Recent sexual assaults at UBC have brought lots of focus to the issues of Consent and what we can all do to create cultures where everyone is safe and respected.
Knowing how to create and maintain a healthy relationship is a basic life skill, but for too many of us, relationships are a source of struggle and even abuse. Dating violence is most common between the ages of 15 and 24 and just as in spousal violence, a large proportion of dating violence happens after the relationship has ended.
At Selkirk college there were some classroom discussions with men and women about the factors that contribute to healthy and unhealthy relationships. Some of the men had poignant reflections about how difficult it is for guys to talk to someone when they are scared or jealous or frustrated. These guys encouraged men to talk to anyone – – a buddy, a lover, a teacher or a counsellor when they are overwhelmed. Here are some of the class reflections on what an equal, respectful relationship looks like and questions to ask yourself if you are concerned:
In a healthy relationship between romantic partners, power is shared. In an unhealthy relationship, power is used to control and dominate.
In a brainstorm with a group of students about how they see healthy relationships these were some of the qualities they valued:
- Communicating needs and expectations in the beginning of the relationship
- Assertive communication skills
- Mutual trust
- Having clear boundaries
- Each having some friends and interests outside the relationship
- Mutual attraction
- Conflict resolution skills
- Great listening skills
- Mutual respect
- Ability to laugh together
- Sharing power and decision-making
Here are some questions they encouraged people to reflect on:
- Do I feel respected? Is my opinion and way of seeing things valued?
- Do verbal exchanges include belittling, degrading or threats?
- Does my partner want me to be isolated and show excessive jealousy over time spent with friends or family?
- Is there spiritual abuse where spiritual or religious beliefs are used to manipulate, dominate or control?
- Do I feel physically and emotionally safe?
- Is there listening and mutual, collaborative problem solving?
- Is there an imbalance in the control of money or decisions about finances?
Jack Layton, former Canadian NDP leader, started the White Ribbon campaign to engage men in pledging to stop violence against women:
What You Can Do
One of the most important things men can do to help promote gender equity, healthy relationships, positive ideals of masculinity, and help end gender-based violence is to speak out against it.
- Think about the kind of man you want to be. Be true to yourself.
- Be respectful towards women, girls, and other guys. Sexism and homophobia hurts us all.
- Never use force, threats, or violence in your relationships with others.
- Ask first. Whether it’s holding hands, kissing, or more, it’s important to communicate.
- Wear a white ribbon and speak out against violence against women.
- Be a good role model and share with those around you the importance of respecting women and girls
- Learn about the impact of violence against women in our communities.
- Challenge and speak out against hurtful language, sexist jokes, and bullying.
- Accept your role as a guy in helping end violence against women. It affects everyone.
- Start a White Ribbon Club or Campaign in your school, community, place of work, or faith group/place of worship.
- BELIEVE This issue is real. Believe survivors’ experiences. Your support will make a difference. Tell them ‘it’s not your fault ’. No one asks for or deserves to be sexually assaulted or harassed.
- TRUST YOUR GUT Don’t walk on by if you witness harassment or an assault on the street or anywhere: assess the risk, then intervene and confront or defuse the situation. If you need to, ask for help. Call 911.
- OFFER SUPPORT Ask if you can help people who have experienced violence and connect them to support services. Help the organizations that support survivors of violence. Contact Assaulted Women’s Helpline for resources and support at 1.866.863.0511 or visit www.awhl.org.
- IT STARTS WITH YOU Lead by example. Question your own attitudes and behaviours and how they may disrespect or harm women. Sexist language and street harassment all contribute to a culture of violence.
- IT STAYS WITH HIM Be a role model. Talk to your family, friends and co-workers about the roles they can play in ending violence against women. Challenge men and young men in your life to make a difference!
- LEARN MORE. GET INVOLVED We have all the resources you need to get involved and make a difference.