ROCK SPRINGS — A scholar has shared the connection between domestic violence and sexual assault and the culture surrounding masculinity at the annual Silent Witness Memorial and Candlelight Vigil.
The event was hosted by the YWCA of Sweetwater County on Thursday, October 20 at Western Wyoming Community College.
Bob Vines, Prevention Specialist for the Wyoming Coalition Against Domestic Violence of Sexual Assault, engages with men and boys to end violence as well as prevention through storytelling.
“If you haven’t noticed already, I’m a man,” Vines said. “Working in the area of domestic violence and sexual assault prevention, I’m often the only man in the room.”
“It’s a sad reality.”
According to Vines, domestic violence and sexual assault are often viewed as women’s issues, even though men are responsible for 76% of all cases of domestic violence-related assaults.
“Men are responsible for 95% of sexual assaults against women, children and other men.
“If it’s a women’s problem, of course, ladies, why haven’t you fixed this problem yet?”
He said the question was unfair and was surprised the attendees didn’t “boo” him.
“We know that if women are able to end domestic violence on their own, it would have been done by now,” he stressed. “We need to engage more men in this work. Not all men are aggressors. Most understand the prevalence of domestic violence and sexual assault. They think more needs to be done. »
He wondered how men can play a role in eliminating violence in our society.
“Where shall we start?” He asked.
Vines shared the struggles her father had with mental illness in the 70s, which led to suicide attempts and abuse. He noted that at the time, men were unwilling to ask for help, especially in Wyoming, where “we celebrate our rugged individualism but confuse loneliness with loneliness.”
“We depend on ourselves, so we don’t seek help,” he said. “Wyoming is the national leader in suicides. Nearly 40 out of 100,000 men will commit suicide this year in Wyoming.
“Our men and boys are broken.”
He mentioned there was hope, however.
“This culture is slowly changing, year after year. We are breaking socialized masculinity a bit. Every year it becomes easier for men to seek support. Every year it becomes more acceptable to expand this definition of what a real man is.
“But we still have a long way to go.”
“We need to be victim-centered in domestic violence and sexual assault crimes,” he said. “We need to pass victim-friendly laws. We need better access to mental health services. We are the worst in the country when it comes to need versus access to mental health services.
Vines said: “We need to reject legislative attempts to quiet male voices and we need to make it more comfortable to talk about these difficult things. We won’t solve the problem of gender-based violence until we change our culture around masculinity.
He said that from an early age, men are taught that real men have complete power and control and that the only acceptable reaction to losing power and control is to regain it through brute force. Men are misled by messages about what defines a real man.
“The definition is really narrow,” he said. “We are taught that there is only one way to be a boy. Any deviation must be sanctioned and expelled quickly.”
“These boys are full of frustration and they are very angry.”
There are several ways to combat this socialization, he said.
“Men need to hold other men accountable for their actions,” he said. “Good men don’t need to defend bad men. Instead of justifying the bad behavior of our favorite sports hero, we must oppose this behavior.
“We have to reject this ‘boys will be boys’ culture that we have built,” he added.
Vines said he believed “good men will end gender-based violence.”
Second, Vines mentioned that how parents raise their sons is important.
He shared a story regarding an incident he had with another boy hitting him. His mother suggested he had to hit him or he wouldn’t be allowed to come home that night.
“We told our children that the only way to earn respect is through violence. My mother was just trying to raise a strong boy.
Instead of fighting, Vines and the boy agreed to play in the sandbox.
“I’ve given similar advice to my own sons,” he admitted. “It puts incredible pressure on them, suggesting that instead of crying, they should settle this with violence.”
He said parents should consider the type of young man they would like to raise.
“How would you like him to treat his wife and children or whoever? If you have a daughter, what kinds of traits would you like her partner to have? »
Finally, he said, men need to share their stories.
“That’s how we connect,” he said. “We need each other and when we share stories, we take on different perspectives.”
It helps build positive relationships, he said.
“Wyoming men share their stories about their own experiences, around masculinity. They work to de-stigmatize men’s mental health,” he revealed. “When men show their vulnerability, other men feel they can do the same.”
All of the stories, he pointed out, have a recurring theme of mental health.
“When you need help, get it. Its good.”
He reminded the men in the audience that eight out of nine want to see positive change.
“You are the secret weapon.”
During the event, a display of life-size red silhouettes was displayed on the stage. Each silhouette represented a Wyoming woman or child whose life ended violently at the hands of an intimate partner.
Other speakers at Thursday’s memorial included Kayla Manniko, Sweetwater County Sheriff’s Office Detective Stephanie Cassidy, Domestic Violence Survivor Ashlie Cantu, High Point Counseling Counselor Leslie Smith and Melinda Baas, Executive Director of the YWCA of Sweetwater County.
This year, Kimberly Ann Apple, 48, Gabby Petito, 22, and Madison Cook, 20, were added to the silhouettes of the state’s silent witness memorial in Cheyenne.
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