BYFIELD — It’s hard to imagine a pain worse than a parent losing a child.
For Malcolm Astley, that loss is exacerbated by how he lost his 18-year-old daughter, Lauren. She was strangled and slashed to death by an enraged ex-boyfriend in July 2011.
Astley, a Wayland resident and a former high school principal, has turned his grief to a new purpose — he has become one of the nation’s most visible and affecting speakers on violence against women. Yesterday, he brought that message to Greater Newburyport.
Over 200 students, parents and members of the public gathered at the Governor’s Academy’s Whiston-Bragdon Arena on Tuesday for the Jeanne Geiger Crisis Center’s second annual White Ribbon Breakfast. The event was held to discuss violence against women from a male perspective and to raise funds for the center. The White Ribbon Campaign is an international organization of men and boys dedicated to stopping violence against women.
Visibly upset, Astley delivered a message about finding healthy ways for men to mourn breakups and other emotionally traumatic situations.
“It is terribly painful to have someone break up with you — it is one of the worst pains in life,” Astley said. “It’s time for us all to acknowledge that and stop being silent about it. It’s not about losing your value or your self-respect so that you let the pain turn to anger and forget about what is important, and allow yourself to snap.”
According to Astley, girlfriends serve as significant emotional outlets for young men, who are often discouraged from showing pain or sorrow to their male friends. He urged a societal acceptance of a more vulnerable masculinity, saying that the current male “gender role” often leads to emotional isolation, anger and sometimes violence.
Astley compared the male “gender role” — domination and outward toughness — to monarchies, and cars without seatbelts, saying it was a social trend that had become obsolete and dangerous.