Tuesday, October 06, 2009

MN Man Conference Break Out Sessions

I previously recapped the first day of the MN Man conference sponsored by the Minnesota Men's Action Network which is focused on "how to increase the number and strengthen the investment of men involved in the primary prevention of sexual and domestic violence." On the second and final day, Saturday, the conference had 2 groups of break out sessions. The selections were so great that I wished I could have attended them all.

My notes come from my live tweets so any factual errors or ommissions are mine.

During the first group I attended the session: Healthy sexuality as a tool for violence prevention given by Brooke Stelzer and Cesar Atienzo.

They discussed what is and can be done to bridge the gap between SV/DV people/work and sex ed people/work. They have found in their education and counseling that there is a desire for more info on healthy sexuality.

They recapped the difference between sex (behavior) and sexuality (broader and includes attitudes, values, feelings). The commonality between sex education and sexual violence prevention is that the mutual goal is healthy, equitable relationships. This common goal can be reached in part by increased collaboration which can include having those from one group present at other group's conferences. Another example is a sex ed group having a book discussion group read books such as Yes Means Yes! which focuses on positive consent.

We spent a significant portion of the session in discussion which can't easily be recapped but which I found valuable.

For more resources check out their website www.annexteenclinic.org

During the second group I attended the session: Community Action Plan session, panel highlighting 3 community primary prevention initiatives from Winona, Alexandria & Anoka.

The first group highlighted was United Communities Advocating Non-Violence (UCAN) from Alexandria. The precursor to this group began after the rape and murder of St. Cloud University student Melissa "Missy" Johnson who was abducted on July 9, 1991.

The current organization/effort began to grow in 2000 when they held a 100 man luncheon to get men involved in an effort where men were vastly underrepresented. They served a free spaghetti meal to over 100 men and during the lunch did 3 presentations about what those men could do. They realized that even with goal to get men involved that they needed to be a co-ed organization.

The first big initiative was creating a peace challenge which gave companies something tangible they could do. The decision was made to have this focus on domestic violence rather than domestic and sexual violence because the buy in was greater and it was better to make progress in a limited area rather than get stalled. 18 companies met the criteria and were placed on the mayor's honor roll. The rate of participation was helped by positive peer pressure. Companies needed to have certain mandatory items to qualify which included having a workplace policy regarding domestic violence, having domestic violence awareness training and to display information at the workplace. The success in this challenge also came from having business people on the team which developed the criteria.

The next initiative was the mayor's peace award given at an annual luncheon with half the attendees being men. To increase attendance they bring in a different prominent speaker on non-violence.

They created a peace pledge and invited citizens to come to city hall and make a public statement of their commitment. They also created a domestic violence booklet aimed at average citizens.

At the county level this year, they worked with county commissioners to create a Douglas County resolution on the primary prevention of domestic violence which was the first DV resolution in the state and likely the first in the nation. Their resolution was so popular that multiple commissioners rushed to introduce the resolution and it passed unanimously. Part of their success was that ICAN committed to helping the county meet the goals of the resolution.

They knew of and supported sexual violence prevention resolutions which began with the work of Ramsey County commissioner Jim McDonough who also spoke at this conference, but again they opted to make progress where they felt they could get buy-in.

The second group highlighted was from Beyond Tough Guise in Winona. Their group partners with other local organizations such as Big Brother Big Sisters, the county health services dept. and the women's resource center of Winona. The beginning of their prevention work was the decision to focus on what we want and not just on what we don't want.

In Winona during their earliest efforts they had volunteers who agreed to be part of a moving crew ready to help domestic violence victims leave their abusers, but they realized they needed more than strong responses after someone became a victim of domestic violence. That led to the creation of a brochure called Characteristics For Men & Boys subtitled: My strength is not for hurting. They list 10 characteristics with suggestions for what men and boys can do to show that characteristic.
  1. Respect women, girls, other men and other boys
  2. Use power appropriately
  3. Resolve conflicts through negotiation and non-violence
  4. Be honest in all dealings
  5. Be an engaged listener
  6. Be responsible for yourself
  7. Be responsible to family, friends and community
  8. Use collaborative leadership
  9. Express feelings and appreciate affection
  10. Encourage, maintain and value relationships
Winona had a youth action theatre which after the performance engaged the audience but while they had discussions about violence they didn't have a tangible goal and realized they needed one. To help they got the county to add a question on their survey related to sexual and domestic violence which when completed found that 92% of survey respondents supported more community education about domestic and sexual violence. This question had the highest positive response and helped county leaders understand that the interest wasn't limited to a few active individuals or groups.

They found it important to list specific crimes which occurred locally so that leaders and community members wouldn't assume that the problem of sexual and domestic violence was something which just happened elsewhere. Winona County passed a sexual and domestic violence primary prevention action plan (pdf). They held a university forum, a men's forum and community event. They are now studying their community environment to see where work needs the most focus.

The third group highlighted was the Domestic Violence Council of Anoka County. Their coordinator, Donna McDonald, discussed how their first attempt to reach out to men failed. Instead of just assuming the men in the county didn't care or couldn't be drawn in they created a strategic plan. To help them do this they looked for other ways to raise awareness and get people engaged. They found valuable resources at www.endabuse.org including ways to coach boys into men. They adopted this multi-faceted campaign.

After finding the campaign they wanted to do they had to overcome severe budget limitations. They sought and found private funding to help create and print posters which were placed in locations where boys and men were likely to see them. They also created a brochure which local police give out during domestic violence calls when no arrest is made.

Their second attempt at in-person events done last year was more successful due to getting planning partners. As they gained new partners those partners helped create their efforts. This year Fox Sports responded to their efforts by creating a Coaching Boys Into Men PSA which ran in conjunction with several Twins games. In August they sponsored an event in Blaine which used this theme.

Moving beyond what is being done in Anoka County, one of the presenters Andre (didn't catch his last name unfortunately) showed a YouTube video where a young boy is bouncing with excitement about new topless pictures of a High School Musical actress. This led to a discussion of how boys are socialized and how his actions reflect attitudes in our society.

Andre closed the session by mentioning that early in day our conference began an Anoka County woman was murdered by her estranged husband before he killed himself. This was a reminder that preventing violence is not only important, it is vital. This woman, Pamela Ann Taschuk, had filed an order for protection. Her estranged husband had been charged in August with false imprisonment and domestic assault. Multiple systems were involved in responding to domestic violence against this woman, but responses don't guarantee victims will live.

Prevention must be a priority and when something is a true priority action follows.


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