Historically in Canadian culture, women and children were the property of men, and were not treated as ‘persons under the law’. In fact, the very first child abuse case here in Pictou County was tried in 1915 under SPCA laws because at that time, there were no laws in place to protect children. And it wasn’t until 1984 that laws came into effect that allowed for a husband to be prosecuted for sexually abusing his wife.
It’s true that women and children continue to be the most common victims of domestic violence. And yes, women can be abusive too. Domestic violence, in any form, inflicted by any gender is unacceptable. The history and current reality remains that the majority of domestic cases that go through the courts, including the cases that cause the most physical harm still, to this day, remain predominately cases where it is men’s violence against women.
What I have learned in my experience as a counsellor at New Leaf is that doesn’t make it a women’s issue. Nor is it really just a men’s issue. Domestic violence is, and always has been a social issue.
Despite the fact that we are all individuals, we all live in a society, and that society dictates what the norm is, what is tolerated and what is unacceptable. Each of us are governed and influenced by it. So what happens when society gives mixed messages? There are laws in place now to protect both women and children, such as the Pro-arrest law for domestic violence and the Child Welfare system put in place to protect children from abuse and neglect.
So then how confusing is it when our lives are bombarded with video games and music videos full of sex and violence. When commercials and magazines promote their self-serving versions of what a real man looks, sounds, and acts like, and that women who get noticed are only concerned with looking and acting young and sexy, whatever the cost.
Our 12 to 14 year old sons are finding easy access to violent, hard core pornography over the internet and, because they are so young, they come to believe that what they are seeing is normal and that is what real sex is. Many psychologists and noticing that more and more of their clients are young men who have developed pornography addictions and have become unable to develop and maintain healthy intimate relationships.
On a smaller and more personal scale, how many times do males of all ages get the message, “Big boys don’t cry.” “Suck it up and be a man.” How many times do men get heckled when they try to talk to other males about feelings or relationships? Is it so surprising then, that women’s shelters still need to exist and that New Leaf’s doors need to remain open for years to come?
Until it becomes a normal and natural occurrence that men seek out appropriate and helpful support and guidance around relationships, can learn to talk to other men on a deeper and more meaningful level, and become mentors for their family, friends and upcoming generations, domestic violence continues to remain a social issue.
New Leaf and community contributors