Derry works to prevent domestic and sexual violenceChuck Derry said he doesn’t have a problem “preaching to the choir” when he talks to other men also working to prevent domestic and sexual violence.
By: By Ryan Johnson , Forum Communications, The Jamestown Sun
FARGO — Chuck Derry said he doesn’t have a problem “preaching to the choir” when he talks to other men also working to prevent domestic and sexual violence.
“I don’t want to talk to the men who are being abusive; I want to talk to the choir because I want the choir to start singing,” he said. “I want men to start stepping up with women as partners, as equal partners, and start changing an environment in which so many boys are growing into 15-, 25-, 35-year-old abusers.”
More than 100 people gathered Tuesday at the Ramada Plaza Suites in Fargo for “It’s Everyone’s Business,” a one-day summit to give community leaders ideas on how they can not only reduce violence or help sufferers, but prevent it entirely.
Derry, co-founder of the Gender Violence Institute and the Minnesota Men’s Action Network, said it makes sense for men to get more involved in the cause because they are almost always the perpetrators of these crimes.
Even if they aren’t abusive themselves, men are often relied on by abusers to remain silent, he said. He said it’s equally harmful when men try to “shut women down” by labeling them “man-haters” or discrediting them when they speak out about the violence.
“There’s a social norm of men being quiet about this,” he said.
Derry said popular culture, the media, and even business and government practices feed into the idea that men are in charge, dominant and aggressive rather than emotional or cooperative — ideas he said only act as more fuel for the problems of abuse, especially when women are generally portrayed as inferior or not as powerful as men.
That gender identity is pushed onto men at an early age, he said, and includes behaviors such as coaches calling their players “ladies” to motivate them to work harder or playground bullying with boys accusing each other of being feminine.
Pornography and the media’s depiction of women, especially in advertising, also contribute to the gender inequality that Derry said has helped create a society where one in three women will be or have been sexually or domestically assaulted in their lifetime.
But by working to change these norms, he said attendees can have the greatest impact and contribute to sweeping changes that will help end domestic and sexual violence.
Derry said the goal might seem unlikely. But he said it also seemed unlikely 30 years ago that all public places would be smoke-free in Minnesota — and they have been for years after changes in state law.
“Primary prevention is always impossible, but then we do it anyway, and it works,” he said. “But the changing of institutional practices and public policies is what makes the biggest impact.”