By Hannah Brinson
Violence Prevention Project Coordinator, YWCA Knoxville
This Saturday marks the 20th Anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act, or VAWA. VAWA was enacted in 1994 and includes measures to keep victims safe, and to hold perpetrators accountable. Here at the YWCA in Knoxville, Tennessee, the funding provided by VAWA has revolutionized our preventative and victim advocacy services. As we celebrate the anniversary of VAWA, we are particularly excited about a program VAWA funding allows us to offer to our community.
Our Engaging Men and Boys project is funded through the Office on Violence Against Women and directly involves men and boys in domestic violence prevention. The YWCA Knoxville’s project is creating a bystander intervention curriculum for middle school males, specifically those who are at-risk to witness or perpetrate domestic violence now or in the future. The bystander intervention curriculum will teach young men about domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking, and help them learn new, creative, and safe ways to intervene when they witness violence against women, or acts or behaviors that perpetrate the culture of violence against women. Because it targets middle school males who were not formerly reached by efforts to engage young men in bystander intervention, this curriculum will be the first of its kind. The Engaging Men and Boys project will also utilize a multimedia campaign to raise awareness about domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking, and to increase understanding of men’s abilities to prevent violence against women in the community.
As it picks up speed, the need for this VAWA-funded project has become readily apparent: one middle school participant witnessed a sexual assault in the school bathroom; two young brothers are living with a father who, just the week before, strangled and beat their mother; and a professional contributor told of how her sister was murdered by an abusive husband.
The Engaging Men and Boys project’s importance and relevance is emphasized in light of two major news stories this week, one local and one national. Locally, a report released Tuesday ranked Tennessee 10th in the nation for male to female homicide, and nationally, headlines were made when the video of NFL player Ray Rice’s brutal assault on his then-fiancé was leaked. This is a perfect time to begin talking to men and boys in our communities about violence against women and how they can be a part of prevention.
Join us this month in celebrating the impact of the Violence against Women Act in your community, the work you do, and the services provided. Remember the role it has played in decreasing the rate of domestic violence across the country, and the groundbreaking programs it has funded and inspired. Keep it in mind when you discuss your work with colleagues, friends, and fellow community members, and encourage them to vote for politicians who will reauthorize it when the time comes.
As the Violence Prevention Project Coordinator, Brinson manages the Engaging Men and Boys project. She has experience in Child Welfare and in Domestic Violence Advocacy. Brinson has a Master of Science from the University of Tennessee in Child and Family Studies, and a Bachelor of Arts in Women’s Studies from Berea College.