By Mark Nesbitt, Prevention Education Specialist
Recently an article was published on EBONY titled Stop telling Women How to Not Get Raped. The piece goes on to detail the need for anti-rape campaigns that are targeted toward men. The reason being that men are the majority of the ones committing these crimes and that it is inherently victim-blaming (and ineffective) to have anti-rape campaigns aimed at women, putting the onus on them to make themselves safer and prevent rape.
This is a sentiment that is very-much shared by HAVEN, as well as many other groups and organizations working to end oppression and gender-based violence. There are whole organizations like Men Can Stop Rape and A Call To Men that produce campaigns specifically designed to target male peer culture and encourage positive social change. We at HAVEN are striving to do it as well.
Currently, we are offering an eight-week program called Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP). MVP was originally developed by Jackson Katz and Byron Hurt at Northeastern University and is now run by the school’s Center for the Study of Sport in Society.
HAVEN adapted the well-established, evidence-based, curriculum into an eight-week program that can be administered in high schools and middle schools across Oakland County. MVP is a leadership development program that motivates male student-athletes and student leaders to play a central role in solving problems such as sexual harassment, intimate partner violence, and sexual assault. Utilizing a bystander approach to prevention, the MVP program views the young men not as potential perpetrators or victims, but as empowered bystanders who can engage in proactive, preventive behavior and leadership to bring an end to gender-based violence and the cultural norms that support it.
The goal of the program is to raise awareness, challenge thinking, open dialogue, and inspire leadership around these topics that are often considered “women’s issues,” due in large part to the way that many anti-rape campaigns are targeted towards women. We, too, believe that men play an important and necessary role in ending this violence and are working to foster that sentiment in male youth culture with our MVP program. For more information about the program, or to schedule it for your school, contact Mark Nesbitt by phone (248) 334-1284 ext. 352 or by email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Another way HAVEN is working to engage men is this work is with Gentlemen, an anti-sexist group for men. Gentlemen is an activist group that supports gender equality and is dedicated to encouraging healthy and respectful masculinity, challenging sexism and other forms of oppression, and supporting HAVEN in its mission to end gender-based violence. Gentlemen works to break down typical gender role expectations and inspire more men to step up and play their role in primary prevention of gender-based violence and promotion of respect and equality for all.
We seek to encourage masculinity that values virtues of healthy and respectful adults, but leaves the specific embodiment and expression of such virtues up to the individual. Gentlemen is for men in that engaging males and challenging traditional notions of masculinity is a major focus, but this group is not intended to be solely of men. This work cannot be done without a wide variety of representation and we invite people of all sexes and identities to work with us. This group aims to place men’s role in supporting feminism and all that entails at the forefront, as this is an undeniable and essential piece to fostering equality. We strongly reinforce the message that we need to tell men not to rape, rather than teach women not to get raped.
Gentlemen holds two kinds of meetings each month, a Community Meeting and a Council Meeting. Community Meetings meet every second and fourth Wednesday from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. at social establishments around Oakland County such as coffee shops and libraries (currently being held at Torino, 201 E 9 Mile, Ferndale). These are casual meetings meant to reach into the community to increase education, create dialogue, and inspire activism through discussion.
For the business side of things, Council Meetings are held on the first Saturday of the month from 10:00 a.m. – noon at our HAVEN offices (30400 Telegraph Rd., Suite 101, Bingham Farms). Council Meetings are held to set goals, plan activities, and discuss decisions about the organization, structure, and direction of the group. Again, everyone is welcome to attend any Gentlemen meeting, Community or Council. If you would like to keep up to date with Gentlemen happenings please visit us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/HAVENGentlemen. If you have any questions feel free to email email@example.com
Engaging men in our work is a large part of our mission here at HAVEN. It is imperative that we engage men in prevention discussions and challenge victim-blaming anti-rape campaigns. Sexual assault is NEVER the victim’s fault. Instead of telling potential victims how not to be raped, we need to be telling people how not to rape. And because the majority of sexual assaults are perpetrated by men, we need campaigns that are aimed at men that encourage social change and reinforce positive behaviors that can truly make everyone safer. This is not anti-male, this is just being honest about the realities of these crimes. We know that most men would never commit a sexual assault. Violence is not inevitable or inherent. Violence is a choice. And until we all work together to change the attitudes around sexual violence, this culture will continue to support those men that choose to commit these crimes. We want to hold men to a higher standard than current masculinity asks. Our mission is to encourage respect for all, to treat everyone with kindness and acceptance. This is about keeping us all safe. This is primary prevention.