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The men who abuse women and other men are not monsters. Before you dismiss this statement, let me clarify. According to the Oxford dictionary, a monster is defined as a large, ugly, and frightening imaginary creature. The men who commit acts of abuse do not emerge from swamps at night to carry out their acts. They are ordinary men who live among us, men we interact with daily, men we play sports with, and men we converse with. These individuals are normal men who have often experienced abuse and trauma themselves. The cycle of abuse is unfortunately perpetuated, those who endure long-term abuse may eventually begin to inflict it on others.

As I prepared for a discussion with a group of young men this afternoon, I was reminded of an important fact: while anyone can be a victim of violence, the majority of such violence is perpetrated by men against women. Engaging with these young men was a call to the necessity of incorporating men’s perspectives into conversations about violence, rather than sidelining them.

Consider the statement, “Nina is an abused woman.” This phrasing fails to acknowledge the abuser, leaving the perpetrator unaddressed. In this context, the focus is on the victim and the measures needed for prevention, preparedness, response, and recovery towards the abuse.

Contrast this with the statement, “Abel battered Nina.” Here, both the perpetrator and the victim are recognized, highlighting the roles of each in the narrative of abuse. Understanding the role of the abuser and their contribution to violence is crucial. It helps in teaching young boys and men how not to become abusers, how to intervene when they witness potential violence like interrupting each other when violence is still hot air, and how to heal from their own past traumas.

Today, as I listened to these young men, it became evident that gender-based violence is indeed a men’s issue. Hearing from those who might be perpetrators under the principle of presumed innocence until proven guilty was eye-opening. Their eagerness for more discussions was touching. One young man even asked why these conversations haven’t been happening more frequently.

Men have been taught that they are not supposed to talk about their feelings, that this is somehow a sign of weakness, when it is the exact opposite. It is a sign of strength, and it needs courage, but these men talked, laughed and the onions we chop had us crying. These men don’t think the kitchen belongs to the women, a few of them consented with their girlfriends to hold each other’s hands. All of us watched a YouTube video called “Tea and Consent,” which uses the analogy of making and serving tea to simplify the concept of consent. The video explains that if someone agrees to tea, starts drinking it, and then passes out, you should take the tea away and ensure their safety. You shouldn’t keep pouring tea into their mouth just because they initially said yes. Similarly, if someone agreed to tea once, it doesn’t mean they want tea every time you offer. This space created an atmosphere, where men felt safe to share.

We talked about Euro 2024, Copa America 2024, haha they think France is representing Africa in the European tournament, I guess you know who they are rooting for. In the end one of these young men expressed his friends concern, this brother has been going crazy about a sister and the lacks the confidence to say to her how he feels and so the question was, “how do we help this brother gain the confidence to say how he thinks and feel to this sister?” This one we kept for the next session.


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