One of the most important roles that all men can play is being a role model to boys (and girls!), whether they are your own children or not. Frankly, the only way that we really can eliminate the problem of violence against women is by sending a strong message to the next generation that it will not be tolerated. We all know that children learn what they see, from very early on. Most men who use violence came from households where they witnessed their fathers (or father figures) being violent. But many boys who grow up in abusive households do not become violent adults and the number one reason might be that there were other adults in their lives who were not violent and provided guidance and nurturing.
Here are actions you can take:
- If you are a father of boys or girls, the most important action you can take to help your children is to be loving and respectful with your intimate partners (including present and past). It is also important to talk to boys about why it is important to honor and respect girls and to point out how society sends the message that women and girls are less important than men and boys, in all its manifestations (media, sports, pornography, peers) and that these messages are unjust.
- Whether you are a father or not, there are probably boys in your life who could use these types of messages or role modeling. You might be a community (or professional) coach, or a Sunday school (or professional) teacher, or an uncle or padrino. All of these are opportunities for you to mentor a young guy. If the boy has experienced violence at home, you might be the difference between his adopting violence as a way of life or not. Think about it.
- If you are a young man, you can have a lot of influence on your peers and younger men. Younger kids look up and learn from their older classmates, brothers, cousins, and friends. Send positive messages and model healthy attitudes for younger kids. Make sure that they know that it’s not cool to disrespect girls, and that it’s okay to try to walk a different path.