Intimate partner violence is one of the most topical issues in modern-day Australian society. You only have to turn on the news to hear of yet another woman being attacked or killed by her current or former male partner.
As with many of my articles I preface this content with a disclaimer of sorts. Should I have to? Absolutely not. But, I do, so as to placate any haters who wish to publicly ask “What about men?” as a way of detracting from the notion (and severity) of gender biased intimate partner violence.
Yes, both females and males can be victims of intimate partner violence.
And, yes, females are more likely to be the victim of this type of violence.
Considering the impacts of the female experience of intimate partner violence does not detract from the importance of studying the male experience. With that in mind, in my line of work and as a survivor myself, I only focus on the female experience.
But first… what does intimate partner violence consist of?
- Physical abuse
- Sexual abuse
- Financial abuse
- Spiritual abuse
- Social abuse
- Verbal abuse
- Psychological abuse
- Image based abuse
So… our young boys. What do we need to teach them? How can we better prepare them for healthy relationships in adulthood?
Teach them what healthy male role models look like
Monkey see, monkey likely do. It’s a no brainer really. Actions always speak louder than words. We can use words to teach our boys (and risk them not listening much!) or we can let them see with their own eyes, what healthy males actually do, and don’t do. What it means to be a man, and a father perhaps. When our boys grow up with healthy male role models, they learn healthy behaviours. They aspire to be like their role model and as such enter adulthood with a more informed vision of ‘healthy manhood’.
Teach them that no means no
Essentially this one should start from day dot. No means no, in all contexts. Boys (and all children of course) should be taught that a no is a no, not a maybe or a yes if you scream, push, cry, demand or beg for it to be a yes. No is a boundary which every human needs to respect, but particularly males who are at far greater risk of becoming perpetrators of intimate partner violence in their adult years.
Teach them that if no consent is able to be provided, it’s still no consent
No consent equals no consent. Regardless of the reason behind the no consent, it still remains NO CONSENT. Teach them that even when alcohol and drugs are involved, these will not stand up as a defence in court if they violate a woman’s body. Further to this, teach them that ‘partner status’ does not equal ownership of the partner’s body.
Teach them that it’s okay to cry
Whoever came up with the idea that males don’t cry probably needed a good old cry themself. Crying is a human behaviour, not just a female behaviour. Crying helps us to self soothe by activating the parasympathetic nervous system which helps the body ‘rest and recover’. Consider it a detox – of stress, worry, overwhelm, anger, fear… anything really. Not only this, crying also helps dull pain and improves our mood by restoring emotional balance. But most of all it allows us to rally for help when those in our company see us in need of a shoulder to cry on, so to speak.
Teach them that vulnerability is a STRENGTH
Crying, admitting you don’t understand something, asking for help, facing your screw ups, learning from your mistakes … boys need to understand that they don’t have to wear a cape! They don’t need to know it all, have it all or be able to do it all. Teach them to have healthy standards, grace and bucket loads of healthy self-love.
Teach them that talking about their feelings is safe
Expressing feelings can be tough, we all know that. But the only thing tougher is not expressing them. I always tell my clients that feelings live in the ‘feelings dam’. When the feelings overflow, the dam wall breaks and a flood ensues, often resulting in chaos and long lasting damage. Anything we avoid just grows bigger so tune into your boy and allow him to connect with you as an authoritative figure… not an authority figure! There’s a huge difference. When boys feel safe to talk about their feelings, they grow into men who feel safe talking about their feelings.
Teach them about personal boundaries
Respecting personal boundaries is one of the key ingredients in any successful relationship. Boundaries help to create realistic expectations of ourselves and of others, and all relationships function better when people know what is expected of them. Boundaries create clarity, help build confidence and, particularly in the context of intimate partner violence, promote a sense of personal safety. Teaching your boy to create his own healthy boundaries, and to respect those of others, will set him up for life. This is an absolutely essential part of parenting.
Teach them to call out toxic, abusive and gender targeted behaviours
Think things like wolf-whistling, rating girls out of 10 for their looks, commenting on a girl’s breasts or bootie, sick ‘jokes’, a mate hitting his girlfriend, getting a girl drunk so as to ‘take advantage’ of her…. ALL OF IT. When teenage boys normalise this behaviour the pack mentality can create a toxic environment which often breeds some terrible outcomes for women. Teach your boy that none of this is acceptable.
Teach them about the laws surrounding family violence
This seems a fairly obvious one but often misinformation leads to a lack of understanding about the law. Your boy needs to know that criminal charges are a real possibility for those who choose to engage in intimate partner violence. Teach him that a criminal record could stop him getting the job that he wants, the passport that he wants or the partner that he wants. He needs to understand that if he chooses the behaviour he also chooses the consequences.
Teach them about gender equality
Show your boy that girls can do anything… boys can be hairdressers and girls can be electricians. That boys can fly planes and girls can fly rockets! We need to ensure our young men leave behind toxic generational ‘roles’. Your boy needs to see women mowing the lawns and men cooking dinner. Men cleaning the toilet and women digging the veggie patch. Tell your boy that he too should change nappies and do laundry! Gender stereotypes breed gender violence so a solid lesson in equality is essential.
So there you have it… Intimate Partner Violence | 10 Things We Must Teach Our Boys
That was a long, but essential, read. If you enjoyed it I would love it if you could please help me on my mission to educate parents by sharing the article using the links below.
If you have any questions, queries or concerns about this article you are welcome to reach out to me. Healthy discussions breed healthy humans so all reader input is welcome!
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Before you go don’t forget … I write articles on all sorts of mental health related topics. You may be interested in browsing my library by topic, some of which are below…
Until next week…
Yours in better mental health,