About 50 teenage boys went to the YWise Guys conference. It’s a new approach by the Lethbridge YWCA, aimed at challenging harmful ideas of manhood that can lead to abuse.
For 14-year-old Thomas Frank, it’s been an inspirational experience.
“Being able to learn about the different stuff … It’s just a great opportunity.”
The YWCA is hosting a number of events through Week Without Violence. While the Power of Being a Girl Conference has been put on for 15 years, this is the first time an event in Lethbridge has been put on just for the boys.
“It’s not talked about a lot, we see that with our young girls, when entering into a unhealthy relationship, and we know that the other side of that is generally a young man,” Lindsay Brown, YWCA Girl Space Facilitator said.
The conference is put on with help from the White Ribbon Campaign, the world’s largest movement of men and boys working to end violence against women and girls.
“Even the boys in the room – they are role models to other boys and also men in their lives,” Kevin Vowles, White Ribbon Campaign community engagement coordinator, said. “They have the promise and potential to end violence against women and girls.”
According to the Canadian Women’s Foundation, both men and women experience violence, but statistics indicate that females experience it at higher rates.
Seven in 10 people who experience family violence are women and girls
Girls are 1.5 times more likely than boys to experience violence at home
About 80 per cent of victims of dating violence are women
“We’ve got to build that awareness amongst teenage boys,” Vowles said, “how to build healthy relationships.
“If they are struggling, if they are communicating in ways that are harmful or hurtful to others, that they seeks out help and (get the) resources they need.”
Brown hopes funding will be allotted next year to host another YWCA boys conference in the city, ultimately leading to more services at the centre for men looking for help to end domestic violence.