"I advise every man [in Lebanon] to consult the Men's Center before getting married, to see if he's capable of raising children. Bringing innocent people who have done nothing wrong into this world - only to fail at raising them properly - could scar them for life."

Those are the words of Adel, a Lebanese man whose name has been changed at his request in order to remain anonymous; a man who after years of abusing his sisters, wife and kids, has sought treatment at the Men's Center founded by ABAAD, an NGO that works towards the promotion of gender equality in Lebanon and the region.


(A sign from a billboard campaign sponsored by ABAAD reads in English: did it hit rock bottom for you? don't hurt yourself, don't hurt your family)

The center opened over a year ago, in June 2012. Since then, more than 35,559 men have benefited from ABAAD's Engaging Men in Ending Violence Against Women program through counseling by phone, one-on-one sessions with therapists, support groups and anger management workshops, according to Rony Abou Daher, a clinical psychologist and psychotherapist at ABAAD.

The overall aim: to better manage men's reactions and emotions and to teach them how to deal with stress. All of the men who attend the center do so voluntarily. The fact that the center's services are completely confidential and free encourages men to seek it out. "Men know that they can come in, talk, get some help and leave without anyone knowing... because you know how things are in Lebanon, men don't want other people talking about how they're seeking help [for a problem]," according to Abou Daher.

Generally speaking, the way men respond to emotional stress and anger is accepted by society, but "the screaming and the use of force is something we work on re-conceptualizing in terms of what is expected from men," says Mohamad Cheblak, media and communication manager at ABAAD.

Gender-based violence is a particularly pervasive problem in Lebanon. According to the NGO KAFA (Enough Violence in Lebanon), since 2010, 32 women have been killed at the hands of a male relative. The organization, which fights violence and exploitation, also says it pursued 425 cases of domestic violence between 2011 and 2012. It's now pursued an additional 200 new cases since the start of 2013.

Shortly after the death of 33-year-old Roula Yaccoub, a mother of five who was allegedly beaten to death by her husband, parliamentary joint committees in Lebanon approved a draft law on July 22 in what they say was an effort to protect women from family violence, but it was under an altered title, "The Bill for the Protection of Women and Family Members Against Domestic Violence." The original name of the legislation was the "Law for the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence." The law was amended to include all family members, making it no longer specific to just women. So while the word "women" was included in the title of the bill, they were essentially excluded from specific mechanisms for protection in the content of it. Furthermore, and to the chagrin of some activists and NGOs, an article that would have made it illegal for a man to rape his wife was instead reworded so that the accused spouse would be punished under the penal code and in the event of repeating the assault, would face a harsher sentence.

Since Yaccoub's death just three months ago, at least four new domestic violence-related deaths have been investigated by KAFA. Back at ABAAD'S Men's Center, Abou Daher is hopeful. "We've noticed improvement... some of the men we've worked with were seeking help to prevent themselves from [potentially engaging in] violent behavior which they knew they were going to [eventually] reach. Many of them left their homes because of the stress and the anger they felt, [and after coming to the Men's Center] the quality of relation with their families improved."

Adel says it was physical and mental exhaustion that led him to the Men's Center. "I was unable to control myself. I decided to go to a physician and he referred me here." Adel says money and social issues were to blame, but the way he initially viewed it, it was his family who was provoking the anger. "I used to justify every moment of anger [by seeing it] as a result of them provoking me and then I was irritable and unable to control myself."

For Adel, revealing the secrecy of his life was the hardest part. "Talking about family secrets, and how I spoke about them with resentment and hatred was very hard for me [but at the Men's Center] I felt that there was someone who listened and helped me understand why I was having these problems with my family."

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