Understanding Violence Part II: Guidelines for supporting friends

This is part 2 of the Understanding Violence guidelines series. Take a look at Part 1 here

Woman-crying_920x380_scaled_cropp1.  Support them through their choices.

If they want to make a police report or go to the hospital, offering to go with them for support can make a big difference.

  • If they are open to seeing a counsellor, you can offer to call and make an appointment for them.
  • If they agree to make a safety plan, you can make it with them.
  • You can follow up with them on steps they wanted to take, checking in gently to see how they’re doing and if they have made any progress on that/require further support. 

2.  Offer resources. Often, people may not realise what options are available to them. Look up resources for support in such a situation, and share them with your friend. It could be a helpline number, free legal services, counselling services, etc. Educate yourself on the available options and discuss them with your friend. If you are able to, and comfortable with it, you can also offer personal resources. For example, they may need some money or a place to stay temporarily while they figure out their next steps. 

3.  Be sensitive to their position. When a victim of violence is queer, disabled, poor, an ethnic or religious minority, an immigrant, is lacking family support or is facing other societal and structural barriers, they may have even less access to conventional modes of support. Be sensitive to their particular situation, and don’t assume anything about their experience. 

4.  Encourage them to document their experience(s) of violation or abuse, with as many accurate details as possible. Even if they are not intending to make a police report at present, evidence collection and accounts of their experience can help build a case if they change their mind in the future or if the violence escalates and they want to seek legal recourse. 

support-survivors-sign5.  Self care is essential. When our loved ones experience trauma, it often affects us too. While supporting them, we must be responsible in caring for ourselves too and remember to do little things for ourselves that keep our spirits up, and seek help if we need to. 

6.  Encourage them to seek professional help. There are limits to the extent that friends and family can support someone experiencing trauma. Trained professionals can provide support in a multitude of ways, ranging from hotlines and counselling services to legal advice and casework. Encourage them to get the help they need if and when they are ready to. 

7.  Intervening during an incident of violence can be difficult, and even dangerous, but not impossible. Your safety is top priority. Every situation is different, but some ways people have effectively intervened when they witness sexual harassment or abusive behaviour are:

  1. Calling the police
  2. Asking the victim if they are OK or need help
  3. Getting the attention of others around so you have support and can speak in a collective voice
  4. If the perpetrator is known to you, and you feel you have the power to intervene safely (e.g. your friend is getting aggressive or touchy with someone in a club), you can leave with them, take them away from that area/the victim, or persuade them to stop.
  5. Distraction can be useful. In a case of molest on public transport, or catcalling, you can pretend to know the victim and strike up a conversation with them, offer your seat to the victim, or place yourself between them and the perpetrator.

Think about different scenarios you have been in and strategies that might be helpful. Talk to others about their experiences and strategies.

Supportive responses Unsupportive responses
•       It’s not your fault

•       I believe you

•       We’re here for you

•       What do you want to do?

•       What can I do to help?

•       Should we look up options together?

•       We can talk about it whenever you want to

•       This matters. You matter.

•       You don’t deserve to go through this.

•       I’m so sorry that happened.

•       (The perpetrator) is responsible for what happened, not you.

•       Who else do you trust to talk about this to?

•       Do you want me or someone else to talk to (the perpetrator)?

•       Do you want some space?

•       I’m going to support you no matter what.

•       You have nothing to be ashamed of.

•       You didn’t let it happen, (the perpetrator) chose to do it.

•       It’s your own doing

•       You can’t call that abuse/rape

•       You have to leave him!

•       Don’t take it so seriously

•       Are you sure?

•       What were you wearing?

•       Why did you…? / Why didn’t you…?

•       You have to take care of yourself better.

•       Don’t talk to that person anymore.

•       You chose to date a guy like that

•       Think about your kids/others

•       I told you so

•       Don’t exaggerate/Don’t lie

•       Just ignore it

•       Forget about it, it’s no big deal

•       How could you let this happen?

•       Let it go/It’s time to get over it

•       Think about (the perpetrator’s) life

•       Toughen up/Stop crying

•       You can’t let people treat you like that

•       If you weren’t so weak, this wouldn’t happen


Stop Sexist Behaviour Online

by Delia Toh, Change Maker

Halloween has just passed. I actually considered going to a party as an Internet troll just for laughs (my costume would be a cardboard face mask to symbolise anonymity and a neon jacket to symbolise obnoxiousness). However, it is slightly discouraging that Internet trolls are not merely fantasy or a source of harmless entertainment like our beloved Halloween character, the Frankenstein’s monster. Internet trolls are very real and they are everywhere. Anyone active on online spaces can attest to that.

it_photo_108658Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter allow people to hide behind the cloak of anonymity without being accountable for their actions. Furthermore, increasingly complicated privacy settings make it more difficult for users to control access to their personal information. Women in particular bear the brunt of cyber harassment that sometimes borders on outright cruelty. Famous blogger Xiaxue encountered her fair share of online trolls who called her degrading names for sharing her thoughts on politics in 2012 (but we’ve got to love that she gave the online misogynists a taste of their own medicine).

There are many ways the Internet can make a woman fear for her own safety. Women might have experienced one or more of the following online:

  1. Rape and/or death threats after sharing her opinion online.
  2. Being cyber stalked by people who abuse their personal information in order to harass them. This could also be in the form of persistent unwelcome comments and messages on social media.
  3. Having their Facebook or Instagram photographs stolen and used for malicious purposes.
  4. Find themselves the target of a group of online trolls who rallied against them. These groups work together to write nasty comments that are usually of a sexual nature, including and not limited to their appearance or desirability to men.

cyber-bully-3-finalCyber harassment affects many internet users today, but women in particular are targeted simply for the fact that they are women. It targets their very personhood – either for the purposes of sexual objectification or humiliation. This is not only disrespectful but damaging to the victim’s emotional and physical health.

As much as we value the freedom of speech, we cannot allow it if people do not practise responsibility of speech as well. A good way to start would be to educate people on sensitivity and respecting boundaries. In a world where sexism, racism and other forms of bigotry are very much rampant, we can take positive steps with our actions and words online. Calling out rude, hostile and bullying behaviour towards women online definitely sends a powerful message that women deserve a safe and respectful environment.

deliaAbout the author: Delia is a second year Chemical Engineering undergraduate at University College London. She has enjoyed blogging since her secondary school days. She would now like to move on from raving about school work to raising awareness through her writing. She strongly believes people are more different than similar, and that individuals ought to be valued for who they are inside.


Redefining Masculinity

A recount of the struggles of navigating and defining masculinity and what it means to be a “Real Man”
by Robert Bivouac

When I was 7, I had an operation done on my left ear. I couldn’t eat at all for 12 hours before that and I told myself I would never go hungry again. Back then I didn’t know what calories were and I got a dollar a day in allowance, just enough to buy a bowl of lor mai kai for recess. I knew it made me feel full, so I think I ate that at least twice a week, and on the other days I ate things like pork bao and those chicken-flavoured Petit Brunch crackers.

When I was 8 and our class was held back for recess I cried. I remember the teacher’s name. I think it was Mr Wong, or Mr Fong, or something. I don’t actually remember the teacher’s name but I remember what he did. He went over to my desk and looked me in the eye. He had this habit of puffing his cheeks up before he spoke. I don’t remember why I remember that but I remember what he told me. He told me that I was a boy, and boys don’t cry. I was a boy, and I was going to be a man in a few years, and men don’t cry either. I tried to stop crying and after I did, and he let us go for recess, some kid came up to me and told me I didn’t need to eat recess anyway. That was the first time I realised I was fat, and it was only the first time.

G44A0821In hindsight it was mostly the boys who bullied me, and in hindsight I should’ve known it was going to get worse in my all-boys secondary school. Literally the second week of class in Sec 1 someone had already broken my stuff. I think it was a pen, but eventually someone smashed my calculator. There was this thing going on where they’d take my stuff and run around with it because they knew I was fat and slow and I couldn’t catch up and when I couldn’t catch up they called me names. I remember being called a bunch of slurs strung together the way someone who doesn’t really know what they mean would use them. I remember my classmates pinning me down or slamming me into walls. I remember I was so physically weak that hitting back became an excuse for them to hit way harder. Someone threw a chair at me once and then someone threw me into a chair, and then into a table, and then into the lockers at the back of the class. I didn’t cry.

I didn’t cry, but I was short, I was soft and I was physically weak, and to top it off I was in choir. I spoke a lot in class, did better than every single person who came at me and went up every week to challenge the principal during assembly. I didn’t know my place, apparently. In a school full of boys I was not a man, and I didn’t know my place, so that was all the excuse they needed. When the school counsellor and house head were brought in to investigate they told me what they’d heard. My “friends” thought they were training me to be a real man, as if all the insults, stealing and hitting could “fix” me; as if I needed to be “fixed”.

10458342_775298422505091_3667291884959981461_nThe thing about being “fixed” is that if you need fixing, that means you’re broken, as if not being a “real man” means you’re broken. See, if you’re a man, but not a “real man”, it seems you’re doing something wrong and if you’re doing something wrong, you need to be taught a lesson. It’s not just kids who do this. Like, turn on the television some time and you’ll see a bunch of “real men”, doing really manly things. “Real men” are strong and violent. “Real men” work hard and protect their families (which, of course, they want). “Real men” are attractive, or else “real men” are heroic, and “real men” always get the woman (and it’s always a woman), even though sometimes they really shouldn’t. It’s not all the time, but the implication is this: this is what a “real man” looks like, this is what he does and this is how he does it.

Guys, we’ve been caught. We’re told by these so-called “real men” to “be a man” when we’re hurting, when we’re sick, when there’s nothing else you can do but they want us to do it anyway. We’re told that if we don’t look or act like “real men”, we don’t deserve to be men at all. We’re something less than men if we aren’t “real men”, something they have permission to dominate, to hurt and to exploit. Frankly, guys, I’m tired.

I’m tired of this “real man” crap. All men are “real men”. We are men simply because we choose to identify as such, and nobody gets to decide otherwise. Not your parents, not your friends and certainly not anybody who thinks taking your stuff and hitting you is a good idea. We need an understanding of manhood that doesn’t exclude people who don’t fit the traditional idea of a man. We need to acknowledge that men who can’t or don’t want to find a partner, who aren’t straight, who were told they were something other than men at birth but consider themselves men, are real men. And yet, we also need to acknowledge that the men who do bad things? The men who hurt other people? The men who hurt me? Are real men too.

If we want a more inclusive understanding of manhood, we need to accept it’s for everyone, not just the good guys, and we need to do our part, as men, to fix it. Real men still do bad things, but good men stop them. and you, every single one of you boys and men in the crowd, can be a good man.

If you see a man who’s angry because he can’t get laid, tell him he’s got a problem. Tell him his problem is not that he can’t get laid, but that he believes he needs to get laid to be a real man. Tell him that he’s already a real man, and that no matter what he does, he will never deserve to get laid. Tell him that maybe he’ll find someone, or maybe he won’t, but either way it’ll be alright. He’ll still be a real man.

Youth at the event came up with different gender stereotypes they'd like to break. Warning: images in this mirror might be distorted by socially constructed notions of beauty.If you see a man going off about women, saying they’re the cause of all his problems, tell him he’s going in the wrong direction, and maybe ask him why he feels that way. Take his rage and point it at whoever told him women were to blame, because they’re lying. Tell him that’s who he needs to be mad at. He needs to be mad at everyone who told him being a man meant getting his way, meant automatically getting more respect than women, meant not being told he’s wrong. That’s who he needs to be mad at.

If you see a man harassing someone else by being sexist, homophobic or sexually aggressive, tell him to back off. Tell him he needs to back off, and that he doesn’t have the right to demand they shut up or do things just because he’s a man. Tell him being a man doesn’t make him more correct than anyone else, and that he really needs to stop. Say it firmly and with conviction and maybe the threat to report him to his teachers, or his superiors at work, or, if there really is no choice, the police.

Your voice is a vote, guys, and these are only some of the issues. All men can, and all men should, work together to make being a man something less aggressive, less exclusive, less sexist, and more proactive. We need to save our brothers from this myth that only some men are real, and other men are less real, and women are perhaps even less than that. We can play our part to help end violence by and against men, but only if we try. And we really have to try.