Men Speak Out on domestic violence

A local Castlegar advocacy group approached council to garner support for their noble cause.

The Clothesline Project crowd from 2012. This is just one of the initiatives that Men Speak Out are involved with.

A group of well-meaning and concerned Castlegar men are seeking a counselor to help re-educate men with violent tendencies.

Formed back in 2009, Men Speak Out, is a group made up of a number of male volunteers who believe that giving other, non-violent men and women information about this issue will help empower these bystanders to know what to do when they encounter situations where they suspect physical, emotional or verbal abuse might be a concern.

These men are confident that even just “breaking the silence” that surrounds the reality of violence against women will help to change attitudes and beliefs that permit the abuse to continue unchallenged

Local spokesman for the group, Bud Godderis said, “This is perhaps the most important social issue of our time. If abuse towards women and children is not stopped, we will never have peace in our world.”

This group is also involved with the Take Back the Night march that happens each year to bring relevant issues to the surface of a community, as well as the similar Clothesline Project which honours those who have fallen victim to intimate violence.

Godderis and a posse including local Fire Chief Gerry Rempel and member Frank Kanigan stopped in for a meeting with council at their last gathering to discuss the possibility of support from the city.

While Godderis is unsure whether the city has funds to provide them, he would at least like to see some sort of backing and support for this relevant issue.

“One of the things that has become evident to us, is that we need to find counseling service for men,” said Godderis.

The counseling would in fact be for the men that commit these crimes, so they may learn different ways of dealing with their problems and emotions and not become repeat offenders.

“You have to understand,” he told council, “that this person would have to be very skilled because anyone who has been involved in counseling knows that people don’t usually voluntarily take themselves there unless they’re in pretty bad shape.”

Upon hearing this, councillors Bruno Tassone and Sue Heaton-Sherstobitoff inquired as to whether or not this type of counselling had worked in other municipalities.

“Are we essentially reinventing the wheel?” Tassone asked.

Godderis responded by saying he has seen things similar to this work in other areas but it would require much work to get the right person that can integrate with offenders and the Castlegar community. In short, it’s not common, but he believes it is certainly feasible.

Men Speak Out member Frank Kanigan said, “Stats show it is much more likely that women with abusive father in laws will have abusive spouses or dating partners. Violence is a learned behaviour in my opinion. If we can learn it, we can also unlearn it.”

The group strongly believes domestic violence is a man’s issue, as it is predominantly perpetrated by males.

“We need to put the responsibility where it rests, but this isn’t about condemning men, it’s about having an open and honest discussion. This is not about shaming them into a closet or anything,” explained Kanigan.

Kanigan proceeded, reading testimonies from several men that have undergone counseling and courses, one such statement said, “I wish I had taken this course earlier in my life.” Kanigan said this speaks to how strongly these people do want to change.

Rempel said domestic violence is an issue that he and his fellow firefighters see too often within the community. He said a lot of the time it can catch them off guard, people they know, or thought they knew. It was obvious he was troubled by the fact, just speaking about it made him uneasy.

Councillor Tassone spoke to the men, saying, “I really commend you guys. I think it’s a great thing you are looking for.”

Councillor Deb McIntosh said she had experience listening to men who had committed these acts but that was all she could do, listen. She believes in what this group is doing and thinks a qualified counsellor could really get things going in the right direction, but the first step is talking about it honestly and in the open.

“Don’t just speak about this matter in the break room or at the water cooler or point fingers,” McIntosh added.

If anyone has information that may help the group or is interested in providing their own personal time to this cause, contact Bud Godderis at Godderis@shaw.ca.