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Men key to ending war against women


It was a moment of female bonding, sealed by a loud whoop my mother and I let out, fists in the air, when she told me that an Albuquerque woman shot her would-be rapist to death. The woman woke up to a man straddling her, flashlight and gun in her face. Somehow she got hold of the gun. “Pop, pop, pop,” said the survivor, recalling the sound in a recent appearance on “Good Morning, America.”

No such luck for Sr. Helen Chaska, 53, who was attacked Sept. 2 while strolling down a bike path in Klamath Falls, Ore. She and another nun, members of an independent traditionalist order, were reciting the rosary. Both were sexually assaulted. The attacker strangled Chaska to death with her rosary beads.

Every two to three minutes in this country, a woman is sexually assaulted. “Business as usual goes on,” said author Kay Hagan. “And the business as usual is invisible.” Hagan, who has written extensively on women’s issues, told NCR that on a global level “violence begets violence.” This does not, however, hold true for women and men, she said.

“Otherwise women, given their ongoing victimization, would be very violent people,” Hagan said. “Our spirits have been broken. We know that to strike back only increases the violence against us -- because society does not hold men accountable.”

Following the Albuquerque incident, police were inundated with calls from people wanting to help the survivor feel safer. One company donated a home security system plus daily monitoring fees, which would ordinarily be from $200 to $1,000, depending on the size of the house. Still more called offering donations of money. The donors meant well, to be sure. But they miss the point. Until we teach boys to disassociate violence and “manhood” (and until rapists get the time they deserve behind bars), nothing will change.

The Summer 2002 issue of Ms. magazine reports on a public service ad campaign that enlists men in the cause of educating boys. Called “Teach Early,” the campaign invites dads, teachers, coaches, and mentors to talk with boys about violence against women. “Teach Early” is sponsored by the Family Violence Prevention Fund and the Ad Council and employs various media.

A print ad, for example, shows boys in baseball uniforms, and the words: “What they learn as boys, they do as men. That’s why we need to teach our sons and other boys in our lives that violence against women is wrong. Now, when they need to hear it most.”

The Family Violence Prevention Fund is also working with the National High School Athletic Coaches Association. Fund president Esta Soler plans to educate the coaches, giving them the tools they need to communicate to boys that “abuse doesn’t make you a man,” Soler told Ms. magazine. For more information on the “Teach Early” campaign, visit the Family Violence Prevention Fund Web site, www.endabuse.org. Help end the war against women.

Demetria Martinez writes from Albuquerque, N.M.

National Catholic Reporter, September 20, 2002