The Department of Public Safety has expanded efforts to include men in the conversation about sexual violence by bringing the Men Can Stop Rape organization to campus and planning a Rape Aggression Defense course for men. While Men Can Stop Rape focuses on the role of men in preventing sexual violence against women, Rape Aggression Defense for men focuses on teaching men self-defense to avoid becoming victims of violence.
DPS began efforts last year to engage men in the discussion about sexual assault but never had a program that focused specifically on men, said Michelle Nuey, manager of special programs for DPS and the RAD program coordinator.
“Both programs focus on redefining masculinity,” she said.
Rape Aggression Defense
RAD is a national program that traditionally trains women in self-defense techniques against potential attackers through certified instructors. The University currently offers the courses for free to women through the Department of Public Safety every month.
While the program’s emphasis is on women, DPS has been planning a course for men and hopes to start offering it by May.
“I think there’s been a need for us to diversify,” said Patricia Fortier, a DPS officer and an instructor for the women’s program. “We’re inclusive, not exclusive.”
Nuey said the men’s program follows the same principles as the women’s program, though the teaching will differ in some ways because men respond to assault differently than women.
The program is 80 percent risk reduction and 20 percent education, physical tactics and resistance, Nuey said.
In the past six months, male students have been targeted as victims more than females in general crimes in the community, Nuey said. DPS decided to implement the men’s course due to these incidences and inquiries from men.
Two police officers and one security guard have been certified as instructors for the RAD for men program so far, Nuey said, adding that she hopes the officers will serve as role models for the men who take the course.
They want to “educate men about non-confrontational principles of self-defense,” Nuey said, and to demonstrate “that it’s okay to walk away from something.”
The program will “provide information and tactical options to men that they can use to manage confrontational situations,” Nuey said, adding that they will emphasize de-escalating dangerous situations so they do not “resort to meeting aggression with aggression.”
“We’re going to open ourselves up to another dynamic of our community, and that’s very exciting,” Fortier said. “I think that people are going to get excited about it.”
“This course is so important and means so much to us as instructors that we feel it should be mandatory for every freshman to take,” she added. “It assists the students who come through the course with their four-year journey and beyond. You don’t come out as the Karate Kid or anything, but you come out with tools that we hope you’ll never have to use.”
Men Can Stop Rape
Men Can Stop Rape is a nonprofit organization that seeks to educate men about ways they can prevent sexual assault. Joseph Vess, director of training and technical assistance for the Men Can Stop Rape organization, ran a training program workshop at the University last week.
Members of the Sexual Assault Advisory Board provided DPS with a list of students involved in sexual assault prevention programs and the Greek community to participate in the workshop. They then offered 10 more spots through Brown Morning Mail and four students signed up. The program focused on men, but female students and officers also attended. The four-hour training included eight students, seven administrators from campus life and 11 DPS members.
The program consisted mainly of discussions and workshops that encouraged collaboration, dispelled harmful stereotypes about masculinity and urged men to be more effective allies to women and to use their strength to prevent violence.
“I think my favorite thing about the program is when men come to the workshops and realize that there are a lot of other men interested in countering violence against women,” Vess said. “Men often feel like they are alone but when they find out that there are other men interested in the same issues they tend to get really excited.”
Many participants were particularly impressed with one exercise in which they listed the qualities of men they admired, such as a father or uncle, and compared them to stereotypical masculine qualities propagated by the media. They were completely different.
“Most people listed gender-neutral attributes that offered a really nice critique of masculinity that’s promoted through the media and other institutions,” said Bita Shooshani, coordinator of sexual assault prevention and advocacy for the University.
“(The event) was a really good collaborative movement,” said Muna Idriss ’14, a member of Zeta Delta Xi and the Sexual Assault Peer Education program and the only female student present at the event.
Nuey agreed that the interdepartmental cooperation was encouraging and beneficial in preventing sexual violence, adding that trainers might incorporate these techniques into the RAD curriculum.
She highlighted the community-building aspect of the program.
“It demystifies the Department of Public Safety and allows officers to be viewed in a different way, that they’re actually on board with this and that they care about as much as anyone else,” Nuey said.
The program was generally received well by its attendants.
“I really like the MCSR training because it identifies a number of different ways that we can support men and what an important role men have to play in preventing violence against women and also against men,” Shooshani said. “It unpacks a lot of the cultural norms around what we’re taught it means to be a ‘real man.'”
“I thought it was really cool,” Idriss said. She said the seminar opened her eyes to how people talk about sexual violence.
“We don’t really think about hegemonic masculinity pressuring men into becoming these types of perpetrators,” she said. “We don’t talk about the role of society in what makes a man.”
Many participants enjoyed Vess as a facilitator and were inspired by his stories.
“You could tell that he was really connected to the issue even though (he) didn’t start thinking about it until he was 24,” said Mike Yules ’14, a member of Theta Delta Chi. “He made the point that you can always get involved and that it’s a growing experience.”
Yules added that the event was the perfect size and allowed him to connect deeply with the other participants. He said he thought the diversity of the group was beneficial. Matthew Gorham ’14, another member of Thete, said he might like to be a facilitator and possibly introduce the workshop to freshmen during orientation.
Vincent Greer, community director of residential life, was particularly enthusiastic in making a program like MCSR a permanent addition to campus.
“I would love to see some of our male students on campus look to start up an organization around this,” Greer said. “What I’d love to see is a group of men who just have conversations about masculinity and violence against women.”