Spring is a time for new beginnings, and Sexual Assault Awareness Month, with its diverse set of events can offer your center an avenue through which to forge new alliances with men in your community. Take the time to plant the seeds at your events and then nurture these new relationships through the following four steps.
Invite – Contact men who participated in your events during Sexual Assault Awareness Month as this is an opportunity to establish a long-term relationship with these men. Extending personal invitations is ideal, but since it is not always possible to meet or involve folks in person utilize a dedicated page on your website, a Facebook page, newsletters, e-mail updates, a blog, informational meetings at various times and locations, other forms of social media, or phone calls to provide men with a sense of investment and ongoing involvement. Regardless of the method you decide on for communication, use every opportunity to learn about other male leaders you should talk to and continue asking these men for more names in order to build a stronger network of male allies. Along the way, collect contact information for each man that you speak with, such as name, address, phone-numbers, e-mail address, and more importantly skill-set and experience.
Raise Consciousness – Help men explore their personal and collective role in ending all forms of sexual violence. Share information by creating a lending library of books, articles, zines, films, and magazines (recommended resources on pages 40-45 of TAASA 2014 SAAPM Toolkit), or if this is not possible, share on-line articles, blogs, websites, newsletters, and videos through social media platforms, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter. Encourage men to organize and establish book/article discussion groups with male co-workers, classmates, neighbors, family members, and friends or post reviews of books related to themes of healthy masculinity and sexual violence prevention on their personal social media accounts. Join the Texas Men’s Nonviolence Project and the National Men Against Violence list-serves or organize a Google+ Hangout or Twitter chat for men to further their discussions. Finally, organize, promote, and offer your own trainings/workshops on a variety of topics facilitated by local community members for no cost or for a minimal fee. Refer to your established network of male allies to find men that can lead these workshops or consult with the TAASA prevention team to provide you, your staff, volunteers, and men in your community with free training and technical assistance in order to support and enhance your efforts to prevent sexual violence with men.
Take Risks – Try something new, forge unexpected relationships, step out of your comfort zone, and resist the temptation to become complacent. This requires open-mindedness, courage, and a willingness to allow men from the community to lead particular endeavors. Experiment with different strategies, activities, and environments, utilizing the ideas presented in the TAASA 2014 SAAPM Toolkit throughout the year rather than solely in the month of April. Think evaluatively about your efforts. Ask the men who participate why they can and/or continue to stay engaged. Notice the effect of both long and short-term work with a specific group of men and the different ways that different groups of men are impacted. Make mistakes, ask for feedback, adjust, try again, and always striving to improve your men’s engagement efforts. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and not know the answer – to fail, and to succeed.
Evaluate – Even if your organization has involved men in various roles for some time, it is important to constantly reevaluate. Get these men together to continue talking about the issues and create opportunities to listen to various groups of men in your community. These discussions can happen on the street, at churches, college dorms, recreation centers, or anywhere where men gather. More importantly, recruit and train men to organize and facilitate these discussions. Document these conversations, collect the information, review it, and share it with key stakeholders in your community. This information will continue to inform your process and provide insight into the interests, availability and expertise of men in your community. Use this as an opportunity to continue to conduct focus groups, especially with groups of men that have not had contact with your organization, whether it is a group of immigrants or members of a particular faith community. It’s critical to value and appreciate the experiences that each man shares with you and your team along the way. Invite men to share what they have learned and accomplished through poetry, photographs, stories, art, and writing. Celebrate and acknowledge each “historic moment” and embrace the failures as an opportunity to try again, consistently revisiting the four steps in cyclical fashion.
As you follow these steps, TAASA is ready to spring into action and assist you in any way we can so that you may continue to cultivate and grow your primary prevention efforts with men beyond SAAM. Contact us for support at firstname.lastname@example.org.