“A wife is like the other half of yourself. If you think about some decisions and you don’t know whether to go with it or not, she is the one there to tell you if it is right or wrong. She is like part of you,” Omer says.
He calmly clears his throat, folds his hands and introduces himself to me as a guy who works at George Brown College supporting the IT team and enjoys life: “I have travelled to several places”, and he prefers hiking rather than sitting at home he tells me.
Omer is also one of fourteen male allies who work to address violence against women and girls in immigrant and refugee communities. In partnership with Neighbours, Friends and Families White Ribbon started a 1-year project in March 2018 to engage men and boys from immigrant and refugee communities to prevent gender-based violence: “Immigrant and Refugee Communities - Neighbours, Friends and Families” (IRCNFF).
White Ribbon delivered an interactive training in September to prepare the fourteen male-identified participants on the key role they will play in raising awareness: the importance of recognizing the warning signs of violence against women and girls and promoting bystander intervention in order to support survivors and prevent domestic violence.
Omer finds it important to raise awareness in the immigrant and refugee communities. He encourages them to be open-minded to remedy the issues concerning violence that prevails in these communities, stressing that he wants to let people understand the need to: “respect each other even if they have different cultures and ideas of religion or different backgrounds.” Omer continues: “whenever I get annoyed I just go lay down somewhere in nature, like hearing the wind or the birds or whatever in the place you are in. Mostly I do that in parks. It’s like you feel you get out of the situation, the problems go away from your body, and you can just leave it there.” In this way Omer copes with difficult situations and he encourages other men to do the same or find their own ways, so that things don’t escalate to violence.
During his travels, Omer witnessed violence against women and children - sometimes even parents with their kids, he adds. It motivated him to join the IRCNFF project: “When I heard about the program I felt like this is the chance for me to make a difference in this world.”
At the training with White Ribbon the participants were taught different things. A focus during the training was given to the early signs of violence: “being depressed, trying to run away from or avoid something. Some of the scenarios we saw in videos in the training, for example, a woman in a supermarket, where a guy came out of nowhere yelling at her. So the scenario was that the girl tried to avoid him, but the guy wouldn’t let her go. So the way to react in this case is you either go in between them or you call somebody with authorities to help stop the situation,” Omer explains. The manbox was another point of discussion and illustrated how men are expected to be and act as powerful, dominant, fearless, strong and emotionless, traits that perpetuate gender inequality and fuel gender-based violence.
Omer wants me to forward one last message:
“The only thing I can say to you guys is try to understand, try to respect each other and try to avoid any violence.”
To learn more about White Ribbon's work to engage Immigrant and Refugee male-identified youth and adults, visit our webpage. Be sure to check back on our website in February 2019 for new community resources!
How to talk to men who are abusive: http://www.neighboursfriendsandfamilies.ca/how-to-help/how-to-talk-to-men
The Assaulted Women’s Helpline at 1-866-863-0511 offers a 24-hour telephone and TTY 1-866-863-7868 crisis line for abused women in Ontario. The service is anonymous and confidential and is provided in up to 154 languages.
Helpline staff can support you in helping the abused woman or abusive man. They will discuss the warning signs of abuse you have seen and give you practical advice on ways to help.
For more information about the services of the Assaulted Women’s Helpline visit: www.awhl.org. In an emergency, call your local police service.