Working with Men:
Traditional Approach to Working with Aboriginal Men who are Abusive
There are many reasons why a man chooses to abuse a woman. Primarily it is a means of controlling her and maintaining power over her. The following are some contributing factors to the use of violence and the abuse of Aboriginal women by Aboriginal men.
Men’s life experiences – There are a variety of factors and events in a young man’s life that can contribute to him becoming violent. These include witnessing or experiencing violence in the past, being taught to suppress his emotions and having a lack of nurturing and stability in his life.
Absence of consequences – As previously discussed in the Eastern direction, a lack of consequences for men who abuse is a contributing factor to the prevalence of abuse. There are many reasons why consequences may not exist in certain communities – often having to do with the power structure, and family and political ties creating a safe haven for abusers. There have also been instances reported where women will tell an abuse victim that she must have done something wrong to deserve it, rather than holding the abuser accountable. (pg.52, Aboriginal Domestic Violence in Canada, The Aboriginal Healing Foundation, 2003.)
Beliefs and attitudes towards women – In communities where woman abuse is dismissed as being a part of life, the prevalence is bound to increase. This ties in with the absence of consequences for men who abuse by creating and sustaining an environment where beliefs about male privilege, the accepted treatment and abuse of women and children and the acceptance of violence in general all contribute. (pg.52, Aboriginal Domestic Violence in Canada, The Aboriginal Healing Foundation, 2003.)
Levels of community wellness – A lack of support services and infrastructure to deal with woman abuse in Aboriginal communities is a factor in the continued growth of the abuse, as well as the normalization of violence in these communities. The persistent use of drugs and alcohol, coupled with the disproportional incarceration of young Aboriginal men – who learn the beliefs and values of prison gangs and violence they then take back to their communities – are also contributing factors.
A traditional approach to working with an abusive Aboriginal man is about keeping him responsible and accountable – to his victim, his family, his community and himself – through a restorative justice program that works to heal the community and all its members, rather than simply punishing the abuser. In order for a traditional approach to work, there needs to be strong role models, respected Elders and traditional people and strong Aboriginal women to walk alongside these men. The healing model must also be rooted in the Seven Grandfather teachings.
The teachings are gifts the Seven Grandfathers gave to the people in order to help them live in harmony with Creation.
- They are:
- To cherish knowledge is to know wisdom.
- To know love is to know peace.
- To honour all Creation is to have respect.
- Bravery is to face the foe with integrity.
- Honesty in facing a situation is to be brave.
- Humility is to know your self as a sacred part of Creation.
- Truth is to know all of these things.
By: Edward Benton-Banai, 1988, Indian Country Communications Incorporated.
All of these teachings are useful in talking with Aboriginal men about taking responsibility for their actions and choosing not to abuse women.
Wisdom – This teaching provides the knowledge of the many different forms of abuse and helps men gain the understanding and knowledge required to change their behaviour.
Love – Once men have learned to love and respect themselves, they will be able to love and respect others. To live with love is to show kindness and respect.
Respect – This teaching tells men to respect all of Creation and not to be judgmental. To listen to and respect women, to safeguard women’s dignity and individual rights.
Bravery – By gathering their courage, men can bravely speak out against woman abuse and become a positive role model to others.
Honesty – Men can practice honesty by being truthful about their actions and behaviours, as well as being open to learning how their actions affect others, and being upfront with everyone about their intentions, without any ulterior motives.
Humility – This teaching tells men to have sensitivity towards others, to have the selfawareness to know their own strengths and limitations, and to know they have the capacity for growth and change.
Truth – This is to know all of the Seven Grandfather teachings and to live by them – knowing how to prevent and end woman abuse, and committing to promoting change within their home and community.