of men in its programming, the society is hosting Jackson Katz, a world-renowned educator, filmmaker and cultural theorist on masculinity and gender violence.

According to Tracy Myers, coordinator of programs for children and youth at Haven Society, Katz is responsible for much of the material used by Haven Society to educate people about domestic violence, the pressures boys and young men face through culture to become strong and dominant, the resulting violence and how to halt the cycle.

Haven Society is hosting Katz Nov. 26-27. On Nov. 26, Katz will give a free multi-media presentation titled The Macho Paradox – Why Some Men Hurt Women and How All Men Can Help from 7:30-9 p.m. at the Coast Bastion Inn. All members of the community are welcome.

Nov. 27 will include a men’s leadership breakfast and a prevention and social training workshop (tickets available until Thursday (Nov. 22) by going to www.havensociety.com or by calling 250-756-2452, ext. 224).

“When it comes to domestic violence in our community we want to include men in the solution,” said Myers. “We use Jackson Katz’s material because we have yet to find any other material that is as powerful or engaging, especially when it comes to involving bystanders, or people who aren’t involved directly in the violence.”

Katz is also behind the B.C. Lions’ Be More Than a Bystander campaign.

Haven Society is in the process of entering local classrooms through its Violence is Preventable program, where male volunteers speak to youth about violence in the home and in their relationships. In addition, Haven will also be running a program called Men Choose Respect through its Oceanside office, aimed at men who use violence in their relationships, as well as establishing a leadership team of men to act as advisors to help Haven reach men who might benefit from the programs.

“Unless we’re working upstream we’re just going to keep picking up the pieces downstream,” said Myers.

Katz’s latest film, Tough Guise, addresses the messaging boys are getting in today’s world about becoming men through cultural pressures and media.

“Boys and young men learn early on that being a so-called real man means you have to take on this tough guise, in other words you have to show the world only certain parts of yourself that the dominant culture has defined as manly,” said Katz in a YouTube promotion of the movie.

Katz has a group of young men express qualities they feel best describe what a man should be.

Those descriptions include physical, aggressive, tough, athletic, powerful independent, intimidating, strong and rugged.

“If you’re a boy there is a lot of pressure on you to conform, to put on the act and to be one of the guys,” said Katz, who blames media for portraying violent masculinity as a cultural norm.

Myers said the goal of the presentations is to generate male allies in the community to speak out and act against domestic violence, as well as offer alternatives to definitions of manliness presented by media and culture.

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