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Toxic Masculinity Meets Fierce Self-compassion

Our latest blog is written by Sinem Aksay, IMECE’s Whole School Project Coordinator and a mindfulness teacher and includes her presentation from our webinar “Boys will be boys”: A Whole School Approach to Tackling Toxic Masculinity

Domestic violence is a pervasive issue that affects individuals, families, and communities. While there is no one-size-fits-all solution to this complex problem, a whole school approach that involves wider organizations, institutions, structures, processes, and systems can be an effective way to tackle it. At HLHR, we believe that talking about healthy relationships is a pre-emptive strategy that can help reach kids at an early age and educate them about the importance of differentiating between healthy and unhealthy relationships.

One of the challenges we face when discussing healthy relationships in schools is the existing views shaped by cultural norms. While culture can bring joy, support wellbeing, and help us function, there are also parts of culture where harm is present. It’s important to recognize that domestic violence is not attributed to any one culture but rather a universal problem. At HLHR, we emphasize mindfulness as a critical aspect of identifying harmful behavior in relationships. By teaching mindfulness and bringing attention to the five senses, we encourage individuals to inquire about what’s going on in their relationships and whether they or their partner are being harmed.

Language plays a crucial role in how we talk about healthy relationships. At HLHR, we give students a language that includes domestic violence, abuse, sexual harassment, stress, blaming, and minimizing. It’s equally important to connect this language with the feeling tone of the situation and ask questions like “What do I feel?” and “What action do I want to take?” Connecting with felt sensations in the body and inquiring about harm is a holistic way of informing people about healthy relationships.

Compassion is at the heart of our approach to tackling domestic violence. Compassion is based on mindfulness and an acceptance of what’s going on right now with a kindly, befriending way. Compassion is communicated through how we hold ourselves, how judgmental we are, and how accepting we are. It’s also a catalyst for change and involves drawing boundaries, saying no, understanding our needs, and meeting them. Engaging men and boys is critical to our approach as we believe that a holistic approach is the only way to diminish crime against anyone in our society.

Finally, safeguarding and building a support network is crucial when experiencing domestic violence. We encourage individuals to develop a support network that could include friends, relatives, or even the institution they are getting an education in. By providing information on safeguarding and support networks, we hope to empower individuals to ask for help when needed.

At HLHR, we are committed to providing a compassion-based whole school approach to tackling domestic violence. If you are interested in learning more about healthy and unhealthy relationships or developing a support network for yourself or someone else, please reach out to us. We would be more than happy to provide information and support.

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