YWCA plans to establish advisory committee to tackle violence against women


Katie Pach/Daily Senior Staffer

YWCA Evanston/North Shore, 1215 Church St. The organization launched an initiative to combat gender violence by educating men about healthy masculinity.

Adrian Wan, Reporter

As the first cohort of men in an Evanston/North Shore YWCA initiative completes training aimed at ending gender violence, the organization is planning to establish an advisory committee to help launch events that continue engaging men as allies.

The committee will include men who have completed The Men’s Leadership Initiative’s five-week training session — covering topics from healthy masculinity to bystander intervention — and are motivated to work with the nonprofit, said Antonio Rice, a coordinator for the program. He added that committee members will help the YWCA launch annual community events and produce public service announcements.

“Our mission is to stop domestic violence by making men the allies of women,” Rice said. “Women have been working on this issue for a long time, but we also need men to be allies against violence.”

Rice said six men are currently taking part in the training and many participants have shown interest in serving as mentors for Evanston Township High School students and assisting the YWCA with organizing community education campaigns.

The Men’s Leadership Initiative kicked off last spring with the YWCA’s first-ever men’s leadership community dinner, which featured keynote speaker Jackson Katz, a longtime leader in the movement of men working to promote gender equality and prevent gender violence.

Though the initiative empowers survivors, its main goal is to challenge participants to redefine masculinity in a way that doesn’t allow for gender violence, said Kristen White, the organization’s chief operating officer. She added that the initiative strives to help men understand how to make “different” choices.

“For decades, the women’s movement and domestic violence community have focused on experiences the survivors have,” White said. “But the perpetrators of gender violence are men, so unless we can change (their) behaviors, the violence will continue.”

Kumar Jensen, the city’s sustainability coordinator, has participated in the training sessions and said he learned how heteronormativity is still strongly enforced throughout mainstream media.

The result is the reinforcement of rigid gender roles, he said.

“The way that the media articulates what it means to be men is primarily based on power,” Jensen said. “TV shows and advertisements primarily put men in positions of domination over women, oftentimes violently. So it’s important for men to understand what they take for granted in terms of their relationships.”

One in five women are sexually assaulted while in college, and 40 million adult Americans grew up in a home with domestic violence, according to statistics provided by the YWCA.

White said domestic violence and sexual assault are not limited to a specific race, ethnicity, religion or income level.

“It happens in all communities,” she said. “So it’s critical to engage men … in that conversation and help them understand the important role they play in changing that.”

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @piuadrianw