Members of a men’s group and other activists will gather Wednesday in Philadelphia’s Board Game Art Park for performances, food and speeches — and to demonstrate that they can help prevent domestic violence.
Hosted by Lutheran Settlement House, the event aims to empower men through education and “destigmatize what is often thought of as exclusively a women’s issue.”
Most conversations about ending domestic violence focus on the abused party, typically a woman. Rarely are men called on to examine and change their behavior, experts say.
Now it’s time for men to face up to the challenge, said Omar Woodard of the MEN CAN Prevent Domestic Violence group.
“We need to call out men in their adult years, who are engaging in this behavior, and make it uncomfortable to be known as someone who does that. Rather than what we have now, which is, it’s taboo and we want to avoid it,” he said.
Woodard said that domestic violence has reached “epidemic level” in Philadelphia. In 2013, police responded to 100,000 domestic abuse-related calls.
This year, the annual rally is the beginning of a longer term effort to reach men.
“We’re hoping now to use this rally not as a culmination of our efforts but as a kickoff to building the energy to keep men involved,” said Toby Fraser, a community educator with Lutheran Settlement House, the event’s host.
Moving forward, organizers will visit barbershops and lead education campaigns there.
“A barbershop is the one place where the taboo topics are often discussed,” Woodard said. “If we’re able to have conversations in barbershops and churches, certainly we can have them in our homes and in our businesses as well.”