digging up the roots of gender-based violence

Tag Archives: engaging men

The Profound Failures of Universities: The Winston Case and Beyond

Crosspost from HuffPost

I’ve written and spoken about how universities have an ethical responsibility to institutionalize sexual assault trainings for all students and athletes. Since writing this piece, there has been an escalation of political interest in the topic and the White House weighed in with an effort to get men involved.

By now you should be familiar with the case of Florida State University’s prized quarterback, Jameis Winston. During his recent student conduct code hearing, it is clear that Winston’s statement is in remarkable contrast to the statement of the who woman reported he raped her in late 2012. One is a story of sex and consent and the other is a traumatizing account of rape and intentional violation.

I’m not here to argue the complex details of the case, or about the statistics of false rape claims. Debating the validity of the victim’s claims isn’t useful and leans toward secondary victimization. I wasn’t there and neither were you. I’m using this incident as an opportunity to remind all universities of the critical need to require violence prevention training for student leaders and athletes.

The prevalence of assaults within sports and college culture reflects the dire need to discuss ethical consent. University coaches, leaders, policy makers and legislators should require multi-session, leadership training for students. When educated, student leaders can confront attitudes and behaviors that some students employ to disregard the need for consent during sexual encounters.

My work as a Prevention Educator centers on working with young men and discussing the details of consent. During a recent training session a young man revealed a story that weighed on him the entire eight weeks of our training. He explained a scene where he was at a party and wanted my opinion on how he’d acted. Heavy drinking was involved and although he chose not to indulge, his date was quite intoxicated. He helped her to a room where she laid down and then pulled him close. He confided that there was sexual contact but no sexual intercourse. Then he asked me, “Was that wrong?” What was striking to me was that he waited nearly two months to ask this question. It takes time to build the trust and rapport needed to fully understand ethical consent and have real conversations.

I shared this story to demonstrate the need to discuss consent and sex with young women and men in such a way that offers an environment of trust, rapport and authenticity. On more than one occasion, students should be given a platform to share their experiences, attitudes and beliefs. Once educators are permitted access to these beliefs we have the opportunity to reframe them, which may influence actual behaviors, and students are able to model responsible behaviors while engaging in effective bystander strategies and interventions.

This is a place where we can come together and have discussions and dialogue about ethical consent. Ethical consent is defined as consent that is:

  • Enthusiastically engaged
  • Participatory
  • Sober
  • Verbal and nonverbal
  • Yes means yes

By providing this to students as a guide, we can help reduce sexual assault and therefore the life-long repercussions rape survivors face in the aftermath. It will continue to be a profound failure on the part of university leadership and athletic departments until it is standard practice to mandate multi-session trainings with student leaders.

We will likely never know the events that transpired that night in Tallahassee between Winston and his accuser, however, by starting the conversation now, we can become a part of changing the culture of rape. We encourage all universities to partner with local domestic violence agencies to design comprehensive prevention strategies that produce an environment that never accepts or tolerates sexual violence.

Kristopher (Kole) Wyckhuys is one hopeful and optimistic voice within an intersectional social justice movement. As a Prevention Education Specialist at HAVEN, his focus is redefining healthy masculinity and works to engage men in ending gender-based violence. After graduating college he served in the military where he trained as a Combat Medic and Mental Health Specialist. Kole is an Iraq war veteran, NPTI certified personal trainer, and a trained massage therapist in addition to his work as a prevention educator. He envisions a collective consciousness that embraces individual and social responsibility, accountability, and equanimity. He shares his home with a 3 year old pup named Peanut the Pitbull.

#NoMRA: An Open Letter to VFW Post 1146

(This letter was physically transported on June 17th 2014 by FedEx delivery and posted here on June 19th 2014 in response to A Voice for Men moving their first Men’s Rights conference to the VFW hall in Saint Clair Shores, Michigan. We fully support our veterans and veteran affairs and do not condone or endorse harassment, abuse, threats or violence of any kind. We do encourage everyone to immediately write letters to the address below (a letter is better than emailing), email the VFW scheduling at this email and tweet your discontent with their decision.)

Cpl. Walter F. Bruce VFW Post 1146
28404 Jefferson Ave
Saint Clair Shores, MI 48081

To Commander Litz, Post Officers, and Executive Board:

I’m writing as a concerned citizen and representative of HAVEN, Oakland County’s Center for the treatment and prevention of domestic violence and sexual assault. I’m drafting this letter to you with the support of local organizations such as Equality Michigan, Unite Here, The National Lawyers Guild, The Meta Peace Team and the Graduate Employees Organizing Committee of Wayne State.

It is disconcerting to learn that VFW Bruce Post of Saint Clair Shores will host rental space for the 1st conference on Men’s Rights hosted by a Voice for Men (AVfM), which was named a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (2012) (Misogyny: The Sites). I’m disheartened to discover the VFW would house a hate group.

It should be mentioned that the SPLC did not label MRAs as members of a hate movement; nor did our article claim that the grievances they air on their websites – false rape accusations, ruinous divorce settlements and the like – are all without merit. But we did call out specific examples of misogyny and the threat, overt or implicit, of violence. -Arthur Goldwag

As a prior service ARMY sergeant and veteran, having served in Iraq as a Mental Health Specialist (91X), it is extremely unsettling to learn that Post 1146 is willing to support an organization known to operate under the guise of equitable intentions while promoting hate filled rhetoric and misinformation. At HAVEN, and in other areas of anti-violence movement, we understand the legitimacy of many of the issues that AVfM discusses. AVfM strategically twists these concerns into a political movement while claiming the systemic oppression of men which is an embarrassment to all of us and an affront to military standards and ethics.

The Department of Defense Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military (2012) offers the sobering reality that is the high prevalence of sexual assault in our armed services. Research also suggests that male veterans who spent time on combat tours are more than four times as likely to engage in domestic violence. The National Council on Child Abuse and Family Violence concluded that combat veterans were more than four times as likely to have abused a partner and more than six times as likely to experience PTSD, and two to three times as likely to suffer from depression, substance abuse, unemployment and separation. I offer this statistical reality to illustrate the seriousness of the VFW partnering with an organization that is known to advocate violence.

These quotes are directly from the founder of A Voice for Men, Paul Elam, which can easily be found in context on his own website:

* In the name of equality and fairness, I am proclaiming October to be Bash a Violent Bitch Month

* And all the outraged PC demands to get huffy and point out how nothing justifies or excuses rape won’t change the fact that there are a lot of women who get pummeled and pumped because they are stupid (and often arrogant) enough to walk though [sic] life with the equivalent of a I’M A STUPID, CONNIVING BITCH – PLEASE RAPE ME neon sign glowing above their empty little narcissistic heads.

* And the answer is, of course, no, I am not going to stop. You see, I find you, as a feminist, to be a loathsome, vile piece of human garbage. I find you so pernicious and repugnant that the idea of fucking your shit up gives me an erection.

* Progress for men will not be gained by debate, reason or typical channels of grievance available to segments of the population that the world actually gives a damn about. The progress we need will only be realized by inflicting enough pain on the agents of hate, in public view, that it literally shocks society out of its current coma.

Original quotes can be found in context on their website.

The VFW is an organization holding a distinct honor and prestigious history that was founded on principled intentions and character. I’m concerned for the future of the VFW’s reputation that will surely suffer from supporting an organization that actively promotes violence. Your decision will not only negatively affect the perception of the VFW and Veteran Affairs, but will also be detrimental to the perception of the Armed Services, bringing great discredit to VFW initiatives, leadership and outstanding performance of exemplifying the highest traditions of military service. Frankly, supporting this organization is outrageous and unethical. Rumors have already begun spreading online that Post 1146 supports the same type of hateful speech that A Voice for Men disseminates.

It is for these reasons that I urge you to reconsider your support of this conference. HAVEN and Equality Michigan are anti-violence organizations in our state that consider gender-based violence to be of tremendous significance. As anti-violence organizations we understand the importance of analytical debate and conflicting viewpoints; however, we can never support the promotion of violence and misogynistic language. It is imperative that Post 1146 make a public statement denouncing the antics used by this organization and withdraw support.

In Trust and Service,


Kristopher Kole Wyckhuys, Prevention Education Specialist, HAVEN

Beth Morrison, CEO, HAVEN
Bryan Victor, Victim Advocate, Equality Michigan
Emily Dievendorf, Executive Director, Equality Michigan

#NoMRA: flipping the script on men’s issues

MRA22A sunny beautiful Detroit Saturday morning in Grand Circus Park became a staging area as we once again discovered brilliant commonality through peaceful protest. Hundreds of supporters converged in demonstration while collectively voicing discontent and recognizing that hate isn’t welcome.

A Voice for Men (VfM) intended to host their first Men’s Rights Conference in Detroit and was passionately denounced as a hate group. One doesn’t have to search far for evidence of VfM’s violent language and misogynic undertone while operating under the guise of equitable intentions. (CN: violence, misogyny)

(Controversial men’s rights conference canceled at DoubleTree in downtown Detroit)

*update: conference has since been moved to a VFW hall in a Detroit suburb

I spoke as a representative of HAVEN along with a number of local organizations and the terrifying reality is that I could’ve easily become an MRA in my early social justice exploration. A VfM brings up legitamate concerns that men face in our country while strategically reinforcing a very harmful ideology and I could have easily been drawn in.

During my early pro/feminist exploration I was able to recognize cultural narratives that dictate an extremely toxic American masculinity. I realized that the journey into manhood would prove to marginalize women but would also construct a deeply profound emptiness. This loss of connection and stoic darkness is where I feel many men and masculine people eventually find no escape. Hyper-masculine expression is sometimes survival (especially for men of color) and power. It is often dark and lonely and men are starving for the type of connection that also panics us. When something threatens our sense of survival and says that our learned methods must be examined and that power must be shared – we instinctively revolt.

But MRA1we don’t have to revolt. We need other men to step up and show us that things can be done differently.

This dark emptiness sometimes leads down the path of men’s rights activism and I was once faced with a fork in the road. A life altering decision to either breathe in equity and the breadth of life through feminist social action or choose to steep in hate filled rhetoric and misinformation through the path of men’s rights.

We have to ask ourselves if men’s deeply sensed pain is caused by feminism or by a cultural narrative that calls on men to behave ways that stifle human growth. It’s easy to go down the path of MRA’s because that path does not ask us to work. We don’t have to examine male privilege and we don’t have to turn over the myth of male superiority. We never have to own up to sexist language we’ve used or look at the ways we’ve unknowingly supported sexism.

Are there instances where men face unfair treatment? Abosolutely. Are there folks who hate men? Probably. Is the disposability of men a problem in our culture? I don’t know. Yet, turning these problems into a political movement and naming it misandry while claiming systemic oppression is embarrassing and I think that most men are smarter.

MRAs would have us believe that there aren’t services within feminist movement for men or for male-survivors of assault. This is a lie. MRA’s don’t want our services because they refuse to engage in anything that is going to challenge them or make them work to transform their world view. They would have us believe that feminism is the downfall of men and that we have lost our way and are confused about how to navigate the world. This is insulting. They strategically play on the humanistic quality of men that is yearning for something more deeply profound in the expression of his complexity and then flipping the script into a hateful play for power and continued domination.

There is legitimacy to the emergence of men’s issues and we certainly need to talk about them; however, our deeply felt pain has nothing to do with feminism and has everything to do with the socially sanctioned narratives our culture tells us about what it means to be a man.

At HAVEN, and in other areas of feminist movement, we service victims and survivors of IPV and sexual assault of all genders. We work with men to identify and develop strategies for personal development and social change. We do this to create a more fulfilling life for men and boys, and more importantly, we do this to involve men in ending men’s violence against women.

It’s not simply questioning manhood that will address men’s concerns; however, once we bring women and men together collaboratively and concede our shared humanity, we then begin to heal the crisis in connection that we mutually endure.

Resources for Men Ending Violence

redefine.,  a project of the prevention education team at HAVEN, Oakland County Michigan’s center for the treatment and prevention of domestic violence and sexual assault as part of our on-going efforts to engage men in ending gender-based

The Brown Boi Project, a community of people working across race and gender to eradicate sexism, homophobia and transphobia and create healthy frameworks of masculinity and change.

Men Can Stop Rape, to mobilize men to use their strength for creating cultures free from violence, especially men’s violence against women.

MenEngage, advocating around a number of key issues where gender directly affects the lives of women and men.


American Men’s Studies Association, Advancing the critical study of men and masculinities.

The Men’s Stories Project, Resources for creating public dialogue about masculinity through storytelling

*For a comprehensive list of Men’s Resources link here. You can also link to this list on Voice Male, for information related to masculinity, fathers, men’s health, men of color, LGBTQ+, and more…

Kristopher (Kole) Wyckhuys is one hopeful and optimistic voice within an intersectional social justice movement. As a Prevention Education Specialist at HAVEN, his focus is redefining healthy masculinity and works to engage men in ending gender-based violence. After graduating college he served in the military where he trained as a Combat Medic and Mental Health Specialist. Kole is an Iraq war veteran, NPTI certified personal trainer, and a trained massage therapist in addition to his work as a prevention educator. He envisions a collective consciousness that embraces individual and social responsibility, accountability, and equanimity. He shares his home with a 3 year old pup named Peanut the Pitbull.

A Call to Campus Leadership: End Sexual Violence!

Cross Post from Give Hope a Voice

When sifting through the news, these headlines have become all too common.

Statistical evaluation reveals that 1 in 5 women and 1 in 33 men experience attempted or actual rape throughout lifetime and a staggering 1 in 3 women over the course of her college career. Since fewer than 5% of assaults are reported, these statistics simply don’t reflect the astounding reality. Nearly 25% of women who reported rape were under the age of 25 when assaulted, 85% of the victims know their attacker, while nearly 99% of people convicted are men.

Universities have an ethical and legal responsibility to provide safe educational environments and confronting sexual violence must be part of that. Campuses should not only be responsible for working to prevent these incidents, but in the event an assault occurs the administration needs to investigate and work to ensure justice is sought. As seen by the headlines above, there are a good number of campuses not responding well or even at all to assaults. So how do you create a culture of consent?

Sexual assault prevention involves interventions at various levels. We can stop crimes before they are committed, while reducing the damaging consequences after the fact and while also holding offenders accountable. The implementation of prevention strategies often hinges on understanding that if we can inspire women and men to work collaboratively – we can shift the paradigm that supports sexual violence. We can educate students about ethical consent while teaching bystander strategies to safely confront potentially violent situations, while also transforming culture. Jackson Katz, a frontrunner in the effort of engaging men in ending violence said it well in this TED talk.

The prevalence of assaults within sports culture reflects a critical need for every institution to mandate sexual violence training for all student athletes. We’re not suggesting single session sensitivity trainings; however, we’re advocating for multi-session trainings founded in empirically researched strategies demonstrating long-term culture change and accountability.

That this is not standard practice within every athletic department reflects a profound failure on the part of leadership within higher education institutions.

RAAIN Statistics
In a recent report, The Rape Abuse & Incest National Network (RAAIN) issued a statement denouncing the feminist theoretical concept that we live within what’s defined as Rape Culture. They concede that it’s helpful to recognize systemic barriers, while not losing sight that rape is not the result of cultural implications, but is the result of deliberate choices of a small number of rapists, to rape.

Rape is absolutely a choice that one individual makes in order to gain power and control over another individual. ConsentThis choice is influenced by culture and is hidden in plain sight by a society that allows rapists to exploit cultural narratives and escape accountability. Holding rapists accountable necessitates uncovering the campus climate through which they’re able to conceal themselves. This climate allows for personal beliefs that they’re not rapists at all. Accountability requires pulling back the curtain and uncovering common rape myths, flipping the script on victim blaming, and engaging in a cultural shift that calls for universal unified understandings of a very specific definition of consent. This is an ethical consent that is conversational, engaging, participatory, sober, and only yes means yes.

To effectively prevent rape on campuses, and alter the attitudes and behaviors that lead rapists to believe they can get away with rape, we must also drastically alter the environment within which they live and thrive.

At HAVEN we seek to develop partnerships with institutions to implement best practices in prevention solutions. Prevention work includes education for students, professors and administration at levels of engagement ranging from awareness-raising, to comprehensive education, to building healthy relationship skills and ends in legislation and policy design. We create programs adequately addressing these levels of engagement while also addressing underlying causes. We encourage institutions to partner with local domestic violence agencies to bring together components of expertise while designing comprehensive prevention strategies that produces a paradigm shift that never accepts or tolerates sexual violence, ever.

Kristopher (Kole) Wyckhuys is one hopeful and optimistic voice within an intersectional social justice movement. As a Prevention Education Specialist at HAVEN, his focus is redefining healthy masculinity and works to engage men in ending gender-based violence. After graduating college he served in the military where he trained as a Combat Medic and Mental Health Specialist. Kole is an Iraq war veteran, NPTI certified personal trainer, and a trained massage therapist in addition to his work as a prevention educator. He envisions a collective consciousness that embraces individual and social responsibility, accountability, and equanimity. He shares his home with a 3 year old pup named Peanut the Pitbull.

Being a Good Bystander Is More Than Calling the Police

In fact, calling the police is the least of it. If we are good bystanders, we are speaking up WAY before there’s ever a reason to call the police.

Let’s think about it. The general idea is to call the police when and if we witness a crime by sight or hearing. Which means an assault is already happening, the harm has already come. It may not be safe to intervene then, and calling the police may not be an option for a variety of reasons (link is a PDF).

What if we could prevent the assault from ever happening in the first place?

We could rewind to:

  • when we heard our friend call his wife a b*tch
  • when we heard our brother tell his girlfriend she can’t go out with her friendsbyst
  • when we saw a guy mixing punch for a party with way too much alcohol, saying, “This is for the girls, man!”
  • when we saw our friend invade a woman’s space, and ignore her requests for him to back up

At all of these times, it’s possible to speak up or step in. “Hey, that’s not cool. Don’t talk about your wife like that.” “Hey, dude, what difference does it make to you if she goes out with her friends? Relax.” Accidentally bumping the table, knocking the punch over. Stepping in front of your friend, and preventing his access to the woman. Or any other of the million ways you could do something that would stop an assault from happening well before it occurs.

We could also rewind even further, and interrupt when we teach boys toxic, violent and misogynistic masculinity.

We could rewind to:

  • when we heard a Little League coach call his team a bunch of “little girls
  • when we saw a man take the credit for a woman’s work
  • when we saw a teacher only call on boy students
  • when we hear someone say that boys can’t wear pink, or dresses, or paint their nails
  • when we heard someone ask about the motives of a woman who was raped, but not about the motives of the rapist

Again, the ways to intervene are many, and as varied as the situations that present themselves. My point is, if we wait until an assault is occurring to intervene, we’ve waited too long. If we really want to address gender-based violence in a meaningful way, we need to step back from the assaults as they occur (though, still providing help and support for survivors as they request it), and look at the way our culture supports the assaultive behavior of batterers and rapists. What do you do that perpetuates rape culture? What do your friends do? What is your role in ending it?

Cristy Cardinal is a graduate of the University of Michigan and has worked in the field of ending gender-based violence since 1997. Cristy has three kids, all of whom she is happy to share (gross or funny or weird, whatever) stories about any time. She is an avid fabric artist in addition to being a loudmouth feminist. Cristy is the 2012 winner of the Michigan Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence Wave of Change Award, honoring excellence in social change and prevention of gender-based violence.