Grooming abusers

24 October 2019 | Columns

One of the unspoken truths that remains submerged in the ongoing debate around gender-based violence is that little boys learn how to treat women from fathers and father-figures, while little girls are conditioned to accept certain behaviours they see perpetrated against their moms and other females in their lives.

That's a mouthful, but it has to be said. Boys are watching us as boyfriends and husbands. They are learning from how we treat the women in our lives. Girls are watching what their mothers, aunts and sisters are enduring. They are being groomed to accept the same or worse. As men, we must be acutely aware of this. If we choose to psychologically and physically abuse our wives, girlfriends or other girls and women in close proximity to us, we are teaching boys that this behaviour is the norm. It is the kind of shocking casualisation of violence that will cause us to further reap the whirlwind. In the same vein, young girls who witness gender violence can easily view it as part and parcel of what 'love' really is. This skewed view is a legacy that should be avoided at all costs. Many children exposed to violence in their home are also victims of physical abuse. Children who witness domestic violence or are victims of abuse themselves are at serious risk of long-term physical and mental health problems, according to experts. Children who witness violence between parents may also be at greater risk of being violent in their future relationships. If you are a parent who is experiencing abuse, it can be difficult to know how to protect your child, but their protection must be a consideration if you are thinking of holding on in such a toxic relationship. In the end, children who witness abuse may become teens who act out in negative ways. They may also engage in risky behaviours, such as having unprotected sex or substance abuse. In the case of men, they may very well become the next generation of abusers.

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