Men are needed in the effort to stop domestic violence

Gayle Erickson
Island Forum

CAUTION: MEN WORKING! This is the theme of the 2008 annual conference put on by the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence last week. According to Nan Stoops, executive director of the coalition, and many others in the domestic violence movement, “we must dismantle sexism to end violence against women.” As the theme suggests, we cannot do that without engaging and inviting men to be allies with women in the process.

As a volunteer for the coalition, I attended two days of the conference and heard different speakers address the reasons that violence against women continues. The speakers also expressed hope that by building alliances with men, things would change. One speaker was Paul Kivel, a social justice educator, activist and writer. He has worked toward violence prevention and an end to oppression for more than 27 years.

Kivel believes there are four levels of work that men can do to help end violence against women. These levels are:

1. Stop their own violence against women, including abusive and controlling behaviors.

2. Reach out to other men and intervene when they see a man mistreat a woman or talk disrespectfully about women.

3. Teach their sons and other young men to stand for compassion and justice. It is also important to raise boys who can express a wide variety of feelings and who do not depend upon someone else, especially women, to take care of them.

4. Get involved in education, advocacy, prevention or organizing. Become an ally to women who are working to end the violence.

Men have been active in domestic violence prevention from the beginning of the movement. Becoming an ally can be challenging. Many women in the movement are uncomfortable and afraid to allow men to participate. Becoming an ally takes time — to show commitment and accountability. Becoming an ally means listening to and learning from the experts in the field.

Men are participating in the movement in many ways. They sponsor awareness and fundraising events, mentor young men in the community, create and implement violence prevention education in the schools, organize youth, provide advocacy to victims and sit on task forces, focus groups and advisory boards.

I know that the Mercer Island community cares about its members. I know that our mothers and fathers are concerned about our young boys and want them to grow up to treat all people respectfully and without violence. I believe that together we can do something in our own community to increase awareness and understanding of the dynamics and impact of intimate partner violence along with the sexism that underlies it.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness month — time to focus on what we can do to end violence and promote social justice for everyone. If you would like to join Mercer Island Youth and Family Services, the Eastside Domestic Violence Program and others in your community to address this issue, please e-mail me at Gayle.Erickson@mercergov.org.

If you would like more information on domestic violence, contact Eastside Domestic Violence Program at (425) 746-1940 or www.edvp.org.

Gayle Erickson, LMHC, is the Clinical Supervisor at Mercer Island Youth and Family Services.

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