Anti-violence: It’s not just a women’s war to fight

MSU’s guest speaker encourages men to take their place in anti-violence

On Monday, March 21, Kris Macomber, an assistant professor from the Department of Sociology at Meredith College, visited Minnesota State University, Mankato to give a presentation entitled ‘Men’s Role in the Anti-Violence Movement.’

Macomber stressed that despite the growing awareness surrounding this issue, the epidemic of violence against women still remains a substantial concern, with studies showing that “one out of three women has experienced some form of intimate partner violence, and one out of five women has experienced a sexual assault in their lifetime.”

In describing the important role that men play in preventing violence against women, Macomber noted that involving men in the prevention of violence is “not just strategic, but necessary.” She also emphasizes the fact that most men strongly oppose violence against women, which makes them powerful allies in combatting this issue.

Ron Bagley is a shining example of the role that men play in addressing these concerns. Bagley worked as a counselor and community educator in the Sexual Assault Crisis and Support Center in Augusta, Maine for four years. Through his experiences, Bagley noted that gender stereotyping often played a major role in how men respond to issues of violence against women. He believes that while many men privately disagree with misogyny, “men feel like they will be perceived as soft for speaking out,” and that there is a certain “peer pressure men experience, where they feel like they are only able to be interested in certain topics.”

He also recalled that despite belonging to multiple men’s groups, who “spoke privately about issues such as violence against women and disagreed with it happening,” men often felt uncomfortable publicly endorsing these causes.

He found that education was an effective tool in combatting this issue. He emphasised, in particular, the importance of providing education that disregards traditional gender roles and urges men “to consider these types of issues from the female perspective.”

Bagley also emphasised how he was often confronted by issues related to victim-blaming. In his experience as a counselor, he consistently found that “victims feel responsible” for what has happened to them. Macomber agreed with this perspective, emphasizing that “while we have come a long way in terms of not blaming the victim for their own victimization, we still have a long way to go regarding that.” She believes that many misconceptions about violence against women, such as the belief that women are free to leave a domestically abusive relationship without any repercussions, makes doing anti-violence work and activism challenging.

However, Macomber noted that men all over the country are beginning to take part in “working on their college campuses to raise awareness about the prevalence of gender-based violence, and are supporting anti-violence education and activism.” She believes that men are learning not only how to identify and interrupt violence against women, but to “prevent violence before it starts.”

In Bagley’s opinion, the key to better involving male allies in the prevention of violence against women is to “establish an open dialogue between men and women.” He believes that there is often a tendency for men to become defensive in relation to this issue, and that many men justify a lack of involvement due to the fact that they themselves are not violent towards women. He believes that men may see this as a women’s issue and do not consider the possibility that it could happen to the women in their life. He emphasizes that in reality, “every man probably knows somebody who has been the victim of violence.”

If you are anyone you know has been a victim of violence, you can contact Laura Schultz, the Violence Awareness and Response Coordinator at the MSU Women’s Center.

Photo: (“A sign from the Men Against Violence Aga” (CC BY 2.0) by  DFAT photo library)

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