As a counselor working for the University Counseling Center, Christopher Leck had the opportunity to work with males on campus and began noticing similarities; many men are limited in the ways they can express themselves and seek support.
Leck began to explore the system set in place, and after joining forces with the Office of Women’s Programs and Studies and with current director Chris Linder, the Men’s Project was born in the fall of 2005.
Leck, who now serves as coordinator of the Men’s Project, said men involved in the program should have a vested interest in defeating violence, even though gender stereotypes categorize violence as a women’s issue.
“By looking at the problem as one we all share, though some are in more pain than others, we can work together, side by side . rather than working to rescue someone else,” Leck said. “Men have to have a stake in it as well.”
One in four women falls victim to a sexual assault by the age of 25. The Men’s Project is working on increasing awareness and changing campus culture so more men are aware and adept for fighting such violence.
The goal is to decrease the number of attacks on campus.
Sexual violence education has long been focused on informing the victim instead of the perpetrator about dangerous situations. The Men’s Project was designed to educate men on the dangerous reality sexual assault poses to women and provide them with the necessary tools to intervene in hazardous situations that could potentially lead to an assault.
“Women and some men have been fighting sexual violence and gender violence for a long time, but much of their focus was on educating and supporting women because it is a ‘women’s issue,'” Leck said.
“Over the past few years there has been a reorientation that has seen men playing an integral role in ending violence. It used to be a lot of telling women ‘here’s how to not be a victim,’ instead of telling men ‘here’s how to not be a perpetrator.'”
With the majority of perpetrators being male, the Men’s Project is hoping to reach out to men on campus and provide them with the knowledge and training to intervene if they witness suspicious behavior or warning signs of an attempted sexual assault.
“The vast majority of men are not perpetrators, but the vast majority of perpetrators are men, which means our efforts for prevention need to be directed this way,” Leck said. “Men are given more privileges, more volume, and more attention than women, and we want men to use this power in a responsible and accountable way to fight gender and sexual violence.”
During the 10-week project, participants address various questions. What is masculinity? How does the version of masculinity being sold by the media affect men? Why does it seem like being a “man” and oppressing women go together?
“We create conversation out of experiential activities and readings on a range of topics,” Leck said. “We hope to change the culture on campus by educating men on gender socialization and ways that we all support a system that tolerates rape, domestic violence and sexual harassment.”
The informal training has been described by participants as intense at times, but gives men the opportunity to study and discuss oppression at a personal, community and systematic level in a secured environment.
“The most beneficial thing I got out of the Men’s Project was an idea of how my actions fit into the greater web of our society,” Travis Hall, a junior participant said. “While I might not think much of checking out some ‘cute girl’ in the library, that might be the 100th time that day that she has felt objectified, and in this way, I am contributing to a culture that devalues women. The idea that little personal actions become big societal things.”
After completing the training, participants can partake in other opportunities offered by the Office of Women’s Programs and Studies, including Greeks Against Sexual Assault, Student Alliance for Gender Education, Victims Assistance Team or the Women’s Interdisciplinary Studies Certificate.
Interested men can attend an information session on Tuesday, Sept. 9, at 7 p.m. in the Spring Creek room of the Lory Student Center or contact Christopher Leck at (970) 491-4693 for a short interview.
Every two minutes, someone in the U.S. is sexually assaulted, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.
“I want to see change at a community and individual level. I want men to feel empowered and skilled enough to confront each other in the moment, before something happens and hold each other accountable by examining all of the things that we do that contribute to a system that supports rape and sexual assault,” Leck said. “I want all sexual violence on this campus to stop.”
Staff writer Kayla Huddleston can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.