Instilling empathy in boys

Christine Blasey Ford’s wrenching testimony in front of the US Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday morning this week was emotional for women watching. Her testimony brought back so many of our own painful memories of sexual assault.

During the hearing and during the days after I have thought a lot about how we could work with boys and young men to try to end violence against women.  This is why I found NPR’s Scott Simon’s short interview with psychologist Michael Thompson about “the dark side of boy’s lives”, masculinity and boys’ emotions encouraging. Thompson has written the best seller book Raising Cain. Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys.


In Finland there  is a saying that “boys will become men” only after performing compulsory military service. I have always thought that sounds ridiculous since the last thing we need is the kind of men that are groomed in a military environment.*  Finnish crime statistics speak for themselves: 47 percent of Finnish women say (2012) that they have experienced physical and/or sexual violence after the age of 15. Finland’s child murder rate has for many years been higher than in any other western country and there are more homicides (90%  committed by men) in Finland per capita than in most other Western European countries. So I believe that instead of giving young men a military education we need to find ways in which to help instill empathy in them as Michael Thompson suggests in the interview.

* It is also possible to choose alternative civilian service as my three Finnish brothers and my son did.


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