By Patricia Glaser Shea, President and CEO
YWCA of Nashville & Middle Tennessee
Violence against women and girls is a men’s issue. While most men are not violent, it is men who commit the majority of violence against women and girls. The engagement and education of men and boys is the best long-term solution to solving this widespread criminal behavior.
Violence against women won’t stop until men take an active role in creating a culture that refuses to tolerate it. Most men (our good guys) aren’t really aware of the enormity of problem. Maybe it’s not part of their daily life, or so it seems. Here are the facts in our own community, which is everyone’s reality:
- The F.B.I. ranks Tennessee as the most violent state in the U.S. Per capita, there are more rapes, robberies, aggravated assaults and murders than anywhere else in the nation.
- More than 51% of all crimes against persons in Tennessee are domestic violence.
- Tennessee ranks sixth in the nation for the rate at which women are killed by men.
- The Tennessee Economic Council on Women finds that, in 2012, Tennesseans spent or lost at least $886,171,950 as a result of domestic violence, human sex trafficking, and sexual assault.
- Nashville is ranked as the 18th most dangerous city in the nation.
- In 2013, Metro Nashville police respond to 26,236 calls of domestic violence — that’s one call a call every 20 minutes.
- 85% of domestic violence victims are women abused by men.
The evidence is clear: violence against women in the U.S., in Tennessee and in Nashville is a huge problem. No matter how successful, educated or evolved you are, violence perpetrated by men is happening around you. A lack of awareness and knowledge about violence against women supports the violence. Silence benefits the abuser. Silence is affirming. When we choose not to know, not to speak out, we are in fact supporting the violence. At the YWCA, we believe that once the “good men” realize the size and complexity of this problem, they too will be committed to reducing violence against women and girls.
That’s why we have launched a new, long-term, grassroots initiative to attract men who are committed to changing this culture under the leadership of two of the YWCA’s male board members.
Our goal is simple—reduce ALL violence against ALL women and girls in Nashville and Davidson County by:
- Raising awareness about violence against women,
- Giving boys and men the tools to manage the current culture, and
- Changing the future through the education of young men and boys by men they admire.
In early 2013, the YWCA began working with Tony Porter, co-founder of A CALL TO MEN, to assist us in our efforts to develop a program for our unique community. A coalition was formed, and an initial planning session to make Nashville the safest city in the nation for women and girls was held. This session involved a small, intimate group, with key community leaders in attendance, including Nashville Mayor Karl Dean and Metro Nashville Police Chief Steve Anderson.
“The message Tony Porter gives us can be very unsettling,” says Chief Anderson. “Tony’s words bring about painful awareness of things you already know, but probably don’t talk about. You will have thoughts you do not want to acknowledge. Tony will help you understand those thoughts and put them into perspective. Tony’s message will lead you to an understanding of why domestic violence occurs and how we can provide a way to prevent it.”
On August 7, the YWCA sponsored the first public awareness event on the campus of Belmont University to announce our plans to engage men and boys in our efforts to reduce all violence against all women and girls. 400 community leaders including the Davidson County sheriff, several Metro Public School Board members and the president of Belmont University attended. In addition to Tony Porter’s presentation, Chief Anderson and Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Director Mark Gwyn spoke in support of the YWCA’s efforts.
The YWCA, in partnership with the Tennessee Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence, hosted a 3-day training institute with A CALL TO MEN in mid-February. Organizations working in field of violence prevention and advocacy from across Tennessee came together to learn, engage and unite in the effort to reduce all violence against all women and girls.
On April 10, the YWCA and Vanderbilt University Athletics Department is hosting “A Call to Coaches” in conjunction with A CALL TO MEN. This event will bring together 500+ coaches, youth advocates and mentors from middle school to professional sports. The coaches will hear from Tony Porter, coaches and athletes as they discuss the topic of healthy manhood and respect and how influential they are to the next generation of men. Coaches and mentors will leave “A Call to Coaches” with a “playbook” for the first steps in ending violence against women and girls by promoting healthy relationships and a new vision of masculinity.
As our efforts begin taking root in the athletic community with the help of coaches, we will begin to focus on our other two key target areas: the clergy and corporate CEOs. The YWCA continues to research the best practices and what will work for our community. Dr. Jackson Katz, creator of the MVP Program and internationally known author, speaker and trainer, and Dr. Michael Kaufman, co-founder of The White Ribbon campaign are advisors. Dr. Kaufman co-founded the White Ribbon campaign, one of the oldest and largest anti-violence movements led by men. The White Ribbon is a universal, unifying symbol of men ending men’s violence against women.
Women have been at the forefront and carrying the burden of this social ill for generations. The YWCA in Nashville & Middle Tennessee has spent the last four decades offering shelter and supportive services for domestic violence survivors and their children. Other non-profits have been there for women who have been raped, trafficked, prostituted. Although we have all done great work, we know the problem is not getting better for our mothers, sisters, girlfriends and daughters. We must have the help of the “good guys” who want to prevent violence. The YWCA will always serve women and children fleeing domestic violence, but it is time to start investing in a prevention program that will change the statistics of violence in our community. After all, aren’t all of our mother, sisters, girlfriends and daughters worth it?
Pat Shea has more than 30 years of experience in for-profit and not-for-profit healthcare and human services organizations and has led the YWCA of Nashville & Middle Tennessee since 2005. Pat is the founding chair of the Nashville Chapter of the Women Presidents’ Organization (WPO), which is hosted by the YWCA of Nashville & Middle Tennessee.
Pat is a frequent speaker on domestic violence issues. Her editorials on women’s issues, including equal pay and violence against women, regularly appear in Nashville’s Tennessean newspaper.