As anyone who looks will notice, the majority of those working to end domestic violence are women. It makes sense because although men are sometime victims of women or other men, the bulk of domestic violence is perpetrated by men upon women.

So when the organizers of a recent forum featuring domestic violence expert Jackson Katz, PhD, filled a conference room at the Pittsburgh Club with 350 people, 250 of them men, they were pleasantly surprised.

In her welcoming remarks, Kristy Trautmann, executive director for the FISA Foundation, one of the sponsors, said she’d never seen an audience like that in 25 years.

“This is the beginning of a new conversation,” she said. “A conversation that says masculinity is about more than dominance and aggression.”

Others welcoming Katz and the attendees included Allegheny County Department of Human Services Director Marc Cherna, Pittsburgh Councilman Bruce Kraus and Mayor Bill Peduto.

He noted that the city took a big step in 2007 by crafting policy procedures to address domestic violence within the Bureau of Police.

“Who do you call when you’re a victim of abuse and your partner is a police officer,” he asked. “Women can’t do this alone. We have the people in this room to do it. This is a call to action.”

Kraus introduced Katz—-an educator, filmmaker and creator of the Mentors in Violence Prevention, used by college and professional sports teams and by all branches of the U.S. military, as well as the Australian Army—with a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: “In the end it is not the words of our enemies that hurt us, but the silence of our friends.”

Katz’ main point, after having done this work for more than 20 years is that there needs to be a paradigm shift, much of it involving language, that needs to take place to curb gender violence.

“When you hear statistics it’s always ‘x amount of women were raped in Allegheny County’, or ‘x number of girls got pregnant in Pittsburgh schools.’ It’s always passive voice,” he said. “Was this magic? No, men raped x number of women. The language keeps men out of the conversation.”

Katz also noted a broader societal issue with movies, television, etc. telling men and boys that it’s acceptable to use violence to “solve” a problem. He played a series of movie clips feature iconic scenes of John Wayne, Al Pacino and others doing so.

That he said breeds not just violence by men against men, but against women, and vice versa. And it doesn’t stay “domestic.”

“There is no peace in the street if there is no peace in the home. There is no peace in the community without peace in the family,” he said.

Katz has devised to deal with gender violence in a variety of situations with complex dynamics called the Bystander Approach. It involves getting “bystanders” to abuse or violence to step in, in one way or another—unlike those who took cell phone photos and tweeted as two Steubenville area high school football players raped a passed-out student at a party.

“This is not a ‘women’s issue,” he said. “Every issue that affects women affects men.”

Though his program has received high praise for its positive results from professional athletes and the military, Katz would like to see more training aimed at middle-school age boys, to get ahead of the curve, not just in schools, but in community group settings and even little league sports.

To that end the FISA Foundation, the Center for Victims, Pittsburgh Action Against Rape, and the dating violence elimination group 3E NOW is sponsoring a Coaching Boys Into Men training session at Rodef Shalom, 4905 Fifth Avenue, May 28. The event is free and includes lunch, but those wishing to attend must pre-register at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/KT53YWC.

(Send comments to cmorrow@newpittsburghcourier.com.)   

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