Protection, Education, Empowerment—the three parts of the Project Woman mission statement that males can stand for in order to take part in the conversation to end sexual assault and domestic violence, according to Laura Baxter, Project Woman executive director.
Project Woman is a local Clark County organization that is dedicated to end sexual assault and domestic violence through programs and services that protect, educate and empower. The agency was founded by community members in 1974 as a one-room rape crisis center, according to the Project Woman website.
“Women have been effective throughout the timeline of the ‘woman’s movement,’ but it is time that men were viewed as part of the solution,” Baxter said. “Men have to stand up and stand together – to tell other men and boys – No More.”
The agency is also part of a local coalition called PAVE (Partners Against Violence Every Day) that Baxter started two years ago to address the questions of why Clark County/Springfield is ranked number one per capita in the state of Ohio for domestic and intimate partner violence, and why do seven percent of all Ohio domestic violence incidences occur in Clark County, even though the county only makes up 1.2 percent of Ohio’s population?
In order to increase male involvement in the agency, Project Woman will work with the coalition of PAVE to build awareness in the community of the aspects of violence, increase bystander responsibility and eventually, create a change.
Another initiative will involve bringing Alan Berkowitz to the community. Berkowitz is an initial researcher for sexual assault prevention through social change. On Nov. 12 and 13, he will offer services such as First Responder training for local law enforcement and Bystander Response Ability training for community members who may ask, “What can I do to help end the violence?”
Additionally, a partnership between Project Woman and Fatherhood Clark County will offer prevention education and will be specifically geared toward boys and young men.
Each year, nearly 5 million children witness domestic violence in their homes, causing a gross misunderstanding of healthy family and intimate partner dynamics, according to Baxter.
“Partnering with the Fatherhood Initiative just makes sense if we are going to address education and prevention of domestic violence at the root or core level,” Baxter said.
In addition to more male involvement in Project Woman, the number of men seeking services in the past two to three years has significantly increased because all of Project Woman’s services are equally available to men.
“Many men have experienced and/or witnessed domestic violence in their homes as children,” said Baxter. “We can offer counseling and advocacy services to help them to break through barriers and increase their ability to have healthy relationships as adults.”
Members of Wittenberg’s own sexual assault prevention program, No Woman Left Behind, also find importance in male involvement.
“I think that it is crucial to have male involvement with Project Woman, as there needs to be a mixed community of people that care about women and their right to feel safe in any environment,” Steven La Count, ’15, said. “In order to get some good traction regarding voicing the issue, we need to have the men who care for women to speak up. An attack on the women we love not only hurts them, it hurts us.”