Men looking to change a pattern of violent behaviour or get out of an abusive relationship often don't know where to get help, according to Val Barter.
As the executive director of Violence Prevention Avalon East, Barter has received phone calls from men recently released from jail, remorseful and looking to change, she says.
“A lot of violence and abuse that we see comes from male-identified people,” Barter says. “Where’s their supports?”
A project called Navigating Modern Masculinity is in its early stages. The aim is to develop a set of resources to be used by teachers in the K-12 school system, but free for anyone interested.
One of the factors that sets the program apart from the few others that exist is its focus on the needs in specific regions.
“What happens in St. John’s around violence is totally different than what you’d see in Labrador or an isolated community out west,” Barter says.
While one area might need more focus on the concept of consent, for instance, another might need to focus on conflict resolution.
The material will also be translated into all the indigenous languages spoken in the province.
Regardless of where they live, most men want to change, Barter says.
“I’ve never had a call yet where they’ve said, ‘I was told to call.’ Always, they took it upon themselves.”
The funding for the project comes from the Newfoundland and Labrador Beard and Moustache Club (NLBMC), which raised money through the sale of its MerB’ys calendar.
The latest statistics on police-reported violent crime from Statistics Canada are from 2016. In that year, 1,087 females per 100,000 were the victims of a violent crime. For men, the rate was 1,046 per 100,000.
However, the majority of those accused of violent crime are male, regardless of the sex of the victim. Eighty-one per cent of violent crimes committed against women and girls and 79 per cent of violent crimes committed against men and boys were committed by men.
NLBMC vice-president Jeff Hillyard attributes the higher rate of violent behaviour among men and boys to unrealistic societal expectations.
“We teach men and boys from a very young age, ‘Men do not talk about their emotions. Men don’t talk about their feelings.’”
People are only now beginning to discuss societal expectations of what it means to be a man, Hillyard says, adding that while these conversations can be difficult to have, that’s not a reason to stop having them.
“I see so many times, when we start to have these conversations, people — both men and women — shut them down real quick.”
He mentions a polarizing Gillette ad released in January, which hit a nerve online.
“When I see things like that on social media, it seems to me there is just as many people defending it as there are criticizing it.”
For Hillyard, societal expectations of how a man should behave, or what a man enjoys, do not affect how much of a man a person is. If a man enjoys traditional hobbies like hunting or working on cars, that’s completely fine.
“(But) if you want to crochet, go ahead and crochet, man.”
What will be involved in the program’s online tool-kit, specifically, is yet to be formally decided.