Hotline allows men to call without the fear of stigma
By Yonatan Sredni
Head of English Content, Marketing & PR Division, World WIZO
*Courtesy – Currently appears at www.wizo.org
Entitled “Men Talking Men“, the Men’s Hotline Conference held on December 2 at the Jerusalem Cinémathèque was the first ever of WIZO’s Men’s Hotline, a support line for men seeking to extract themselves from the cycle of domestic violence. The conference featured a wide variety of male experts from all walks of life raising awareness so that men needing help can get it.
“For a long time I have known that I needed help, but I didn’t have the strength to call. My crying came out as shouting. But finally I am speaking. I never shared with anyone what was going on inside of me.”
The statement above, from an anonymous caller to WIZO’s Men’s Hotline, a support and counseling hotline for men seeking to extract themselves from the cycle of domestic violence, is an all too familiar one.
The hotline, which received 1000 calls in the last year alone, is both totally anonymous for callers and operated solely by men, making the conversation more comfortable for the men calling who seek help, The hotline is sponsored by WIZO USA, with the generous additional support of the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation.
“The WIZO Men’s Hotline helps men who desperately need the tools to deal with their anger in a non-violent way,” explained Malka Genichovsky, Director of the Center for the Treatment and Prevention of Violence at WIZO. “It is the only helpline of its kind in Israel to assist violent men in taking responsibility for their actions and getting the help they need. WIZO firmly believes that it is possible to reduce domestic violence, by treating the violent person himself.”
“The anonymous nature of the hotline allows men to call without the fear of stigma,” said Avi Mor, Coordinator of the WIZO Men’s Hotline. “It is staffed by trained male volunteers who provide support and encouragement in a non-judgmental way towards a violence-free future. What makes this unique is that often when it comes to domestic violence, talking about the men is considered taboo. WIZO, by creating this much needed hotline, is helping to prevent further acts of violence from occuring.”
“WIZO, as the leading non-profit in the field of family violence treatment and prevention, sees the Men Hotline’s vital activity as a reflection of the world view that the men in the cycle of violence are not just a major part of the problem, but are also a major part of its solution!” said WIZO Israel Chairperson Ora Korazim. “The WIZO Men’s Helpline is just one of many projects of WIZO Israel focused on treatment and prevention programs for all members of the family affected by the violence. With the continued support of our dedicated volunteers and supporters in Israel and around the globe we will continue providing vital projects like this.”
“Men debate with themselves whether to go get treatment or not,” explained social worker Gil Tamir. “Partly because of their difficulty in expressing and sharing their feeling with regards to personal hardships and difficulties and also due to their fear of how their environment will judge them. Many times men will turn to treatment because of extrinsic motivation or severe stress. In the field of domestic violence, most requests for help come from women. The role of the society in changing this reality is significant and very valuable.”
“It’s very important that the change of discourse also take place among women,” Mor said. “We must understand that one of the key factors behind men’s violent behavior is society’s attitude towards men, which is NOT to speak! “Talking” is presumed to be a “woman’s thing”. So what will happen if I as a man am having a rough time and things are bad for me? Instead of “talking”, I’ll “talk violently”. We must change this.”
First Such Conference
Focusing on “Why Some Men Seek Treatment and Others Don’t”, the conference included a combination of professional and clinical content with a fascinating series of short TED style talks by a diverse group of speakers including a rabbi, a judge, a journalist and a police officer who each shared their unique perspectives on the issue of men caught up in the cycle of domestic violence.
Rabbi Rafi Feuerstein, President of the Feuerstein Institute and co-chairman of the Zohar rabbinical organization, shared his unique challenges dealing with violence as a community rabbi. Retired family court judge, Menachem Cohen spoke about the view of domestic violence from his years on the bench. Jerusalem’s Deputy Mayor, Ofer Berkowitz gave the perspective of the police and Yuval Bango, the welfare reporter for Maariv, urged the social workers in the audience to engage in an open, yet discrete, dialogue to bring their important cases to the attention of the public. The program also featured a special musical program by social worker Tamir Ashman, Director of the Men’s Studies Forum at Tel Aviv University, who showed what popular songs about men reveal beneath the surface.
Testimony from a WIZO Men’s Hotline Volunteer
During one of the conference’s breaks, Micha, one of the hotline’s dedicated volunteers, shared his experiences helping male callers in dire situations receive the help and support they need.
Don’t Give Up On Them – or Us!
“The goal of this conference is to increase the legitimacy of society and professionals to encourage men to express and give room to their emotional world,” said Genichovsky. “We must raise awareness of the world of men, release social and personal barriers in addressing and referring men to treatment and support frameworks. Our hope is that by bringing together social, community and public opinion leaders along with different professionals, we can change the social discourse. We want to expand the concept of masculinity in relation to emotional and concrete needs and to empower and support. Our message is: Don’t give up on them – and don’t give up on us!”