New Men's Group Piques Interest at Coalition Forum on Relational Violence
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Back in March, the community came together at the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition meeting to talk about relational violence on the heels of the death of a local woman, allegedly at the hands of her husband.
On Friday, six months later, the community once again came back to a Coalition forum to jump right back into the same issue — and to hear what has been done since March.
The most visible of the efforts made since March is the formation of Men Initiating Change In North County (MIC INC), a group founded by North Adams City Councilor Benjamin Lamb that aims to fill a "gap in the ecosystem" of support for victims of relational violence. Or, as Lamb said Friday, the group has a goal of "raising up and empowering from our own point of privilege."
"We don't have all the answers," Lamb said to a crowd of about 75 people at the forum while describing the initiative, which so far has fielded a team in the Elizabeth Freeman Center's Walk A Mile In Her Shoes fundraiser and planned a "standout" at North Adams City Hall from 4 to 6 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 16, which aims to show victims they are not alone. "There are people that care about this that are trying to make positive steps."
Forum participants were there to help with those answers and steps. After Lamb addressed the group, participants split into four groups to look at different aspects relational violence, and the most interest seemed to swirl around MIC INC.
Lamb continued to explain the scope of the group, which he said has been meeting monthly with a small core group. Regular meeting times, he said, could come as the group grows, but for now people can check the group's Facebook page for information.
"We're really trying to contribute however we can," he said.
Ideas for future contributions and initiatives included identifying male role models to engage young males; identifying ways to talk to boys about the issue of consent, either in the family or through school sex education classes; working with the court system, which already has a Intimate Partner Abuse Education Program to work with inmates convicted of abuse; utilizing the coalition's own 24/7 Dad program; focusing attention on how the prevalence of pornography potentially contributes to abuse; and creating a promotional campaign to reframe the dialogue around the term "toxic masculinity" and how it corresponds with relational violence.
MIC INC wasn't the only topic addressed Friday.
A second breakout group discussed how the faith community can help with the issue of relational violence, including places of workshop offering marriage counseling, safe places for victims and possibly more sermons on the topic of respectful relationships and marriages.
A third breakout group tackled the issue of pets, which studies have found prevent people in abusive relationship from leaving. Ideas there included encouraging families to be foster homes for pets while abuse victims are in transition, donating to the humane society and spreading the word about the HAVEN program, the "Human Animal Violence Education Network."
And a fourth breakout group discussed some miscellaneous topics, including the possibility of palm cards for signs of relational violence, stickers to go in windows of businesses and other locations that would offer a safe space for an abuse victim, the role of technology, and support for children who have been exposed to violence in the home.
North Adams Mayor Tom Bernard summed up the forum on Friday by saying how "incredibly valuable" these conversations are — conversations by the larger community, not just victims and survivors and those work directly with them.
"We need to keep talking about this," he said. "I'm grateful to everyone who is here and who is going to continue working on this."
Tags: domestic violence, NBCC,