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IN MY HIGH SCHOOL, students who attended the Making Waves violence prevention program put on a play called The Many Faces of Abuse.* I saw it when I was in Grade 9 and got chills. The next year, I attended the program. When I graduated, I came back as a Making Waves facilitator.
The program opened my eyes to a lot of things I hadn’t thought about before, like how a lot of relationship problems are about gender.
Men are taught to be aggressive—well, how does that relate to relationships? Not well. Most women are taught to be passive and not to speak out. These things lay the foundation for relationship violence. In educating both men and women, we demolish that foundation.
I still think about the teachings all the time. I have red flags for myself, like if I’m not being true to myself in a relationship or if I think something is toxic to me. Sometimes I look at other people’s relationships and can’t help but wonder: “Wow, is that good for you?” It breaks my heart.
In the Making Waves program we talked about media stereotypes of women, too. Before, I just didn't see it so it was like a light bulb flicking on. Now I can’t open up a magazine without noticing all the sexism. It makes me speechless. It’s baffling that it’s so normalized. We just mindlessly consume all of this patriarchal imagery and it’s very detrimental to everyone. These aren’t just women’s issues.
As a male, I’m so grateful to be a member of the Canadian Women’s Foundation Teen Healthy Relationship Advisory Committee. Some people say, “Oh Ben, we’re so fortunate to have you.” Well, I don't know who’s fortunate because I get to work with so many amazing men and women, with my eyes wide open to all of these issues. I’m very proud to be part of an organization that’s working to get this information out there.
All this has influenced my career ambitions. I was recently accepted to University of New Brunswick Law and want be a labour lawyer. I think it’s ridiculous that we live in a world where women make 70 cents of a man’s dollar—I think that’s absolutely atrocious. I believe in pay equity. I want to make a difference.
It was just the luck of the draw that I got to attend Making Waves, but these programs need to be available to everyone. I want future generations to grow up in a different world. I want equality. We need to join together in solidarity and fight for a better tomorrow.
The Making Waves program is delivered by Partners for Youth in New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, and is a Canadian Women’s Foundation funded program
--As told to Diane Hill
* The Many Faces of Abuse play shows different types of dating abuse (verbal, emotional, physical, sexual). It also demonstrates how violence in relationships escalates over time and how people who experience abuse often blame themselves.