A new group is forming on campus as part of a nation-wide program to give men an opportunity to participate in the awareness and prevention of sexual assault and violence.
“This men’s group is about men being involved in activism, education, prevention and awareness around this issue because it’s important for both men and women to create an atmosphere that does not tolerate sexual assault and promotes sexual responsibility,” Summer Sunderland, a graduate assistant for the Safe Campus Project said.
This new group will be called the Men’s Violence Prevention group and is organized by the University of Maine’s Safe Campus Project. A nationally renowned organization Men Can Stop Rape, which is based in Washington, D.C., will serve as a consultant to the new group.
Men can become involved in this new group by being nominated by someone, or by nominating themselves. The first group meeting will be held Monday, November 26.
According to Sunderland, this group provides an avenue for men to become involved in what is traditionally thought of as a “woman’s issue.”
However, Sunderland stresses that sexual assault and violence is really a community issue, and the Men’s Violence Prevention group provides a way for men to become part of the solution.
According to information distributed by the Men Can Stop Rape program, it is important for men to get involved.
“All men can play a vital role in this process by challenging rape-supporting attitudes and behaviors and raising awareness about the damaging impact of sexual violence,” the information reads.
“Both the Safe Campus Project and the Men Can Stop Rape program recognize and believe that most men are not rapists,” Sunderland said.
But of the sexual assaults that do occur, 99 percent of the perpetrators are men according to information compiled by the U.S. Department of Justice.
“Statistically-speaking, the vast majority of sexual perpetrators are men,” said Elizabeth Allan, co-advisor of the Men’s Violence Prevention group. “If we really want to reduce the incidents of sexual violence then we have to start with men.”
Allan also pointed out that the traditional approaches to stop sexual assault on college and university campuses is to make women feel safer, such as providing better lighting at night.
“We can’t expect to make progress unless we involve men in the solution,” she said.
A unique benefit for the men that become involved in this new group is that they will be starting on the “ground floor,” Sunderland said. The men who participate will help create a mission for the group, and will be able to contribute to what they want to see on campus as a result of this new program.
While it will be the group’s decision how they choose to proceed, Sunderland did supply one potential example of what the group may do in the future. One option is the white-ribbon campaign. This campaign is specifically for men who want to take a visible stand on the issue of sexual assault awareness.
Allan also said that the men might choose to sponsor speakers, workshops and provide peer education.
“We’re excited that this men’s group is starting because it is a brand-new program on campus and so many men have expressed interest and concern about the issue,” Sunderland said.
One aspect of Men Can Stop Rape involvement will be in the form of a two-day training session, which is designed to train men on activism, and will take place shortly after the first meeting.
Men who participate in the development of this brand new group will have the opportunity to take a stand on such issues as sexual assault and violence. At the same time they will also have a chance to become part of a solution to a problem that affects both women and men worldwide.
For information about the Men’s Violence Prevention group, or to nominate a man, e-mail Summer Sunderland on FirstClass, or send nominations to 201 East Annex.