By Fran Murphy
Director, YWCA New Britain Sexual Assault Crisis Services
Imagine a week without violence. Imagine people walking the streets at night without fear. Imagine sexual and domestic violence as faded memories of a long gone era.
This is the vision of the global movement of the YWCA. This is what the YWCA Week Without Violence works to achieve.
In recognition of Week Without Violence, the New Britain YWCA Sexual Assault Crisis Services (YWCA SACS) has a new program, Where Do You Stand? Connecticut. YWCA SACS is part of the Connecticut Campaign to engage men to stand up against sexual violence. The Where Do You Stand? Connecticut campaign was created by Men Can Stop Rape, a national organization redefining masculinity and male strength as part of preventing men’s violence against women. Men Can Stop Rape trained Connecticut advocates to utilize bystander intervention theory and techniques to equip men with the tools necessary to take a stand against all forms of sexual violence.
Men Can Stop Rape asks three fundamental questions:
- Why focus on men? The Where Do You Stand? Connecticut campaign empowers men to use their voice, influence, and actions to become a part of the solution. Statistically speaking, most men in our society believe it is wrong to rape a woman. However, the majority of these men also live and participate in a culture which supports, glorifies, and justifies violence against women and girls. This bystander intervention program engages men in addressing the cultural norms which support sexual violence. It will help to give men the necessary tools and confidence to help hold other men accountable for their active participation in this culture, resulting in efforts to prevent sexual violence.
- What is “bystander intervention?” Bystander intervention aims to empower each of us to be active in responding to and preventing sexual violence. Bystander intervention quite simply means being willing to take action when it’s needed. Ending sexual violence and all forms of oppression will take a lot of collective work. We all need to be willing to take action to challenge cultures that support and allow sexual violence to occur. Bystander intervention techniques can involve a wide range of interventions, from being direct to creating a distraction. Bystander interventions provide men with useful tools to stop a range of negative behaviors and to create spaces where everyone is safe and respected.
- Can we really prevent sexual violence? Yes, sexual violence is preventable. Sexual violence affects entire communities; therefore, solutions also need to engage entire communities. Violence prevention aims at stopping violence before it occurs and requires an understanding of the factors that influence violence. It is important to take into consideration the complex relationship that individuals have with the world around them and how that influences their behaviors. Sexual violence can be prevented by using comprehensive, multifaceted strategies that empower both individuals and communities to address attitudes, cultures and actions that contribute to rape culture.
Frances Murphy is the Director of the YWCA New Britain Sexual Assault Crisis Service (SACS). Eight years ago, she started as an intern, and went on to become an Adult Advocate and Counselor for SACS. While in that position, Fran attended graduate school and obtained a Master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy, after which she became the SACS Director.
This post is part of the YWCA Week Without Violence™ 2013 Blog Carnival. We invite you to join the dialogue! Post your comment below, share your story and follow the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #ywcaWWV.