So much of the discussion of rape and violence against women centers on educating girls on how to protect themselves, so it's nice to know that, at least in a few schools, educators are going out of their way to talk to boys about their role in stopping sexual violence. All this is taking place in an after-school program called Men of Strength, or MOST, that aims to teach middle school boys that "they should be allies for girls and that violence is inexcusable."
There are MOST clubs in three New York City schools and others across the country, and, according to Neil Irvin, the executive director of Men Can Stop Rape, the organization that runs MOST, the club helps boys understand their role in relationships with women:
We discuss how traditional masculinity contributes to sexual assault and other forms of men's violence against women.
Educators working directly with MOST participants say it's made a real difference. Stephen Bradshaw, a teacher who facilitates MOST at JHS 217 in Queens, said he's seen how valuable the experience has been for his club's 27 members:
The club gives kids a chance to check in with each other talk about the issues that concern them.
It also gives Bradshaw the opportunity to act as positive father figure for boys who don't have much of a male role model in their lives. The boys of MOST seem to have learned a lot from Bradshaw. Cherno Barry, an eighth grade, says MOST has made him realize he should treat all women like he treats his mother. "No one is beneath another person," Barry said. He also said there's "an atmosphere of real brotherhood" in the club, and that it's helped show him there's more to being a man than what you see on TV:
Fighting in the school yard to prove we are not punks, video games, rap songs — this is not the way to prove manhood.
As if opening the minds of a few dozen boys isn't good enough, presumably those kids then go out into their community and spread the message of equality and non-violence even further. The only downside of this awesome-sounding club seems to be that it doesn't meet often enough. Bradshaw says, "They want more time. For these kids, one day a week is not enough." You hear that, schools of America? Give the boys what they want!
Image via Gunnar Pippel/Shutterstock.