Men Can Change

Jamie Addison

Jamie Addison on the White Ribbon Ride 2019

Redemption is an option that is always open. It isn’t easy but when it is chosen it is a powerful tool for personal and public change. Jamie Addison is an excellent example of a person, who acknowledged his past and worked hard to turn his life around, against the odds.

Jamie’s early life was influenced by his Dad, who was a heavy drinker and there was a culture of alcohol dependence that affected all of his male role models.

Jamie says he was nurtured by the women in his life. The culture he grew up in saw women as being there to serve men, to take care of the home, undertake all the preparations for birthdays and dinners. While men were the providers and expected that when they got home they would be waited upon.

“When mum pushed back, there would be graphic violence, assaults, and then that violence would often be directed at the children. Dad would assault us if we tried to protect mum by whipping us with jug cords, vacuum cleaner hoses etc. In the same breath, we were told by our Dad to harden up, and asked ‘what are you crying for’ after a beating.”

Jamie says the White Ribbon #Unspoken Rules campaign is one that really hits home for him.

“I was taught those #unspoken rules; that boys don’t cry, that we had to harden up and that it is not ok to be vulnerable, or hurt or lonely. Dad was the provider, the head of the house and so we thought it must be ok to act like this.”

“Although my dad was hard on me, I loved him and still do. Not just because we should forgive people, but because he’s my dad. And that makes the #unspoken rules even more powerful, because often they’re being passed down to you by the people you love”.

“So when I became a father at age 16 all that behaviour that was role modelled to me had been downloaded into my memory banks,” says Jamie.

“I ended up being my father. I had the whole core system; I was indoctrinated. I needed to be in charge, otherwise I was weak, and I thought women were there to do as I told them. I used physical and psychological violence, pushing my partner, punching holes in walls, levelling tables that were set up with meals, using intimidating behaviour, making threats and innuendo all directed at my wife.”

Jamie says the impact of violence on both of his two ex-partners made them terrified of him and his unpredictable behaviour.

“I was also fuelled by addiction and drugs. My partner was living in fear until she finally found the courage to get away.”

Jamie says he got to a point in his life where he woke up one morning and had lost everything he loved.

“I didn’t take any responsibility for my actions. I went straight to being a victim, wondering why they had left me. I couldn’t understand that I had caused this problem. I still thought it was them. There are many men who do this, blame all the external elements, friends, parents, women, and have no ownership of the issue, no understanding that their own attitudes and behaviour have led to a breakdown.

“I needed to do something. I realised I was going to jail or worse, I’d die because of my drug abuse. A family member took me to a treatment programme and laid it out that this was my last chance.”

For Jamie the challenge was to address his core behaviour and those belief systems: that he was in charge, that women were just there to do what he wanted, that men don’t show emotions. These beliefs were instilled at a very young age.

“The #unspoken rules ensured I knew how I was supposed to behave, that this was how it was supposed to be. I’d seen my Dad, he was in charge, he earned the money, he was the man, he used violence that affected me, and demonstrated that this was how it must be, that this was normal. It’s not until you see something different that you realise non-violence is actually normal. I thought it was the norm to have bruises and to treat women as objects to cook, clean, and provide sex.”

Jamie says it wasn’t until he met his current wife, who he has been with for the last 13 years, that he realised that all that stuff was a crock.

“My wife Audrey and I have two sons together but between us we have 12 kids and grandchildren. It’s a non-violent house, a beacon of hope, but I have to be a role model to our children and undo the damage I’ve caused to the children from when I was violent.”

“And through that 13 years lessons continued to be learnt as I had to take ownership of my outbursts that would disrupt the whanau dynamic. It was my wife who continued to reach out to those men such as the White Ribbon Riders who could hold me accountable. That was the biggest step I took to remain violence free.

Jamie became involved with White Ribbon when he was a drug counsellor and was given a White Ribbon pin by the chair of the White Ribbon Trust, Takurua Tawera.

“I realised that I can use my story to effect change. Over the last four years I’ve been known to be ‘that’ guy so people would come to me and ask for advice and help. This is very humbling, and now with training I’m a passionate advocate for non-violence in the community and for White Ribbon, having recently been approved as a White Ribbon Ambassador.

Jamie also uses the White Ribbon Ride to get his message across. “My first White Ribbon Ride was in 2015. I love that we are able to use our bikes to get into areas where we would not otherwise be invited. The flash bikes open conversations and generate interest. We move from a conversation about the bike, to a conversation about White Ribbon, to men’s attitudes and this year we will be drawing attention to what creates those attitudes, the #unspoken rules that help to create who we are and what is normal for us.”

Jamie says he is very passionate about this year’s message. “Of all the messages, this is a huge one and it goes right to the core. This is solution stuff. We’re no longer just raising awareness. We’re challenging the core belief systems that can either create young men that care or young men that will use violence.”

“I couldn’t have changed without the support of my loving family. I love my wife, my kids and my grandchildren and I know there will be men out there that feel the same way I do. So change for yourself, and the whanau.”

Comments are closed.