DISPLAYS OF CHARACTER

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Ambassador Leonard Hayes



Leonard Hayes

Leonard Hayes

Retired
Department of Housing and Community Development


“Many men think they can’t do anything to stop violence against women until they are exposed to a different perspective. We have to include men in the conversation and educate them on healthy masculinity. Men, once educated, begin to feel like they can make a difference.”


Several years ago, as a part of his position as program coordinator for the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), Leonard Hayes attended the annual Father’s Family Fun Day. It was at this event that Hayes was first exposed to the White Ribbon Day Campaign and pledge. He made his pledge on that day, and in 2013 he decided to become an official Ambassador for the campaign.

Leonard Hayes During an impromptu discussion regarding violence against women in one of the Nurturing Father’s groups he was leading, Leonard noticed that the group of young fathers was open and interested, rather than defensive and dismissive. He realized that many men are "not as closed to the discussion as they are undereducated and underexposed." That conversation was an encouraging moment for Hayes, who observed that “many men think they can’t do anything to stop violence against women until they are exposed to a different perspective. Men, when educated, begin to feel like they can make a difference.”

Hayes believes that one of the most important tasks in addressing the systemic problem of violence against women is to “start early in educating boys and girls…to communicate frustrations without violence.” He notes that boys are particularly “raised to want to blow things up and beat things up…and that is not given up easily unless there is something there to help in the transition. When children are taught to NOT expect violence from boys as normal, the “necessary cultural shift” can begin to take hold.”

Leonard Hayes Hayes defines healthy masculinity as being characterized by: “honesty, integrity, being available, open for change, willing to grow, and prepared to say, ‘I’m sorry.’” While it is important to keep women safe from men who engage in violence against them, the solution to the problem also needs to involve expecting something more and better from men.

“We need to educate and expose the changing values of society to men who experience these things as new rules with something other than just flashing blue lights. We license and certify whatever we can, but then we expect we expect people without any formal training to know how to have healthy relationships.” Leonard wants to see more promotion of this cultural shift in school settings and “more prominent figures bringing the issue of violence and abuse forward in a way that bring men into the conversation, rather than excluding them.”