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Sexual violence prevention should start with men

“We don’t stop pulling people out of the river, but at the same time, we’re stopping people from falling into it.’
That’s how Rus Ervin Funk described working toward erasing the domestic violence epidemic. What he means is, more than simple intervention, women need prevention to avoid the dangers of domestic violence and sexual assault completely. While they need to be saved from drowning, they also need to not fall into the water at all.
Funk, an organizer and trainer for social, gender, sexual and racial justice based out of Louisville, spoke with members of the Harrison County Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Coordinating Council and other interested individuals on Thursday to help educate and organize ways of prevention, including educating men about the specifics of domestic violence and sexual assault.
Funk talked about the need to work toward preventing violence toward women. And since men are the primary instigators of sexual violence, Funk said it’s imperative that the goal is to begin with them.
Most men do not commit sexual violence, but sexual violence is committed mostly by men, he said.
Prevention is more geared toward changing social norms, and that involves quite a bit of marketing, especially with the schools. Funk said that although there may be classes or programs offered to try to help educate youth, without changing the culture behind the attitudes, nothing is going to help.
‘We might change the attitudes in a 20-week program in the schools, but there is no evidence that changing attitudes will prevent domestic abuse or sexual violence,’ Funk said.
Though he knows classes like that can be helpful, he just doesn’t want to see education begin and end with those types of programs, especially when he thinks partnerships with schools can be a key factor in early prevention.
Funk said that besides educating teens on healthy relationships, there is a real opportunity to use schools as a platform to institute domestic violence policies, which could then be reinforced by communities.
‘That’s what’s going to have an effect,’ he said. ‘(That’s) a much larger open door for engagement.’
Still, even when Funk was presented with the question of resistance within school corporations or state education department, Funk said a sure way for prevention starts at home.
‘Moms target daughters, mostly,’ Funk said. ‘But dads talking to sons? Where is that?’
Funk stressed there is room for prevention in every part of community life, be it personally or socially. He also said that with such a broad topic, it can feel overwhelming and difficult to process.
He presented a few examples of how to engage men in the prevention, including how to approach a group for help. He suggested starting on a small scale and making the request very specific.
‘Instead of telling men what you don’t want them to do,’ he said, ‘tell them what you do want.’
Even then, Funk knows the fight is sometimes going to be an uphill battle.
‘Our job isn’t to change men in one presentation,’ he said, ‘but to start the stuff that will.’
The Harrison County Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Coordinating Council meets the first Thursday of each month at 11:30 a.m. at Lincoln Hills Christian Church in Corydon. Lunch is available for $5. The meetings are open to the public.