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More $$ for fighting male violence

BY JOHN DOETKOTT | AUGUST 25, 2009 7:05 AM

While the Iowa City police step up patrols downtown in hopes of reducing violence in the area, UI graduate student Jerrod Koon says they may be missing the point.

Koon, the coordinator of the UI Men’s Antiviolence Council, said violence itself — while a concern — should not be the focus of resolutions.

“What drives men to engage in those behaviors is what we really need to be talking about,” he said.

That’s why he hopes to create a mentor program in which UI faculty and staff will act as role models for responsible male behavior.

And a recent change in the council’s funding source will allow it more opportunity to pursue its new project.

Koon said the reason most men fight stems from a confrontational and improper definition of masculinity. Essentially, men think they need to be tough and physically defend their masculinity by fighting.

“Boys are socialized to violence,” said Frank Durham, a UI associate professor of journalism and Antiviolence Council member.

He said it is difficult for young men to break away from that mainstream definition of masculinity.

“The mentoring program would offer acceptable, pro-social ways to be out of the mainstream,” he said.

Intended to forge relationships among students and faculty and staff members, the program will encourage discussions about masculinity and help raise awareness about issues such as dating violence and stalking.

The group also hopes to redirect its goals; it was recently afforded the freedom to focus on certain aspects of male violence.

The council got its start in 2008, drawing some funds from a $200,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women. The money ran out in May, taking with it government directives that required a specific focus on violence against women.

The group is now funded partially by the Office of Student Affairs and partially by the UI Parents Association.

The Parents Association contributed a roughly $15,000 one-time donation this fiscal year, said Belinda Marner, the UI assistant vice president for Student Services. Financial contribution amounts by the Office of Student Affairs were not available on Monday.

Members plan to discuss the mentor program soon, Koon said. For now, the council is also working to boost membership.

There are eight fully trained volunteers conducting workshops on such issues as dating violence, masculinity, and sex stereotypes.

Just getting people talking about the Antiviolence Council’s ideas is a success in itself, said Koon, noting social change is unlikely to happen right away.

“We teach people how to make a difference every day,” he said. “It’s about social justice, it’s about getting involved.”


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