Last Thursday’s breakfast event launched Brown County Voices of Men, an effort that encourages men to help end violence against women and girls. More than 300 men made a promise at the gathering. Standing in unison, they pledged to “not commit, condone or remain silent about men’s violence against women.” The men also donned white ribbons to be worn for a week to symbolize their pledge.
Tony Porter, co-founder of “A Call to Men: The National Association of Men and Women Committed to Ending Violence Against Women,” delivered the keynote at the breakfast. Porter, an author, educator and activist, works with the NFL, NBA and colleges and universities throughout the country. He challenged the men in the room to “show up, stand up and speak up against violence against women.”
Porter emphasized the connection between “well-meaning” men and the 15 to 20 percent in the United States who perpetrate domestic and sexual violence against women.
“If women could end the violence by themselves, it would be over,” said Porter. “When needed, we have to be there. We have to be part of the equation. This is being done in our presence. ‘In the presence’ doesn’t mean you were there when it happened. ‘In the presence’ does mean that we as men are well aware that it’s happening.
“We’ve been taught that they’re the bad guys and we’re the good guys,” he added. “They do bad things and we do good things. There is a collective socialization among all men, good guys and bad guys alike. It is that collective socialization among all men that fosters this relationship between us and them, and allows them to be who they are in our presence.”
The event featured skits, including a coach calling youth football players by demeaning gender names, a man objectifying a woman and two men failing to respond to domestic violence in their neighborhood. The stories in the role-playing support the formula that placing less value in women, plus treating women as property, plus objectification of women, equals violence against women, said Porter. He also discussed the “Man Box,” the social norms, culture and traditional images of manhood that have created an environment that supports, tolerates and sometimes encourages men’s violence against women.
“Women don’t need to be protected, men need to behave,” said Porter. “We need to teach our boys what that means. Why haven’t we spoken up? The criminal justice system alone cannot handle it themselves. Will you speak up? Will you stand up?”
Kocos shared his story in hopes that it will encourage a call to action. He admitted that it’s challenging to revisit his past, but wants to help others in abusive families.
“Hopefully now we will go out and influence 300 or maybe even 700 more people,” he said. “That’s the way you create societal change. I will always live with the reality that whatever we do in these areas has to always be a work in progress. Sustainability is always a challenge. That’s why the message has to be consistent, repeated and supported.”
Voices of Men plan meeting
Brown County Voices of Men will hold a meetingfrom 7:30 to 9 a.m. on Oct. 27 at Harmony Café in Green Bay. For moreinformation on the organization, visit www.voicesofmenbrowncounty.com.For more information on the Fox Valley group, visit www.voicesofmen.com.
Kocos, a member of the Brown County Voices of Men planning committee, works with children in the Green Bay Public Schools, where he supervises the extended learning and after school programs.
“I’m in a position where I can continue to bring additional resources for children, especially those who have some challenging home circumstances,” he said. “It’s rewarding in a sense that I do get to see a lot of the positive that occurs in the community at all levels.”
Other planning committee members who spoke at the event included Jim Schmitt, mayor of Green Bay; Tom Hinz, Brown County executive; Jim Arts, Green Bay police chief; Karen Faulkner, executive director of Golden House; Sue Lockwood, supervisor at the Brown County Sexual Assault Center; Gene Redhail, men’s facilitator at the Oneida Tribe Domestic Violence Center; Scott Stein, media planner at Leonard and Finco Public Relations; and Glen Tilot, social worker/volunteer coordinator at Brown County Human Services.
Schmitt explained that Brown County Voices of Men grew from community leaders attending a Fox Valley Voices of Men meeting six months ago. Fox Valley committee members Beth Schnoor of Harbor House in Appleton and Dave Willems of Willems Marketing in Appleton served in an advisory capacity for the Brown County launch.
Forms were distributed at the breakfast inviting men to join Voices of Men, bring awareness to others, support events designed to prevent domestic violence, serve as a mentor to a male child and volunteer at Golden House and the Sexual Assault Center.
“Because part of our program is a 40-bed shelter facility, we always have maintenance things that need to be done, upkeep of the facility,” said Faulkner. “In addition, we train volunteers to answer our 24-hour help line. We have opportunities to join victims in court and assist them just by being there. There are opportunities for people to be involved in fund-raisers. We can find something to match your skills.”
Faulkner added that she was impressed with the turnout at the breakfast and hopes it promotes change.
“There are more numbers of people working to eliminate violence in women’s lives,” she said. “Even if they are not working, volunteering, donating or doing something physical, it’s changed their mindset and how they operate in their day-to-day lives. I hope they will stand up, will speak up, that they won’t condone this type of violence against women.”