Men rally against domestic violence at the Capitol

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The Minnesota Men’s Action Network in its Alliance to Prevent Sexual and Domestic Violence held a Rally last week on the steps of the Minnesota State Capitol. The 2011 Action Day to End Violence Against Women drew supporters to advocate for no compromise on legislation that supports public safety and health – and particularly priority programs that address violence against women and children.

Five Action Day sponsors strongly supported the legislative agenda and protested the attempts to balance the budget at the expense of women, children and the most vulnerable in the state. They promoted justice, safety, and prevention of future harm for women, children – and men – that are victims of sexual abuse and/or battering.

Mr. Pheng Thao, Director of Community Programs for Asian Women United of Minnesota, spoke about the issue that is sometimes even more difficult to address within the cultural context of the Asian community, in addition to the difficulty of funding and providing culturally appropriate resources and shelters for immigrant and refugees communities.

The Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women notes that there were 21 API women, 6 Asian children, and 1 API man were killed as a result of domestic violence in Minnesota from 1999 to 2010.

MCBW Femicide Annual Report also note that in all populations 21 adults and 7 children were killed in 2010 alone due to familial and domestic violence, and that 15 were women killed by a current or former intimate partner. Countless others continue to suffer physical, emotional and verbal abuse on a daily basis.

“Well-meaning men need to take action to end violence against women because men have a unique and powerful role in ending violence,” said Thao at a previous event. “Men need to stop giving other men permission to oppress women.”

AWUM is a non-profit organization dedicated to end domestic violence by promoting safe and healthy relationships within the Asian-Pacific Islander community. For almost a decade, AWUM has provided 24-hour emergency shelter called the House of Peace.

Thao organized the first API Men Institute in August 2010 at Augsburg College. There, he facilitated a group of 70 API men of Minnesota who took the difficult first step in agreeing to make the proactive approach toward ending domestic violence.

The intensive training examined the intersection of sexism and racism and to explore how power and privilege contributes to violence against women and children. The AWUM event was made possible in collaboration with more than 20 partnering API organizations and community leaders who wanted to show unprecedented support on this issue.

The classes went beyond the tragic statistics and also emphasized the life issues and culturally relevant immigrant life experience that contributes to the pressures and expectations placed on the API male as head of household. The classes also worked on issues of cultural expectations on women and girls and when they may come into conflict with their individual life goals and education.

The API Men Institute sponsoring partners included Augsburg College, A Call to Men, Freedom, Inc., Greater Twin Cities United Way, Hnub Tshiab: Hmong Women Achieving Together, Pan-Asian Student Services (Augsburg), Pangea World Theater, Professional Hmong Women Association, Sewa-Asian Indian Family Wellness, and Sib Pab Ciaj Vaj.

The federal Violence Against Women Act of 2005 states that “nearly one-third of American women report physical and sexual abuse by a husband or boyfriend at some point in their lives”. The U.S. Department of Justice indicates that: “one in six women and one in thirty-three men reported experiencing an attempted or completed rape at some time in their lives”.

“The perpetrators of these assaults are almost always men. It is time for well-meaning men to acknowledge that this is a male problem,” stated supporters. The speakers at the Capitol event addressed the work over the past 30 years that women have done to run rape crisis centers, battered women’s agencies, 24 hour hotlines and safe houses sometimes amidst threats and actual violence against them by the very people they protect the victims from.

These very advocates have led the way in working with policy makers across the country to revise and reform the institutional responses to sexual violence, including assault and harassment, as well as reforming the public and private response to domestic violence-related crimes. They continue to advocate for prevention approaches through community awareness and educational programs in multiple sectors of society.

Some men have been involved in these efforts as advocates, concerned citizens, or community professionals. The vast majority of men, however, have been passive bystanders to the violence and the precursors to violence around them, while a staggering number of men have been beating and raping women and children.

Men are in a particularly unique position to help change the domestic environment where most sexual and domestic violence occurs. Men are also most often in position to make policymaking decisions that impact the public and private sector and that either support or thwarts the dangerous social standards that have historically been perceived as normal or at least justifiable male behavior.

Advocates stated that men are often engaged in, or witness, interactions in locker rooms, at hunting camps, or in office cubicles that support notions of women’s sexual objectification and social subordination.

Participating in these interactions make men uniquely qualified to call these norms into question and challenge other men to dispel destructive myths by revealing the consequences of these exchanges on impressionable men and boys. This unique responsibility, they said, is all part of the process of ending men’s violence to the extent that men control institutions of their culture and also commit over 95 percent of domestic violence offenses.

A broad and diverse network of men is needed to align with the voices and historically groundbreaking activities of women to prevent sexual and domestic violence.

Advocates said Minnesota needs men that will promote fair and safe relationships; support safe and healthy sexuality; and that will promote organizational practices and public policies that respect the dignity of every human being, not as sexualized objects or social subordinates to use, exploit, or disregard, but as persons with inalienable rights to choose the opportunities and circumstances of their lives.

For more information visit www.menaspeacemakers.org/mnman. The AWUM 24 hour Domestic Violence Hotline is 612-724-8823. The non-emergency business line is 612-724-0756. The Web site is www.awum.org.

This article was made possible with information and revisions from Asian Women United of Minnesota.