Posted by Elizabeth Schön Vainer

This year’s White Ribbon Campaign in Massachusetts is #ReimagineManhood: What Will Your Legacy Be? This campaign began last week and will continue throughout the month. This year, I am inspired by the actions of former New England Patriots linebacker and NFL Hall of Famer Andre Tippett, who is an honorary chair of the campaign. Andre’s current role as Executive Director of Community Affairs with the Patriots raises the visibility of his public stance against violence against women. While JF&CS Journey to Safety celebrates all men who stand with us, as a program whose mission centers on preventing domestic abuse in the Jewish community we are especially moved by Andre doing so as a Jewish man.

Every day we meet with survivors who desperately want to feel safe in their homes and with their partners, often the fathers of their children. They want these men to change and stop the controlling behavior and abuse of themselves and their children. They want these men to be partners in raising a loving and healthy family. And yet, time after time, we hear that meaningful behavior change does not happen and the abuse continues.

What is the role of men in our society when it comes to this kind of change? While I am not suggesting that each man be responsible for changing an abusive man’s behavior, I am suggesting that every man can become an informed bystander. We often hear after the fact from neighbors, friends, and family members that they saw the signs of abuse but didn’t know how to account for it or what to do. I believe that, like learning how to recognize stroke signs, learning how to recognize abusive behaviors can be lifesaving to a friend, loved one, or even a stranger.

Men of all ages have the capacity to be an informed bystander. A survivor told me of the importance of not only female friends but also several male friends who supported her during her darkest days of despair. They helped her see that her husband’s behavior wasn’t just inappropriate but rather controlling, manipulative, abusive, and not healthy or safe for her or their children. She said that by having the support of both women and men in her life, she found the strength to safely leave her husband.

White Ribbon Day honors men acting to end gender based violence and, in Massachusetts, challenges men to #ReimagineManhood by challenging societal norms and views that further violence against women. Here at JF&CS we continued our tradition of gathering on the first Thursday of March to commemorate the White Ribbon Campaign and Massachusetts’ official White Ribbon Day. David Schechter, JF&CS Board president spoke about domestic violence as a personal issue from his childhood neighborhood and ended his comments with “I am proud to be a supporter of JF&CS and Journey to Safety as a member of the JF&CS Board and as a man. I am proud to wear a White Ribbon.”
Later that day we attended the 9th annual White Ribbon Day event at the State House. In addition to Andre Tippett, we were inspired by Middlesex County Sheriff Peter Koutoujian who shared, “A man’s strength is shown through his character and moral judgement, never through the use of violence.”

Men and women need to make ending violence against women their concern. Jackson Katz calls violence against women a men’s issue. An educator, author, and co-founder of the 20-year-old organization Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP), Katz redirects the dialogue away from abuse being a woman’s issue in his highly acclaimed TED Talk in 2013. He states “We need more men with the guts, with the courage, with the strength, with the moral integrity to break our complicit silence and challenge each other and stand with women and not against them.”

Let’s all be inspired by Jackson Katz’s powerful call to action and share this blog, have a conversation with boys and men in our lives, and help make violence against women everyone’s issue.

Elizabeth Schön Vainer has been the program director of Journey to Safety, the domestic abuse program of JF&CS, since March 2010. Elizabeth is passionate about Journey to Safety’s commitment to prevent domestic abuse. She believes that we must work at the individual, community, and legislative levels to shift our societal view that allows abusive behavior to remain so prevalent and damaging. When we focus on speaking up, listening to, and collaborating with others we can have a real impact. Prior to working at JF&CS, Elizabeth worked for 25 years in victim services at both the Middlesex and Suffolk County District Attorney’s offices. Elizabeth holds a BSW from the University of Tel Aviv and a MS in organization and management from Antioch University.

Originally published on the JF&CS blog.