The mission of the Men's Resource Center for Change is to support men, challenge men's violence, and develop men's leadership in ending oppression in our lives, our families, and our communities.

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     On October 4, 2003, a group of 11 men completed the last leg of a four-day, 40-mile walk from Springfield to Greenfield, starting off Domestic Violence Awareness Month. We walked to raise awareness of the need for meEnd of the walk, Energy Park in Greenfieldn to take responsibility for men's violence against women in our communities and to highlight cuts in state funding of the Men Overcoming Violence (MOVE) program helping abusive men stop their destructive behavior. In all, we had 35 walkers who collectively walked more than 300 miles to call attention to domestic violence and raised over $4,500 for MOVE. The Walk appeared on TV Channels 22 and 40, and in four area daily newspapers.
     MRC Co-Director Rob Okun's Op-Ed in the Greenfield Recorder, inspired by the Walk, appears below.
 Thank You to all the individuals and businesses who supported the Walk.

Greenfield Recorder, October 23, 2003

Walk Just One of Many Steps

More Men Join Effort to End Domestic Violence

By Rob Okun
MRC Co-Director

When I recently joined dozens of men carrying signs proclaiming "Men Walking to End Abuse" on a 40-mile hike from Springfield to Greenfield Wednesday through Saturday, I didn't expect that we would permanently put an end to domestic violence. But our public act is another example of men taking new steps-literally-in the ongoing effort to halt abusive behavior in our relationships, families and communities.

To help inaugurate Domestic Violence Awareness Month, we walked from Springfield, a city that has seen its fair share of domestic abuse crimes over the years, passed through Holyoke, Northampton, Amherst and South Deerfield en route to Greenfield, all communities which have suffered through the tragedy of family violence. The walk was designed to raise consciousness and money, and inspire more men to take a stand to end domestic violence.

The Men's Resource Center of Western Massachusetts (MRC), where I am co-director, organized the walk. Since we only have a staff of 20 (many part time), it's a challenge to broadcast such a big message with scant resources. And our work was made more difficult this summer when we lost $54,000 in state funding after the legislature cut our budget (including $18,000 for community education and outreach around domestic violence in the North Quabbin region.) The men's walk was one way we're trying to restore some of the lost funds.

Despite the financial setback, the MRC's reputation as a model of what a community-based men's center can look like continues to grow. Our hands-on approach to redefining men's traditional roles in society has caught the attention of people in institutions near and far. This month we will share our message in Japan when Men Overcoming Violence (MOVE) program director Russell Bradbury-Carlin and MRC executive director Steven Botkin conduct a series of seminars about our work. Accompanied by MRC board member, Yoko Kato, credited with launching the movement to challenge domestic violence in her native country, the trio will speak to government representatives, law enforcement officials, and social service, academic and women's organizations during a whirlwind two week trip. [Web editor's note: see more about the Japan trip here.]

The MRC strategy for working with men grows out of twin aims: supporting men and challenging men's violence and it's a strategy we've been following since our founding in 1982. We try to help men identify positive aspects of being a man while highlighting attitudes and behaviors that undermine our ability to be happy and productive. Hundreds of men's lives have changed for the better thanks to MRC support groups where men discover a way to break out of isolation and talk honestly with one another.

Even before the MRC was featured on 48 Hours in 1999 and last year on Oprah, interest in our work was growing. We've done trainings for men from Johannesburg, South Africa to Halifax, Nova Scotia; from Taos, New Mexico to Keene, New Hampshire. Here at home, we are proud to work closely with a host of women's organizations including: NELCWIT in Greenfield, Everywoman's Center at the University of Massachusetts, Safe Passage in Northampton, YWCA in Springfield, and Womanshelter/Compañeras in Holyoke.

That men around the country are also organizing to challenge old male attitudes about domestic violence, including developing innovative campus-based programs addressing sexual assault and partner violence is good news. Franklin County is fortunate to have a group, Franklin County Men Against Domestic Violence, working hard on the issue locally.

Despite these positive developments men committed to violence-free families cannot rest. For a shift in men's consciousness about domestic violence and sexual assault to fully take root, men need to know society has zero tolerance for those behaviors. Clergy need to address the issue from the pulpit. Teachers need to integrate it into the curriculum. Businesses, neighborhoods, local municipalities and government need to sponsor education campaigns. State leaders -- please listen up, Gov. Romney -- need to back up flagging lip service commitment with adequate funding. Just as people's attitudes about smoking evolved from it being "cool" to it being socially unacceptable, old attitudes about spousal abuse -- "what goes on behind a family's closed doors is their business" -- is, fortunately, going out of vogue. But we have to keep at it.

Keeping at it is just what the MRC intends to do, in our more than a dozen batterer intervention groups from Athol and Greenfield to Amherst and Springfield, in our work with incarcerated men, in our general support groups and in our groups for young men on the journey to healthy manhood.

It may be premature to know what impact a "men's walk to end abuse" will have. What we do know is that with each step we were proclaiming that men want to end violence not just in western Massachusetts or Japan, but everywhere. And as people joined us on the walk each day, we knew we were not alone.

Thank You
to the Business Sponsors of the
2003 Men's Walk to End Abuse

Baystate Health System

for all their support, including a rally at Baystate Medical Center on October 1.

Cernak Buick, Easthampton

Eddie's Wheels, Shelburne

Foster's Supermarket, Greenfield

Green Fields Market, Greenfield

Shady Glen Diner, Turners Falls

Valley Women's Martial Arts, Easthampton

236 North Pleasant St.
Amherst, MA 01002
Fax 413.253.4801

Satellite Office:
29 Howard Street
Springfield, MA 01109