Men want to help.
That’s what Lisa Clarke believes when it comes to ending gender violence.
“There’s a core group of men in this region who are really interested in this conversation,” said Clarke, community engagement manager at the Kawartha Sexual Assault Centre (KSAC) in Peterborough, Ontario, in an interview with JOURNEY Magazine. “So, it’s time to help men develop an infrastructure to address this type of violence.”
Now, through a recently-launched partnership between Fleming College and the KSAC, this will soon happen. Men, including Fleming students, who are interested in leading and co-hosting community conversations about gender violence can take a “train-the-trainer” course. It’s called the MENding program, and it’s one of only a few such programs in Ontario.
“We want to empower all men to help in the prevention and to respond in ways so they can build healthier relationships with their partners and their families and themselves.”: Lisa Clarke
Men who participate may then go on to co-facilitate workshops in which they will “talk to other men” alongside Clarke and other local public educators who work in anti-gender-based violence work. She said they hope to train police officers, business people, mental health workers and hospitality workers to build a group of “up-standing” men – that is men who are standing up against violence.
“There’s no teaching in our current system and culture on how to disrupt violence,” continued Clarke. “We want to empower all men to help in the prevention and to respond in ways so they can build healthier relationships with their partners and their families and themselves.”
Amie Kroes, Manager of Student Rights and Responsibilities at Fleming College, delivers bystander training at the college to students, and often has men come to her afterward and ask how they can be more involved and be better allies.
“Men want to have a role to play in ending gender-based violence. The MENding program is giving them an established way to get more education and giving men a platform to engage their community on this topic,” Kroes said.
The other mandate of the MENding program is to educate boys and men about the pressures of a hyper-masculine culture and messages from childhood about being “a real man”. Films, music and other media all influence society’s ideas and promote myths and stereotypes around women and LGBTQ individuals, Clarke said.
“The training will also look at opportunities for men to talk to one another when they notice problematic behaviour and build a new culture of empathy, connection and inclusion.”
Peer support for men who have been harmed by anyone and educational programs for boys and men who may be at risk of being harmed will also be part of the program, said Clarke.
To learn more about the MENding program, or to book a class/group of boys or men for a conversation, please call Lisa Clarke at Kawartha Sexual Assault Centre at 705-748-5901 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Melodie McCullough