The final speaker at the 2015 Toronto Domestic Violence Symposium is Paul Elam, the founder of A Voice for Men. Elam begins his lecture by describing what he sees as some of the obstacles in the way of a broader understanding and solution to domestic violence. According to Elam, one of the main problems is the cultural tendency towards gynocentrism—a tendency where the needs, wants, and desires of women are continually put ahead of all others.
Elam talks about his experience as a counsellor and the hostility he experienced when, like Dr. Ahmed, he openly broached the subject of female-perpetrated domestic violence. “When I started asking my male clients if they had ever been abused recently in relationships I was shocked. I was absolutely shocked by how many of them starting speaking out,” said Elam.
But while the former counsellor was able to discuss his male clients’ experience of domestic violence he wasn’t able to source them the help that they needed. “The first place that I called was a place called W.I.R.E.S (Women’s Information and Referral Exchange Service.) There were no men’s programmes – there none to be had… The response was ‘we can put him in anger management…’ That was in the mid-1990s and the situation is still the same; it hasn’t changed one bit,” he said.
Elam finishes his talk by pointing out that violence is a generational problem and one that will not change until it is addressed honestly. As children bear witness to violence in the home they repeat the patterns that they see in their own lives as adults. Ultimately, for Elam, tackling the ideas that support a gynocentric societal view is key to starting a process where domestic violence is addressed in an effective and equitable way.