Men play a vital and complex role in domestic-violence prevention — including men in LGBT relationships.
The Lutheran Settlement House’s bilingual domestic-violence program recognizes this fact, and will cap off its MEN CAN campaign with a rally in Love Park.
MEN CAN encourages males in Philadelphia to speak out against abuse and lets them know they have a voice and the power to alter the domestic-violence landscape and eradicate abuse.
The event will take place 10 a.m.-noon Oct. 18 and will feature musical performances by DJ Ambush, Tony Enos and Aziz Collins, and words from nonprofit, community and civic leaders such as City Councilman Bill Greenlee, Sheriff Jewell Williams and other area elected officials and advocates.
This is the third year for the event, which began in response to feedback from LSH clients.
According to Vashti Bledsoe, bilingual domestic-violence program director for LSH, 95 percent of its clients are female survivors and victims, and just about 5 percent are men.
“Men typically don’t speak up because of the shame involved,” Bledsoe said. “Working with them, we hear how much shame they felt. We decided to try to do something and raise awareness about males and domestic involvement. MEN CAN is all about holding each other accountable for how men treat their partners.”
To help spread the word about the event and the agency’s domestic-violence support programs, LSH created a grassroots initiative to start conversations about domestic violence in the community.
“We instituted our barbershop talks, where we go into local barbershops — often a very social environment — and casually strike up a conversation about something in the news that’s happening about domestic violence. We try and get a conversation going and hopefully dispel myths. That’s our backdoor approach. We have learned that men actually do care, and they think it’s not OK to be abusive to their partner,” Bledsoe said.
In response to issues raised by some of its trans and gay clients, LSH launched an LGBT-focused initiative.
“Last year we were fortunate enough to hire an LGBTQ advocate, Tony Enos. We wanted to raise awareness in the LGBTQ community, and let them know about our services and that our services are available to them,” Bledsoe said, noting that Enos, himself a survivor of LGBT intimate-partner violence, will also speak at the rally. “There is this myth that there is no domestic violence in male-to-male relationships. When we started to hear this from our LGBT clients, we wanted to start getting the message out that we are educated and can handle your special situation with the utmost respect.”
Over the past year, LSH has hosted events at William Way LGBT Community Center and sponsored a teen group at The Attic Youth Center.
Stories of abuse experienced by males in heterosexual and LGBT relationships often go unheard due to the social stigma of being an abused male.
The organization also provides group and individual counseling, a 24-hour hotline, advocacy services, relocation services, an emergency-beds program for male victims of domestic violence, youth groups at The Attic and in area high schools, medical advocacy and inmate support.
For more information, visit www.lutheransettlement.org.