Men are instrumental to the success of campus-wide efforts to prevent sexual violence, says Frankie Cachon, acting co-ordinator of the Bystander Initiative. A new campaign aims at signing them up for the cause.
“For far too long sexual violence has been thought of as strictly a women’s issue. We’re working hard to change this misperception,” Dr. Cachon says. “However, men are often reluctant to get involved — they may inaccurately perceive prevention efforts as ‘anti-male’ or blaming men; they may also fear that their masculinity will be called into question. Others care and want to help, but fear they are not welcome or are unsure how to get involved.”
The Bystander Initiative places male involvement in the prevention of violence against women as a foundational goal. The program focuses its educational efforts on student leadership in violence prevention education.
“In fact, women and men working together is one of the strengths of our program,” Cachon says. “Other notable strengths include our ‘whole of institution’ approach, our robust evidence-based programming, and our participatory, interactive, and skills-building curricular opportunities.”
Past and present students endorse the benefits of the program.
“I fell in love with the work and being a leader of social change,” says Jared Colthurst, a fourth-year criminology major. “As a man, I recognize how important it is to be an ally in the fight against sexual violence.”
Jordan Dekort, a recent graduate of the Odette School of Business, calls involvement with the Bystander Initiative a “highlight” of his university career.
“I really appreciated how the program helped me grow as a person,” he says.
Cachon hopes that the initiative’s recruitment efforts will encourage more men to enrol in Bystander courses. She hopes to spread awareness of the leadership and professional development opportunities offered by the Bystander Initiative.
“Men absolutely have an important role to play in addressing and challenging sexual violence,” she says. “We want to meaningfully engage male identified students in violence prevention efforts.”
Bystander courses are cross-listed and offered for credit as a general science, psychology, social work, sociology/criminology, or women’s and gender studies class. Participating students will not only receive the satisfaction of creating a safer campus community, Cachon says, they will also benefit from developing skills that are highly transferable to future employment opportunities: knowledge dissemination, leadership and advocacy skills, team building, and active listening.
Interested undergraduate students are encouraged to visit www.bystanderinitiaitve/participate/courses to complete an online application.