Nov. 3, 2008
Men Anti-Violence Council open house Nov. 12 invites men to combat violence
Jerrod Koon wants to stop violence against women, and he believes men can play a vital role in making that happen.
"For too long, this has been considered a woman's issue," Koon said. "Violence affects men's lives directly and indirectly. We typically think of men committing violence, but I want to add the idea that men can also confront and prevent violence. I realized that I could be more active. I wasn't part of the problem, but I wasn't part of the solution either."
Koon became part of the solution in a big way by coordinating the Men's Anti-Violence Council (MAC), a volunteer program of the Women's Resource and Action Center (WRAC) at the University of Iowa. Koon, a graduate student in the UI College of Education Department of Psychological and Quantitative Foundations, said he hopes other men will join him at an open house from 4 to 6 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 12, to learn more about the council and how they can help.
The open house, which will be held at WRAC, located at 130 N. Madison St. in Iowa City, is an opportunity to learn more about MAC, meet current MAC volunteers, obtain resources and meet other men who are interested in anti-violence.
"Men have a stake in the violence that occurs in our community," Koon said. "However, they need to be invited and challenged to get active. I had the luxury of only thinking about these issues when I felt like it. There are many people in our town who don't have that luxury and are forced to think about violence on a daily basis. I got tired of sitting around complaining and decided to do something about it."
Koon said that MAC men pledge to not remain silent about violence against women.
"We need men to get active in confronting behaviors that support a hostile environment toward women," Koon said. "It's about challenging men to step up and be better men. We're tired of the minority of men who commit the majority of violence, defining who we should be as men. Our manhood does not have to be defined by violence."
The Men's Anti-Violence Council provides men with training in confronting and preventing violence against women, in regard to domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking. MAC volunteers complete 15 hours of training and meet on a weekly basis to make positive personal changes as well as raise awareness in the community through programming.
The training includes a critical examination of masculinity, rationales for why men should get involved in anti-violence work, specific skills related to bystander interventions, and opportunities to create and implement programming on campus and in the community.
"I got involved in MAC because although victim and offender services are crucial and have done much in raising awareness concerning these issues, they aren't enough," Koon said. "They've made it possible for me to do the work I am doing due to their tireless work. However, we also need to put energy and resources into prevention, particularly prevention involving men."
The first MAC training occurred this semester and currently has five active members who meet weekly. Weekly meetings provide support for any volunteers who are making changes in their lives and opportunities to organize MAC's community projects for the semester. There is also a group of approximately 14 to 20 male faculty and staff that is meeting on a monthly basis with the goal of getting more men involved in anti-violence work.
MAC's training in bystander interventions isn't limited to men confronting violence against women, Koon said.
"Men can also use these techniques to confront male-on-male violence," Koon said. "The majority of violence against men is perpetrated by other men. By men getting involved in anti-violence work, this improves the safety for everyone in the community. It's about redefining what it means to be a man through our words and actions."
In addition to the open house, the council is hosting two film discussions and White Ribbon Campaign activities this fall. The council is also collaborating with UNI and ISU to support men's anti-violence groups and programming on all three campuses. Currently, there is a discussion about creating MAC chapters at both UNI and ISU campuses.
Ren Stinson, a graduate student in the UI College of Education Counseling Psychology Program, and a current MAC member, said he views MAC as a group for men who want to know how they can help make a difference.
"Our communities and personal lives have been negatively affected by violence," said Stinson, who teaches psychology at a nearby college. "For many men, the response to this violence is typically anger, but then what? MAC offers an opportunity for men to make constructive change on both a community and personal level."
Stinson said he has met women who have been affected by violence in his roles as both counselor in training and teacher: "I have always wanted to offer them more than just my support. While actively listening and being a resource to people is very important, I believe creating the social change needed to prevent violence from occurring in the future is also a necessary step."
Monique DiCarlo, WRAC director, said that the Men's Anti-Violence Council's work would not be possible without grant support from the Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women.
For more information or special accommodations to attend the open house, contact Linda Kroon at 319-335-1486.
STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500
MEDIA CONTACTS: Linda Kroon, WRAC, 319-335-1486, firstname.lastname@example.org; Jerrod Koon, Men's Anti-Violence Council, email@example.com; Lois J. Gray, University News Services, 319-384-0077, firstname.lastname@example.org