National Domestic Violence Awareness Month: The Men’s Story Project

Posted on October 30, 2012 by

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By Marissa Robertson

 

 

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.  According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 1 in every 4 women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime, with women ages 20-24 being at the greatest risk for partner violence.  In an effort to make us all more aware of the seriousness of domestic violence, Worcester State brought in Dr. Josie Lehrer for a lecture regarding the Men’s Story Project.

 

The Men’s Story Project was started by Lehrer in 2006, and is an arts-based community dialogue project that creates a safe space for men to share their stories regarding domestic violence.  Often, women are urged to speak out against domestic violence, with little encouragement for men to speak about their experiences as well.

The Men’s Story Project’s website states their mission as: “To strengthen social norms that support healthy masculinities and gender equality, and to help eliminate gender-based violence, homophobia and other oppressions that are intertwined with masculinities, through men´s public story-sharing events, documentary films and other mass media.”  There are currently eight live productions of the project, and has spread to countries such as Uganda and South Africa.

Participants of the project include, according the Lehrer’s presentation, empowered bystanders, men who were silent about domestic abuse, men who are uncomfortable with domestic abuse, supporting survivors, witnesses, perpetrators, men from hyper-masculine environments such as the military and prison, substance abusers, and men involved in violence with other men.

Forms of expression can and have included poetry readings, prose, monologues, comedy skits, sharing of photos, narratives, and dance.  Part of the effectiveness of the project is that it allows positive feedback from the audience, encouraging sensitivity to these subjects and that expression of emotion is healthy, and not to be considered weak or un-masculine.

The Project allows for the acceptance of varying expressions of masculinities, and urges critical reflection of oneself and of gender norms enforced by peers, home environment, and especially, the media.  In a world that views masculinity as being tough, violent, and controlling, it is no wonder that domestic violence occurs so frequently, and in a gendered context.  In reality, this idea of masculinity can have many negative effects on men, including higher rates of STDs, reckless driving, depression, poor health, substance abuse, and overall violence, both towards men and women.

 

The lecture was extremely moving, and included talking points from Dr. Lehrer, as well as a PowerPoint presentation with videos.  One of the more effective points was a video from a past participant, explaining how his mother’s abusive boyfriend always kept frozen steak in the house, even though they were vegetarians, and the irony of “raw meat healing raw meat.”  There are numerous videos of men’s performances on YouTube, which I strongly urge you to check out, and the opportunity to create a chapter in the Worcester area is available as well.

For more information, please visit http://www.mensstoryproject.org/.

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