Men Stopping Violence: Getting men to join the struggle to end violence against women
November 22, 2011 by William K. Wolfrum
Acts of violence by men against women do not begin with the act of violence itself. But whether it be upbringing or societal factors, there is always one factor that remains the same in every act of male violence against woman – the presence of a man willing to commit said act of violence.
It’s these men that the organization Men Stopping Violence is attempting to reach. Its Mission Statement – “To mobilize men to use their many strengths for creating a society free from violence against women.” Created in 1982, Men Stopping Violence has used a plethora of techniques and programs to get men into the conversation about violence against women, and has had success in changing the dialog.
“We believe that we have played an important role in helping people understand that if we are going to END violence against women, we must engage men in this work,” said Men Stopping Violence Executive Director Shelley Serdahely in an e-mail exchange.
While other organizations have taken a similar concept in dealing with violence against women, it is the methods and strength of MSV that has made it stand out as an organization that is making real strides in the effort to change cultural and community attitudes toward violence against women. MSV programs include:
Because We Have Daughters: “Why would men want to get involved in ending violence against women?” The answer: “because they have daughters.” And Mothers and sisters and friends. This Father-and-daughter class teaches fathers about the risks and realities faced by their daughters.
Tactics and Choices: In conjunction with the DeKalb County Magistrate Court, this twice-monthly class for some men who have been arrested for domestic violence offenses examines men’s use of abusive and intimidating tactics against women, and tactics used to enforce and maintain power and control. The use of videos and other educational materials prompt men to engage in a dialogue that explores their behavioral choices.
Community Restoration Program: The group’s original intent was to offer men who had finished the 24-week program an ongoing connection and support and opportunities to volunteer with MSV. Over the years, the role of CRP has expanded to include more direct community advocacy.
Serdahely said that while the essential mission of the organization remains the same, MSV’s techniques and focus have evolved over the years.
“When MSV began, we conducted classes for men who had been identified as abusive or violent. That was intervention work. Thirty years later, almost all our work is prevention work,” said Serdahely. “We continue to provide the classes, but have incorporated modules in the curriculum that require students to share something they have learned in the class with at least four men in their community.”
The efforts of MSV have transcended borders. CNN Headline News Anchor Richelle Carey – who works with MSV as a VP on its Board of directors and tireless advocate – said she has been thrilled to see the message of MSV go worldwide.
“Moses Okoth, a Kenyan, is working to end violence against women while collaborating with us, said Carey in an e-mail exchange. “He embraces – in fact – embodies our mission and our philosophy that men must play a role in creating safe communities for women and girls. He wants to start MSV classes where he lives and other parts of Africa. We speak with him weekly and are in constant contact with him online.”
Other well-known figures that have worked with MSV include Congressman John Lewis, Lynn Rosenthal, Special Advisor to the President on Violence Against Women, Baroness Scotland, former Attorney General of Great Britain and Dr. Johnnetta Cole.
But while Serdahely – who will soon be leaving her position to devote her time to fundraising efforts for MSV – and MSV have truly made strides in educating men about violence against women, the battle remains difficult. Via television, magazines and all other media outlets, the portrayal of women is often one that gives young men a perverted view of women overall.
Men are taught that one of the rewards of manhood is sex on demand and that a female or child is not someone, but something, to be used or possessed by males,” said Serdahely. “Media and advertising play a key role in teaching that lesson by portraying women and girls as sexual objects.
“We challenge men to check the ways they buy in to that portrayal. That is part of the 24 week classes we continue to lead, all the training we conduct for institutions and communities, the Allies group, and the work we do with interns. It will be included in the syllabus for the class we will be teaching at Emory University this spring,” added Serdahely.
What They’re Saying About Men Stopping Violence
“What motivated me to become active were the comments and conversation surrounding Chris Brown’s assault on Rhianna. I was so disturbed by some viewer comments and comments from people I knew who implied she somehow played a role in being beaten. I was especially sad to hear young people describe it as “just fighting.” At that moment I knew I had to do something. I didn’t grow up around domestic violence, but it was clear to me then that it’s not the other person’s problem. It’s everyone’s problem and everyone’s responsibility to end violence against women.”
– HLN News Anchor Richelle Carey
“I gained a greater appreciation for the challenges associated with men being involved with the fight against violence against women. I began to value the role of women as leaders in this effort, and I learned a whole lot about patriarchal society and how it informs our views and actions.”
– Ronald McClain, President and CEO of Family Services of Greater New Orleans. Attended the MSV training institute, “Closing the Gap.”
My name is Richard C. Brown Sr., Clayton County, Associate Magistrate Court Judge. I had the opportunity to participate in one of your Domestic Violence Classes at the Dekalb County Courthouse on Friday, November 5, 2010. Simply stated, It was excellent!!! I would go so far as to say that it was the most powerful display of human interaction and transformation that I have ever witnessed, within such a limited and short period of time. I have been in the Criminal Justice field for over 35 years and I have seen it all while serving as a City of Atlanta, crime scene clerk, technician, corrections officer, sergeant and lieutenant, internal affairs prosecutor and assistant public defender.
– The above was written about the MSV class, Tactics and Choices
If men are going to be part of the process of ending violence against women, it requires knowledge of ourselves and the part we play. As men engaged in this task, we take the important step of asking ourselves tough questions that take a lot of courage to answer candidly. It isn’t always pretty, but when you come through it, it allows you to reach out to other men and help them make lasting positive changes.
– Jeremy Coppels
Founding Executive Director Kathleen Carlin once said that “Hope isn’t about believing we can change things. Hope is about believing what we do matters.” If you are interested in getting involved with Men Stopping Violence or helping them continue their work, you can:
- Donate to support the programs of MSV.
- Request training for your organization or community.
- Take a stand on a current issue.
- Attend a MSV event.
- Share what we do with colleagues and friends.
- Volunteer your time and talents.
- View our brochures, including What You Can Say and Do to Make a Difference.
For more information, contact Men Stopping Violence here.
On Twitter: @MenStopViolence
On Facebook: Men Stopping Violence