Workshop to highlight men’s role in tackling violence against women
Published on 3 April 2023 4 minutes read
Men are being invited to learn how they can play a part in preventing violence against women at an online workshop.
The men-only event, "What's a Man to Do?", will run between 6.30pm and 8.30pm on Wednesday, 26 April 2023.
It will be led by three male trainers, all ministers in the Church of Scotland: former Moderator Very Rev Dr Martin Fair, Rev Andrew Kimmitt, minister at Aberlour Parish Church in Speyside, and Rev Barry Hughes, minister at St Mark's Parish Church in Stirling.
It follows the success of an in-person event which Dr Fair ran last year in Arbroath, where he was minister at the town's St Andrew's Parish Church.
Dr Fair said he was prompted to organise the event following a series of disturbing local and national news stories, which highlighted the dangers women faced from male violence.
These included the abduction and murder of Sarah Everard by a serving Metropolitan Police officer, as well as two local incidents, one of them an attack on a teenager in broad daylight.
Dr Fair said: "You could say these things have always happened, but for some reason these incidents seemed to get to me more than had previously been the case. Something within me said: Enough is enough, what are we going to do about it?"
While most men might not think themselves as a threat to women, Dr Fair is concerned that gender-based violence may be a consequence of ignoring more negative male attitudes or behaviour.
The Scottish Government, similarly understands violence against women to be a consequence of gender inequality, as a result, this form of violence can be prevented by challenging harmful stereotypes and sexism.
"For men simply to say they wouldn't commit acts of physical violence isn't enough – violence comes in many forms so I want all men to realise that they have a part to play. Men need to raise awareness and take action," he said.
"We need to ask if what is passed off as banter makes a fertile breeding ground for encouraging some men to feel they can do what they like?"
Another reason for deciding to take action was the commitment, under the Church of Scotland's Five Marks of Mission, to tackle violence in all its forms and work for peace and reconciliation.
"Most people, when they see something like that, probably think of the war in Ukraine and other international issues, but tackling violence in all its forms is also what needs to happen in our communities," Dr Fair said.
"We can't sign up to these five marks and laud them if we don't actually try to take them seriously.
"Out of that we held our first event at Gayfield, the local football stadium. We did a big curry night, advertised it across social media and local press. I also asked some men that were well known and regarded in the town."
Making a pledge
Held in association with Arbroath FC and the Abroath VAW (Violence Against Women) Partnership, the event aimed to answer the question "What's A Man to Do?" with frank and open discussion.
Dr Fair was delighted to see some of the attendees sign up to be volunteers within their own commitment to the White Ribbon Scotland campaign and its promise: "I pledge never to commit, condone or remain silent about men's violence against women in all its forms."
Dr Fair said: "That's what we wanted to do, get the subject on the table. If you walk into our church, we have several pop-up banners saying it is not right to look the other way.
"It's very easy for men to say it is a women's problem and doesn't really affect them, but unless men own this issue, there will never be any change."
Like the earlier event in Arbroath, the online Church of Scotland event this month will make use of videos illustrating inappropriate male behaviour and how to respond to it, practical ideas on how to promote cultures of equality and inclusion in congregations and work places, as well as interpersonal ideas for calling out sexist remarks and jokes.
These problematic attitudes amongst some men are common throughout society and Dr Fair acknowledges that the Church itself is not immune from these behaviours.
"The bottom line is that we are human and sinners, not saints," he said.
"Men within the Church have got to take some ownership and ask themselves where are we among all this?"
The changes needed may not happen immediately, but Dr Fair looks to the way that society has changed in its attitudes to such issues as racism and smoking in public places as a positive indication that progress is possible.
"I think attitudes are changing, but it is not going to happen overnight," he said.
"It will be generational change where guys coming up now will start to think it is inconceivable what has happened in the past."
"What's a Man to Do?" will take place on Wednesday 26 April at 6.30pm and any men with a role in the life of a congregation or presbytery are very welcome to participate in this one of a kind, training and dialogue opportunity. The session is free and you can book your place via Eventbrite here.
To learn more about the work of Integrity, the Church of Scotland's Violence against Women Task Group, please email email@example.com