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Men Stopping Violence (Domestic Violence Awareness Month)

Every year in October, advocates around the country are busy with activities for Domestic Violence Awareness Month. We are invited to speak on panels, give presentations at schools, and provide information to community members at health fairs and other events. We are asked about services for those who are being abused and how one can avoid getting into a relationship with someone who may be abusive. These are important questions that may help some survivors with safety, but they put the responsibility of solving the problem on those who have the least power to do so in the relationship.

In the United States, our approach to dealing with domestic violence has largely been reactive and focused on how survivors should behave after violence has been committed against them by someone they love. For example, survivors are often told to leave their partners, call the police, or obtain a protective order, even though doing these things often actually increases their risk of being killed. Additionally, this one-size-fits-all approach does not take into account the experiences of marginalized communities in dealing with the criminal justice or child welfare systems, or the less prosecutable, but very effective, tactics of power and control such as financial and psychological abuse. While shelters and legal systems can provide some opportunities for victim safety and offender accountability, they do not necessarily offer effective ways to change the behavior of a person using abusive behaviors and, therefore, do not prevent them from harming others again.

So, how can abuse be prevented? While there are a number of social factors that must be addressed in order to support healthy families and communities, one of the most important strategies is to engage men in the solution. For too long, we have looked at domestic violence and sexual assault as women’s issues and have left it to women to deal with, but we know that men can also be abused, and we also know that men commit the majority of serious violent crimes. At Men Stopping Violence (MSV), we believe it is up to men to speak up about these issues, invite other men to evaluate their own behaviors, and encourage practices that resist abuse and oppression. MSV began in the early 80s and uses a model of community accountability in working with men and boys to challenge sexism, racism, and other harmful social norms in the community and within themselves. Our Young Men Stopping Violence program seeks to connect with teenage boys to create environments in which abuse is not tolerated before they create families of their own.

In addition to our work around social change, we also offer intervention programs for men who have used controlling and abusive behaviors with their partners. These are designed to help participants learn about how their attitudes, thoughts, words, and actions contribute to violence against women and girls, and take responsibility for their behavior. While many program participants may at first be resistant to own the harm they’ve inflicted, over time they come to find great value in these programs. For some, it is the first time they’ve come to understand their own experiences of abuse as children and how they have carried that trauma with them into the next generation. Many want to become better partners and parents, but need the education to learn how and other men to hold them accountable.

While MSV is located in the Atlanta area, this is an approach that can be replicated in communities around the country. We encourage men to learn more about how they can work toward creating a safer world for all, starting with themselves.

Written by:

  • Elisa Covarrubias, CEO, Men Stopping Violence
  • Patrick Harrison, Director of Outreach Programs, Men Stopping Violence

Posted by on 21 Oct 2022