Rus Funk dispels any assumption that the face of the movement to stop violence against women is always female.
As the cofounder and executive director of MensWork: Eliminating Violence Against Women, Inc., he’s made it his business is to stop sexual and domestic violence, and next week he’ll blow his trumpet in Toledo to try to increase men’s awareness and tell them what they can do to stop it.
Mr. Funk of Louisville got involved in the issue while an undergraduate student during the early 1980s at Texas State University in San Marcos. He wanted to volunteer to work with abused children, but after talking to a director of a women’s center intrigued him, he found similarities between how women from the center said men talked about them and how his male peers in the dorm talked about women.
“Because I lived with men, I had the chance to challenge and change their behavior” about their attitudes toward women, he said during a telephone interview last week.
Most men are opposed to domestic and sexual violence, he said, even though violence against women is rampant.
“Most adolescent men believe they are respectful and that they know how to be respectful, and the last thing they want to hear from a 40something year old is how they should behave,” he said, referring to himself.
So he takes a different approach to talking about how men can become a part of the solution to end violence against women. Mr. Funk is the keynote speaker for a forum titled Engaging Men on Feb. 5, from 9 to 11:30 a.m., at the Educational Service Center, 2275 Collingwood Blvd. Space is limited, but those interested in attending can contact Darla McCarty, Family & Child Abuse Prevention Center, 419-244-3053.
Reflecting on the weight of the issue, Lucas County Sheriff John Tharp was one of the first to sign up to attend the forum. He said the matter “needs more attention and more voices need to be heard. What we men need to do is talk to children and people in the community about how important it is not to be violent against each other.”
The sheriff also emphasized the importance of persuading young boys to not be violent against anyone. He said if they learn from a young age that physical and mental violence toward women is unacceptable, it will be a part of who they are when they up.
Interestingly, Sheriff Tharp said the subject of domestic violence comes up during sheriff’s deputies’ visits to schools to discuss D.A.R.E., Drug Abuse Resistance Education.
“Violence toward women is not acceptable,” the sheriff said flatly, “and not only physical violence, but mental violence is not acceptable and won’t be tolerated.”
While Mr. Funk provides various ways for men to let others know their opposition to sexual and domestic violence toward women, he said the white ribbon campaign raises awareness about the issue, just as other colored ribbons heighten awareness about other problems. Men who back the White Ribbon Campaign in Kentucky are urged to be become vocal and active in the movement to stop it.
“We provide information as to how men can speak out against it and what they can do to take action against it,” Mr. Funk said. “Wearing the white ribbon for us symbolizes men taking action against violence against women.”
One way he heightens men’s awareness in regard to flirting for women is his use of this scenario: Say several young men together see several young women. A man in the group is attracted to one of the women. If his remarks and actions are meant to impress his male peers, his conduct is likely harassment. The more a young man thinks about what he’ll say to his male peers after the encounter, then “the more I’m likely harassing her,” Mr. Funk said. But if he focuses on the girl’s response, he’s probably flirting, he added.
In another example, he urges that men who are offended by their male peers demeaning women in all-male settings such as a men’s locker room to let their peers know that they are insulted.
“We are asking men to move from bystander to ally and be visible and vocal,” Mr. Funk said. “Our premise is that right now there are thousands of men in Toledo who agree with what I said, but they are invisible and silent.”
Contact Rose Russell at email@example.com or 419-724-6178.