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Men encouraged to join program to prevent violence against women

by Sherry Fisher - April 16, 2007

The Men Against Violence Against Women program (MAVAW) is looking for new members.

MAVAW, sponsored by the Women’s Center, is a subgroup of the Violence Against Women Prevention Program, in which student volunteers are trained to give workshops on issues including sexual assault, dating violence, sexual harassment, and sex role socialization.

The peer educators hold workshops for about 4,000 students each year in residence halls, sororities, fraternities, First Year Experience (FYE) classes, and during orientation.

They also make presentations in local high schools.

Members of the program are trained through a one-credit women’s studies course. About two dozen students are trained annually.

The students also plan and organize activities for Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

“Violence against women is not just a women’s issue,” says Betsy Cracco, coordinator of the Violence Against Women Prevention Program.

“We would like to see more male students, faculty and staff become involved in MAVAW.

“The mission of the Women’s Center is to promote women’s equity,” she adds.

“But that doesn’t mean our doors are open only to women. Men can be equally involved in promoting this goal. We want to see this program grow.”

Currently, it has a core of 10 students.

“About 99 percent of all sexual assaults are perpetrated by men,” Cracco says.

“That’s a huge reason why men should become involved in sexual violence prevention.”

She noted that men are also victims of men’s violence.

The Men Against Violence Against Women program is about talking to men about being responsible community members, not only for others, but for themselves, Cracco says: “We’re challenging the stereotypical gender construction of what masculinity should be about. We’re saying that masculinity should be about caring about others, getting involved, and respecting yourself and women.

Cracco says men’s voices can be powerful influences on their peers: “We need men to talk to other men. It’s the principle behind peer education. Men may see other college-age men as more credible than, perhaps, a 40-year-old woman.”

Nathan Bedard, who graduated from UConn in December, is a volunteer at the Women’s Center, and active in MAVAW.

“My goal is to increase male participation at the Women’s Center,” he says.

“Women’s issues are equally important issues for men, and the more men involved in working on problems, the better it will be to find a solution.”

Christopher Jackson, a junior majoring in materials science and engineering and German is a peer educator for the Violence Against Women Prevention Program.

“From the time a boy is little, there are preconceived notions about how he is supposed to act,” Jackson says.

“There are stereotypes bred into the culture: Be strong, don’t cry, and don’t show emotion except for anger. Men need to step out of that box.

“It’s important that men become involved in the MAWAV program,” he says.

“I wear a shirt that says, ‘This is what a feminist looks like.’ I may get a lot of strange looks and comments, but I think it sends an important message.”

Cracco, Jackson, and Bedard are working on developing an FYE course about men, masculinity, and violence prevention.

“We think a course on this topic might draw men in,” Cracco says.

The three encourage people to come to the Take Back the Night Annual Rally, candlelight march, and speak-out on April 18 at 7 p.m. at the Student Union lobby.

Survivors of sexual violence, secondary survivors (those affected by it), and friends are invited.

The march begins at the Student Union with a rally, guest speakers, music, and a candlelight vigil.

MAVAW is also sponsoring an “expressive action” campaign, offering an opportunity for men to speak out, through essays, poetry, and art work, about how their lives have been affected by violence against women.

Entries may be submitted until April 16, by dropping them off in the yellow box outside room 418 at the Student Union, or via e-mail to UCONNVAWPP@gmail.com. Do not include any identifying information in the submission.

Entries will be displayed in the Student Union during the week of Take Back the Night, April 16-21.

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