Police bring in US expert to help curb domestic violence

POLICE have brought in a US expert to try to stem the growing tide of domestic violence among young people.

Dr Jackson Katz, author of The Macho Practice, is seen as one of the world's most revolutionary lecturers on sexist violence.

The Anti-Violence Unit, a national police initiative, wants him to take the message of "bystanders" into Scottish schools - as well as work places, sports teams and social clubs - to encourage young people to try and stop domestic violence among their friends.

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A recent study by Strathclyde Police found one in two young men and one in three young women thought it acceptable to hit a woman or force her to have sex in some circumstances. And one in eight young men agreed that "nagging" justified violence.

Although Dr Katz's methods apply to people of all ages, police are determined to crack down on violence among young people, where they fear acceptance of domestic violence is seeing a resurgence after efforts to discourage it among older generations.

Dr Katz said: "A lot of my work is about the prevention of sexual and domestic violence, whether working with the whole population or segments of the population.

"Everyone is a bystander - a friend, a teammate, a classmate, of a man who is abusive and going down that path.

"A lot of men think they have two choices - to intervene at the point of action, which isn't usually possible because it often happens in private, or do nothing.

"We tell them there's a third option if you see or hear something, such as in a high school if you see a student push his girlfriend up against the wall - that's an example we often use. Jumping in at that moment may not be the best choice, it might be better to talk to him later or tell an adult, or you could say to her friends: 'Do you know what's going on here?'"

Dr Katz's methods have enjoyed success in the US, where they were first trialled and are now widely used.

In Iowa, a comparison of two high schools - one using the Mentors in Violence Prevention programme, which he has piloted, and one not - has shown the method to be very effective.

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Chief Inspector Graham Goulden, Anti-Violence Campaign lead for the VRU, said that attitudinal change programmes like those developed by Dr Katz were vital in helping reduce gender-related abuse in Scotland long term.

"Unless they are directly involved, men often don't think gender-related violence impacts on them. But most men would be horrified if their daughter, their sister, their friend were experiencing it.

"And they are part of the solution: by challenging this kind of behaviour and the perceptions of how men should behave towards women, they can help change attitudes long term, by acting as role models not only to their sons but to other young people in their community."