Not Just a ‘Female’ Social Issue- College Males Taking an Active Stance on Domestic Violence
In a University of Maryland advocacy presentation against domestic violence, the audience wasn’t comprised of a full house of women; male participants dominated almost a quarter of the seats. On Oct. 20, the leadership series “Voices of Social Change” hosted UMD alumna Suzanne Marcus, co-founder of District Alliance for Safe Housing.
Morgan Granger, sophomore psychology major, says the number of men that showed up at the presentation surprised her. “It was good to see so many guys interested in the issue and hopefully this high number will continue to increase,” Granger said. “They play an equal role in perpetuating or ending domestic violence, it’s their responsibility as much as a woman’s to try to stop it.”
There are less than 5 safe house establishments for victims of domestic violence in the D.C. area. One of these is DASH, a safe place for male and female victims, as well as families gripped by domestic violence. “At a domestic violence shelter, it’s a really a matter of life and death,” Marcus said.
It wasn’t until the 1960s and 1970s that the battered women’s movement grew out of the feminist movement. Women mobilized into communal groups, talking about the experiences from their private lives and connecting them to broader social injustices.
Ultimately, Marcus says she believes that creating awareness about domestic violence and believing the victim are the first steps towards physical and sexual violence being recognized as a legitimate social issue. “It’s about connecting and saying ‘Domestic violence is happening, it’s not about me not being a good wife or making my husband happy, this is about inequality,’” Marcus said.
But it’s not just women realizing that they deserve better than battering. Men such as Benjamin Reichert, a prospective UMD master’s candidate in behavioral and community health, are passionate about women realizing their potential agency in situations where hope is seemingly lost. Reichert became interested in the issue of relationship violence because of his birth mother.
“My passion for women’s studies stems from my birth mom,” Reichert said. “She had me when she was nine as a victim of rape. Men need to understand their roles in society and equal opportunities between partnerships and relationships is vital in this society and time frame.”
Inspired by his mother’s story, Reichert works with Utah Valley University’s women’s development center. Only four out of 150 people in a female anatomy presentation at his university were present, further shocking him that so many males were present at Marcus’ speech. While taken aback, Reichert says that he is encouraged that more males are becoming interested in the subject because it defies typical gender role restrictions.
“Traditional social norms would say that men shouldn’t be involved in women’s health, that it’s not a male’s role to learn about it, or to even learn about domestic violence because they might contribute to it,” Reichert said. “But we can be advocates just as well as females are.”
Men Can Stop Rape, a nonprofit organization against physical and sexual violence based in Washington D.C., works towards proving that males can be equally adequate in serving as advocates. Its “Strength Campaign” is founded in part by Alan Berkowitz’s research, stated on mencanstoprape.org, that “Eighty percent of college age men are uncomfortable when women are belittled or mistreated.”
By taking this number and elevating it into not only a feeling, but also a progressive action, men become better advocates just by training their mind to recognize injustice and act upon it. (Photo credit to mencanstoprape.org)
“'Men Can Stop Rape' is addressing gender violence systemically by teaching and serving as mentors with the mission of if violence is learned, it can be unlearned,” Marcus said. “They also volunteer and support organizations like DASH that help victims, so in that way they’re serving as allies and supporters to the movement.”
DASH’s core values are based on empowerment and a voluntary service model in which participants work with an adviser to create short and long-term goals. It isn’t mandatory that the women and men that are admitted into the program attend workshops since the main focus of DASH is to simply help participants in the ways that they personally see as the best fit for a road to recovery. Below is the welcome board from www.dashdc.org that encourages messages of positivity and self-respect to victims.
“We’re not in the business of creating model citizens because who are we to say who are model citizens?” Marcus inquired. “If they want therapy, that’s great! We have a therapist. If they want to deal with addictions, we have an addiction counselor. They get to decide. We don’t claim ourselves as experts of their lives.”
MCSR implements leadership in an equally free form, interpretive deviation from standardized education in a three-day theory to practice training. It is comprehensive in multimedia presentations, group activities and collaborations with activists in order to educate men in taking a more active role against domestic violence. From Jan. 4-6 2012, this training seminar will be offered in D.C.
Junior anthropology major Jeremy Krones became interested in third wave feminism from Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “Herland”, a book given out in a free literature box outside of the women’s studies department. Raised with strong values in serving his community, Krones became interested in other realms of service such as with homeless and women’s shelters.
A current intern in UMD’s leadership and community service office, Krones says, “I believe that it’s not only about affirmative action for women but an overarching purpose to equalize us, bringing down the privilege of higher social constructs and bringing up the privilege of lower social constructs.”
Krones emphasizes that with continued awareness of domestic violence, there is potential for change to occur in the overall mentality that college males can be just as equally capable of advocacy against domestic violence as females.