The best tactic against domestic violence is the example set by individual strong, honorable men who without fail respect women, the leader of the Salt Lake's front-line shelter for abused women said Tuesday.

YWCA Chief Executive Officer Anne Burkholder said the 100 or so young boys who are at area shelters on any given night are more and more in need of male role models who never consider violence as an option in dealing with others, especially women.

The task of growing up — particularly the extreme demands of adolescence — is learning resilience no matter the environment at home, Burkholder said. Boys from abusive homes have a much tougher time learning a positive resilience because they must go through adolescence while living "in a constant state of risk and fear.

"These boys develop a type of wary resilience that if not countered will reverberate throughout their lives," Burkholder told a Rotary Club luncheon. "That resilience can serve them throughout their lives if they can be shown and taught that getting respect comes through showing respect and being fair at all times under any circumstance."

Not being able to cope daily stressors or bounce back when faced with disappointment or harsh treatment is a lesson many boys are missing and are eager to learn, she said.

Burkholder's comments come a few days before the YWCA's annual "Week without Violence" scheduled Oct. 13-19. The public awareness campaign offers a week of discussions and activities to confront and eliminate violence against women.

Turning to it to cope with problems in life starts at a young age so the earlier the notion can be stemmed the better, she said. The YWCA operates a home for teen mothers and reports that two-thirds of Utah teens who become pregnant were sexually and/or physically abused.

The week will highlight efforts by state child protection agencies and law enforcement to promote "not an option ever" approach statewide. Other front-line associations such as the Salt Lake Valley Domestic Violence Coalition and the Utah Domestic Violence Council say statewide guidelines for courts to environments in school and examples set at home all factor in to what a child adopts as a coping mechanism.

Child abuse caseworkers say more often than not the harm and lessons learned by children observing violence at home is not taken into account in court and plea bargains with perpetrators.

Police investigators and shelter providers scheduled to speak at the awareness week say because the impact isn't taken seriously enough, a child often believes that what happened isn't that serious and may ultimately consider being violent an option to deal with a girlfriend or wife later.

"Mentoring that fosters respectful and healthy resolutions to problems is critical but doesn't have to be formal," Burkholder said, noting that fathers, their adult friends, grandfathers, uncles and brothers can have profound positive effect on young men by the example they set. "Studies are showing that just being around men who are caring and respectful has a significant influence."

The key is setting and acting according to a personal standard that is never violated, she said. Believing and behaving accordingly "shows a young man that the world is full of promise, not peril."

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