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We Must Talk with our Boys

The case of Lauren Astley's homicide brings this into clear focus.

“The slaying of local teen, Lauren Astley, 18, that shocked the quiet Massachusetts town of Wayland over the Fourth of July holiday weekend, highlights a national problem of under-reported abuse and coercion in teenage romantic relationships, anti-violence experts say.”

“In the case of Nathaniel Fujita, it was suggested a history of violence and abuse was nonexistent. In a statement made by Astley's father, Malcolm, following Fujita's arraignment, the slain girl's father said Fujita's family showered their son with love.”

“Astley had recently ended her relationship with Fujita. It is not known whether or not Fujita may have physically abused Astley in the past. As stated in a report issued by the National Institute of Justice, 20 percent of women who were killed or critically injured by a current or former significant other had not experienced physical abuse in the past. An attempt to leave the relationship was the main cause in 45 percent of female homicides by intimate partners.”

Read more: The Boston Channel.

This event brought me to tears and I am left infuriated. This event makes it stark and clear how we entirely fail our boys in teaching them to manage self and relationship while at the same time teaching them that loss in a relationship is the ultimate shame.

The purpose of our White Ribbon Day Pledge is a public commitment to repair exactly this problem, to talk with and engage boys in managing themselves in relationships. To teach what a relationship is, to teach how to experience loss, to feel pain, to manage hate as well as love. To manage in real life.

There are several motivations to using violence. First, violence is celebrated and entitled for boys. That sets the stage. Entitlement and having no real alternatives is a deadly mix. I have learned over and over again in my years of work with men who batter that the task at hand was to move this person who can not name or share any emotion save anger and thrill, to the point where he is able to say, “I am afraid, I feel confused and I don’t know what to do. I can use your help.” The choice of violence to reinforce privilege is not addressed easily by this, and will take A LOT more work to change that in our community social norms. But the choice of violence because there is nothing else to choose from can be taught and represented today.

This is something White Ribbon Day Ambassadors can help with.

We can talk to our boys. We must to talk with our boys. Every day, Every year, throughout their lives.

Fellow White Ribbon Day Ambassadors, please share your thoughts with me. I would like to hear them and to include them in future postings.

And, if you have a young man in your life, please take a moment and talk with him about these issues; engage them in thinking about their own ability in relationships when things are hard. This boy’s attitudes about violence, privilege and relationships can be influenced by you. If we don’t talk about it, the violence will most definitely continue.