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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Web Editorial - November 2004

Are You Willing to Take A Stand?

By Rob Okun
MRC Co-Executive Director

On October 14, 2004, Michele Vanleeuwen was murdered by her boyfriend in Northampton, Mass. Five days later, at a vigil for Ms. Vanleeuwen, Rob was among the speakers. The following is based on those remarks.

It has been nearly five years since we have had to gather here in this way--to come together as a community to express our grief and our anger. Another woman killed by another man. Another life extinguished because a man was angry, or insecure, or upset, or out of control.

As a community, as a society--and, for my brothers among us here today, as men--I have a question: How much longer are we going to stand on the sidelines, not taking some action to do something to work to prevent domestic violence?

How cruel that Michele Vanleeuwen's murder took place in the middle of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. How bitter that it happened a little more than a week after men and women joined the Men's Resource Center's 40-mile Springfield-to-Greenfield "Men's Walk to End Abuse."

The seeds of men's violence are sown early in our lives. They are sown by a society that consistently sends boys the wrong message about what it means to be a man. Even still, the vast majority of men are good and caring and do not act abusively. They are many men who want to help but haven't stepped forward or asked how. It is these men that I want to address for a moment.

Are you willing to take a stand--to say NO! to violence against women?

If your answer is "Yes," then here is something you can do. Five years ago, in the wake of Jean Hosmer's murder on the street in front of the Northampton Police Department, the MRC's Michael Dover--now co-director--conceived the idea of producing informational action cards to address domestic abuse. On one side the cards are headlined Is This You? and on the other side, Is This Someone You Know? Below the headlines is a list describing nine abusive behaviors. (You can read the text of these cards by clicking on the titles.)

The cards give both men acting abusively, and anyone who knows of such men, a way to begin the conversation--internal or external-- to address abusive behavior. Since we began producing these cards, tens of thousands have been printed, for free, by Baystate Health System and distributed in Hampden, Hampshire and Franklin Counties. And they work: we get calls from men saying they've read the cards and recognize that they need help. Though we can never know for certain, one of those cards may have saved a woman's life.

I want to challenge 50 men--preferably men who have never before stepped forward to confront violence against women--to volunteer to each distribute five display boxes with these cards to stores, malls, doctors' offices, fitness centers, cafés and bars, factories and houses of worship in western Massachusetts--everywhere and anywhere they'll be seen and have a likelihood of being read. That would be one concrete act men can take.

Michele Vanleeuwen would soon have turned 50 years old. That's why we are choosing to invite 50 men to each symbolically represent one year of her tragically shortened life.

As we grieve Michele Vanleeuwen, let us also in the days ahead renew our commitment--or begin to find a way--to take a stand against domestic violence. Doing so will not only add meaning to Michele's life, but will also allow the flame of her memory--and of our commitment--to burn brightly for a long time to come.

If you live or work in western Massachusetts and would like to take up Robs challenge, contact him at [email protected] or call (413) 253-9887, ext. 20.

236 North Pleasant St.
Amherst, MA 01002
413.253.9887
Fax 413.253.4801

Satellite Office:
29 Howard Street
Springfield, MA 01109
413.734.3438