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'We have the power to change this one'

WILLMAR -- Stopping violence against women can begin if parents would do one simple thing - teach their little boys that it's OK to cry.

Dr. Michael Kaufman - a speaker, author and consultant from Toronto - told a Willmar audience Thursday that one reason some men physically, sexually and emotionally assault their wives and girlfriends is because they've been told to be tough since they were born.

The societal expectation for a little boy to be strong can sometimes create a grown man who feels he's a "pressure cooker," said Kaufman. In an attempt to obtain the power they believe they should have, some men abuse women and children.

Kaufman, who presented a free forum on the cultural roots of male violence against women and children, cited a number of reasons why some men use violence against women, and how it can be stopped.

Saying that one out of four women has been hit by their husbands, Kaufman said violence against women is at an "epidemic" level. But unlike the global panic of a potential flu epidemic, violence against women "barely registers" and is "largely unnoticed, except by the women experiencing it."

Why some men use violence against women is a "complex" issue with several sources, said Kaufman. Anthropologists' studies show that societies that share equal power between men and women have little or no violence against women. On the flip side, he said, in societies where men earn more money than women, control government, control corporations, control religious organizations and control the media, there is more violence against women. In the home, he said, some men use violence to maintain that power over their wives or girlfriends.

Kaufman said current society has given "permission" for abuse to happen because lax laws treat violence against women and children as a "private family matter."

He said strengthening those laws, creating a society of equality between men and women and helping men to be sensitive by hugging and loving them when they're little boys, will all help to reduce violence against women.

Kaufman encouraged the men, women, boys and girls in the audience to speak out against violence and take action to stop it.

"We have the power to change this one," said Kaufman, who has helped organize a world-wide "white ribbon campaign" to stop violence against women. "We can create a world that's better for women and a world that's better for men," he said.

That call for action is being answered by advocates from the Willmar Shelter House and local clergy who will be meeting at 7:45 a.m. on Tuesday at the Campus Ministry Center north of Ridgewater College to discuss ways to stop violence against women.

"We will start talking," said Tom Hoogendorn, pastor from First Reformed Church in Willmar. "We just have to get involved."

Hoogendorn said hearing about abused women and children "tears at my heart." He invited others to participate in Tuesday's brainstorming session. "It's amazing what can develop for our community," he said.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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