Agency seeks to stop violence at the source | SierraSun.com

Agency seeks to stop violence at the source

Julie Brown
Sierra Sun

Domestic violence and abuse are not only women’s issues; they’re important subjects for women men to understand.

And the Tahoe Women’s Services is reaching out to all who may be affected.

Most of the organization’s outreach is geared toward women and girls, offering them services to heal their physical and emotional wounds.

Yet, Prevention Manager Emilio Vaca and Americorps volunteer Justin Wallace are also reaching out to boys with a new program, pursuing a strategy to curb domestic violence at its root.

“Everyone’s affected by domestic violence when it happens at home,” said Vaca.

Wallace piloted a six-week Mentor’s Violence Prevention program for five Incline Middle School boys. The program provided a space where the students could discuss domestic violence issues and be pro-active toward positive change.

Reaching out to boys while their culture and beliefs are still developing is easier than reaching out to men, who are more grounded in their ways, Wallace said. It is also more effective when a man, rather than a woman, teaches the course, he added.

“It’s pretty impacting for these boys to see a positive male role model,” Wallace said.

It’s even more influential when their role model does not represent the media’s typical portrayal of masculinity ” a man with wealth, women and violence.

“[Boys] are so influenced by peer culture,” Wallace said. “Change what peers believe is culturally acceptable, we can change an entire community.”

The mentor program was a success, said Wallace, and Tahoe Women’s Services is looking to expand it. The nonprofit agency is looking to Sierra Nevada College to recruit more male mentors for the program.

Vaca said the organization does not have any pro-active resources for men, yet. In collaboration with other counseling agencies, there are re-active resources for those guilty of domestic violence and sexual abuse.

A pro-active approach for adult males, however, is something Vaca said he would like to see in the future.

For men who want to take the initiative and make a positive change in their community, Vaca does offer intensive Crisis Intervention Training, a leadership program that cultivates learning about domestic violence on a grassroots level.

Socially, the culture focuses on the female victim when it comes to domestic violence, Vaca said. But, society needs to prevent sexual abuse at its source. Though women bear the pain and direct implications of abuse, men often bear indirect consequences, especially boys who grow up with abusive fathers.

“[A boy’s] only example of a healthy relationship is the one their parents display,” Vaca said. “The boy only sees that the way to be a man is the way his dad is. [The Tahoe Women’s Services] focuses on trying to create healthy relationships; at least to have an idea of what a healthy relationship is, rather than the one they are currently living in.”

As much as women are empowered, some abusive men never change and domestic violence persists, Vaca said.

“It’s not an easy task, but we’re taking it step by step,” said Vaca.