Learned at Take Back the Night . . .

This targeted TeenZine dishes on healthy dating

This targeted TeenZine dishes on healthy dating

Here are just a couple of the things we learned at Take Back the Night on April 23:

The Center for Women and Families has some seriously great resources, like the TeenZine on Healthy Dating, the DateSafe bookmark, and the Teens and alcohol poster, that are available free for the downloading, or the asking (for the glossier printed versions). They are designed for teens, have eye-catching graphics and reality-based copy to get teens to read about, e.g., how to recognize power and control dynamics in their relationships, steps to take if someone doesn’t respect their boundaries, or how (and why!) to turn down a chance to get drunk at a party.

    We thought: Youth groups could use these!

Maybe if more youth groups did have these resources, the Center’s sites in Indiana and Kentucky would not be as busy. Maybe even, congregational concern and involvement would make it easier for the people at the Center who work with faith communities to actually get in to talk to a pastor once in awhile.

    Reportedly, getting pastors actively involved in the effort to educate about and prevent violence against women, including intimate partner violence, is painfully slow and difficult. And indeed, while there were lots of Christians at the event, we didn’t see many (more precisely, any — at least, while we were there) pastors. And as most pastors and organizations that work with pastors know, personal pastoral involvement sends the signal “this is important.” Most pastors send a very different signal when it comes to violence against women.

Rus Funk is an inspiring speaker [OK, we didn’t exactly learn that, it would be more accurate to say we were reminded of that], with a passion for persuading men to become an active part of the solution to the problem of violence against women. His keynote address to the group on Thursday night included:

  • some hopeful reflections on the recent international conference in Brazil, that brought together men working on this issue from around the world;

  • an observation that the way we talk about violence against women (passive voice, focus on the female assaultee and erasure of the far more often male assaulter) excludes men from the crime, perpetuates blaming the victim, and constructs violence against women as an exclusively women’s issue, when it’s in fact a men’s-relationship-to-women’s issue;

  • a short litany of reasons men might want to be involved in the effort to end violence against women — because it damages the communities in which both women and men live, damages the relationships in which both women and men seek their deep human connections, and denies human rights to all by denying them to some;

  • remarks on the concept of “a good man” — and the need to broaden that concept from “a man who doesn’t do that” (e.g., hit women) to “a man who defends women even in their absence” (e.g., in the situations in which man-to-man bonding occurs at women’s expense);

  • a final call to “radicalism” — in the spirit of James Baldwin, who said “The most radical step you can take is your next one,” — because “the world that is free from violence will be a pretty radical departure from the one we’re living in.”

The radical next steps towards that world without violence need to be ours.

Like the ones people in Harrison Co., Indiana, took take when they showed up, in spite of the thunderstorms, to “Take Back the Night.”

[N.B., Take Back the Night has become an organized effort to facilitate local events like the one in Corydon on April 23, to help women tell their own stories of sexual assault and build a community of people who take the steps needed to prevent it.]


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