September/October 2016 Newsletter
Last week, I had the great honor of attending a roundtable discussion organized by the Office of Violence Against Women (OVW) and Men Can Stop Rape. The topic for the day-and-a-half event was, “Where We’ve Been, Where We’re Going: Mobilizing Men and Boys to Prevent Gender-Based Violence,” and was in large part about advocating for healthier, nonviolent versions of masculinity. In 1in6’s work supporting men who have experienced sexual abuse or assault, we are always emphasizing the importance of healthy masculinity, not only when it comes to the men we are serving, but also their communities. With that in mind, I went into the event with a high level of enthusiasm to share what I thought would be helpful for the group.
However, after arriving and listening to the opening dialogue, I realized two things very quickly: 1) Our work is outside of the scope of most if not all of those invited, and I felt enormous gratitude for 1in6 having been included, and 2) I was here to listen, and to learn.
Anyone who has attended an event with me knows that I am not one to shy from conversation, but while hearing the words of these incredible thinkers from around the country—the majority of whom were men and women of color who have experienced marginalization and oppression—I was overcome with the realization that as a person of privilege working in this field, there was a lot to learn. And so I listened.
I listened to and heard pain—pain that fueled passion; I heard anger at injustice—anger that was righteous; and I heard resolve—resolve to continue and never quit.
I was humbled by the challenges I heard my colleagues describe in this meeting. I reflected on how our work at 1in6 is in no way easy, but we can help make space for the truths and struggles faced by those serving disenfranchised communities—communities that experience high rates of violence such as women of color, particularly trans women of color. I saw the value of service in spite of difficulties, and I flew home hopeful and encouraged to continue making our services more inclusive, more thoughtful, and more meaningful, and to do it, in part, by listening.
When I arrived back at the office, I immediately shared this powerful experience with our staff. It started a conversation about how our services apply to different communities, and how we can improve. Over the past several years, we’ve made an effort to make our resources more relevant and accessible to all male survivors and their loved ones, regardless of race, class, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, culture, religion, or ability. But we know we can do better.
In closing, I’d like to invite you to e-mail us at [email protected], or use the feedback forms (can be filled out anonymously) at the bottom of most 1in6.org pages to send your suggestions for how we can improve our resources. We’re committed to supporting men, the people who care about them, and their communities, and we’re listening.
My utmost gratitude to OVW, Men Can Stop Rape, and all of the inspiring voices in the room.