“Perhaps it takes a whole society to raise one violent boy,” says Male challenge (formerly sustainable-masculinity) advocate, Pip Cornall, who, after more than two decades working to prevent violence in the USA and Australia, is appalled by the rising youth violence showing up as teen gangs, homicides, teen porn, those damaging large group parties, vandalism, drugs, burglary, violent and sexist music. You’ll notice these behaviours almost always involve boys and young men—it’s a male thing, but it is a male thing that is growing.”
“In the past Australians could not have imagined the vicious attack by 25 youths on a family playing cricket on the beach—an attack which resulted in the death of William John Rowe, killed with his own cricket bat, and the mutilation of his son-in-law to be. Some of the youths charged were 14 and 16.
Locally in Byron Bay, Bangalow, Suffolk Park, Lennox Heads and Tweed Heads packs of teens have been escalating their violent attacks and property vandalism
When asked if we can solve the problem of youth violence he replied, “Sure we can. For example, in workshops with gang members and violent teens, when we help them drop the “tough guise,” we expose a vulnerable boy with terrible self esteem. Once we identify the root causes of male violence, we can design solutions—solutions of an immediate nature, and longer term preventative approaches.”
Too often we name gang violence as youth crime, when, overwhelmingly, 99% of the perpetrators are male. We need to name it as that—as male violence—as a male issue. Given that baby boys and girls are not born violent and there are societies where violence is very low, we must identify what makes our young boys prone to acts of gratuitous violence.”
Our society unwittingly contributes to hyper masculinity—the masculinity that is weighted to the “tough guise.” The good news is that solutions become apparent when we understand how boys develop—when we understand that masculinity is a social construct and changes over time, unlike maleness which is biological and fixed. That is
The promotion of the hyper-masculine—big muscles, big guns, big ego, is bizarre and perhaps our society is to blame. Today, more than at any time in our history, we need men who embrace a different paradigm—big heart, big compassion, big wisdom, big integrity—these are male values that will help save our precious planet.
After he left the Northern Rivers in 1980, Pip, a former PE teacher, ran an outdoor adventure business for 12 years which eventually took him to the USA where his adventure lifestyle continued. He was a ski instructor in winter, a raft guide in summer and in between taught peer mediation in the area schools. Mediation studies opened his eyes to restorative justice programs, especially with juveniles and he eventually became a mediator in the juvenile justice systems of NSW and Oregon. In these years he also worked with gang kids in California and with men in prison.
In 2003 Pip worked with Australian Olympic athletes to reduce sexual harassment in the teams. Inspired by the ability of boys and men to make positive changes in their lives Pip is authoring of a series of short books which empower men to develop healthy masculinities. His latest book “Kicking a Goal for Masculinity” encourages sportsmen to become good role models for boys and young men and play a role in promoting better forms of masculinity in Australia and overseas.
Pip says, “Most disturbing is the number of younger boys who are drawn to gratuitous violence and destructive gang behaviour. It is a lose/lose situation that ruins lives including the lives of the boys themselves. Sadly Byron Bay has become known throughout Australia as a dangerous place and I have already met several people who have been attacked by knives and iron bars wielded by packs of boys in the Bay.”
“Thankfully, in recent years both the UN and the World Health Organisation have identified the need to address male socialising as foundational to any programs to end violence. I am glad that gender violence is being addressed. While there are many causes to gang violence, such as poverty, broken homes, media and others, girls are subjected to those influences as well, and although we are seeing a rise in girl crime, boys and young men are still overwhelmingly the perpetrators.”
Queensland’s taskforce on violence is examining 5 key causal areas including the role of alcohol and drug use, family breakdown and structure, behaviour management, group violence, social violence, and education. In America the National Campaign to Stop Violence gave questionnaires to tens of thousands of children living in violence torn cities. The children listed the ten top causes of violence in the following order:
Poor family environment/bad neighbourhoods
Perhaps it is time we listened to the children for solutions. In many of the causes listed by them there is that unnamed gender aspect again—it’s a male thing.
“I find it useful to remind myself that baby boys are not born violent and then ask the question—what happened to make them this way? When I hear the stories from the mouths of gang members I begin to understand how they got to this terrible situation.
Since society is responsible for the male teen violence it is apparent that we all have a part to play in the solutions. It is like global warming—we are all to blame and we can all contribute to solutions.