Initiative to End Violence Against Women Marks 4th Year, Serves as Catalyst for Other U.S. & International Movements

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Fox Valley Voices of Men was introduced in 2010 as a local initiative in Northeast Wisconsin to end violence against girls and women and its message has since spread beyond the originating communities and inspired similar efforts to take shape in the U.S. and internationally. The Voices of Men movement will kick off its fourth year of educational and awareness programs in June and has already resulted in thousands of youth and adult men taking the pledge to never be a part of sexual assault or domestic violence.

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Our community has been very receptive to this program and the initiative has been a real eye-opener in terms of domestic violence and sexual assault awareness.

What first began as a vision among four local agencies committed to women’s well-being evolved into a community-wide initiative four years ago and has since inspired similar movements across the U.S. and internationally.

Fox Valley Voices of Men of Wisconsin was established in 2010 and is one of just a handful of “for men, by men” organizations in the nation that is dedicated to ending domestic violence and sexual assault against women. Now entering its fourth year, the organization has announced its annual breakfast event for 2013 to be held Tuesday, June 11 in Appleton.

These breakfast events have attracted up to 400 youth and adult men each year, and for 2013, the goal is to host a record 800 participants. As volunteer and member Dave Willems explained, reaching a higher attendance level will give the message that it’s not acceptable to commit, condone or remain silent about violence against women as much circulation as possible.

It will also encourage more people – from teens to older adults – to advocate positive change beyond the breakfast and get actively involved. “Our community has been very receptive to this program and the initiative has been a real eye-opener in terms of domestic violence and sexual assault awareness,” Willems said. “For the teens and young adults, it underscores the significance of treating and talking to women respectfully from an early age.”

The message to end violence is spreading well beyond the Fox Valley community. With men from all areas of Wisconsin taking the Voices of Men pledge and promising never to be part of violence against girls or women, other states and countries are taking notice. The group has received multiple inquiries from individuals and organizations throughout the United States with interest in creating a similar initiative. Voices of Men has also been contacted for leadership guidance from as far away as Spain, Bulgaria and South Africa.

To date, thousands of men have signed the pledge online and through events like Take Back the Night and Words Hurt. “Whether they simply take the pledge or commit their time to becoming a youth mentor, the more men who join the effort, the stronger it will be,” Willems noted.

The original concept for Voices of Men took shape when four Fox Valley organizations – Harbor House Domestic Abuse Services, the Sexual Assault Crisis Center, Christine Ann Domestic Abuse Services and Reach Counseling Services – joined forces and pressed for men to step up in speaking out against women’s violence.

Voices of Men, a 2011 recipient of the Voices of Courage Award from the Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault, has led training sessions for athletic coaches, recruited men to mentor young boys and publicly responded to community crises involving violence toward women. It has also organized workplace education sessions and supported agency fundraising and awareness events related to the topic. To learn more, visit http://www.voicesofmen.com.

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Nathan Litt
Fox Valley Voices of Men
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Lori Van Handel

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