An ounce of prevention: UI program engages men to eradicate violence
For the last two years, Jerrod Koon has been coordinating the Men’s Anti-Violence Council (MAC), a University group that was formed with a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice. MAC, which is housed in the UI Women’s Resource and Action Center, trains male volunteers from the campus and community each semester to offer programming on violence prevention and teach bystander intervention skills.
A native of Parkersburg, W.Va., Koon came to Iowa City to study masculinity as a doctoral student in counseling psychology, and says he saw in MAC an opportunity to be part of the solution: “Violence is a problem throughout our country—college campuses like Iowa and college towns like Iowa City are not immune to it. However, there are numerous ways to create solutions and make the community safer for everyone.”
Koon’s position is a half-time graduate assistantship funded in part by the Parents Association. He recently spoke with Parent Times about how the group works proactively to prevent violence.
What does the training entail, and who participates?
Since fall of 2008, we have trained a diverse group of 17 men from campus and the community, ranging from an organic apple farmer to a fraternity chapter president. They go through 25 hours of training and then attend a weekly meeting throughout the semester. The training involves basic knowledge of violence: what causes it, who is affected by it, and how it’s perpetuated in society through behaviors, attitudes, and language. We also discuss how to prevent it.
The majority of men in our community aren’t violent. The problem is that when faced with inappropriate or harmful behaviors, most are silent. Men have influence in defining what appropriate behaviors are for men in the community, and MAC views men as part of the solution. If we’re going to prevent violence in our community, we need everyone at the table. We can’t have half of the community missing from the conversation.
So what kinds of activities are MAC volunteers involved in?
Our main activity is facilitating a 60- to 90-minute bystander intervention workshop about what individuals can do besides remain silent. We teach bystanders how they can be helpful when they witness or know of a situation that’s harmful, offensive, harassing, or potentially violent. They leave with an increased awareness of the issues and options about how to get involved. Everyone can make a difference. There are numerous ways that people can help that they never even considered. We also offer other programming, workshops, lectures, and activities throughout the semester.
The pull in our society is to look the other way, but if we want a safer community, we need to stop pretending that ‘it’s none of our business,’ that ‘it’s someone else’s problem.’ MAC’s goal is to engage community members into being active by giving them the tools to make their voices heard.
Do you feel that your message is getting out there?
As of last month, we’ve reached more than 1,300 Iowa City residents and University of Iowa students. Our plans for the fall include reaching an additional 1,800 students. We go wherever we’re invited. We also pride ourselves on being a resource—we have a library of films and books available—and we collaborate and cosponsor numerous events on campus and in the community. We also maintain a web site and publish a newsletter.