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Columns

Men need to step up for abused women

By ERNEST HOOPER
Published April 12, 2007


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Tony Porter says ending male violence against women starts with men who commit the act, but must also include men who have never raised a hand against a woman.

That's the message Porter will deliver as the keynote speaker during tonight's fifth annual Take Back the Night candlelight vigil. Co-founder of the nonprofit "A Call to Men," Porter aims squarely at the attitudes of "bystander men" who condone violence against women through their inaction.

"Women have been trying to end this forever," said Porter, a New York resident. "There are more laws being enforced through the efforts of women, and there are new laws that have been created through the efforts of women, but the rate of violence remains the same.

"It's great to hold men accountable," he said, "but that in itself is not preventing the violence. To prevent the violence, all the rest of us have to get involved and say, 'We've had enough.' As complicated as it is, it could be that simple."

Porter lays the blame on a society rife with sexism, one that teaches men the wrong values when they're young. Boys learn early on to devalue women as sexual objects and property, he said.

"That's why other men stand by and mind their business when they see a man hitting a woman," Porter said. "It's because she belongs to him and we're taught to have more respect for him than her. We not only stand by, but we'll remain friends with him and not cut him off."

Porter's message is only part of the vigil. The event features 25 organizations, including the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay, Florida Department of Health and the Spring of Tampa Bay. All are honoring sexual assault survivors and their loved ones.

A Tampa rape survivors group featured in the April edition of Self magazine also will attend. Members of the group takes an empowering approach to recovery, deriving strength by speaking openly about their experiences. Journalistic standards often allow rape victims to tell their stories with pseudonyms, but these women used their complete names in the Self article.

"Sometimes I want to give up," Tampa's Lisa Braxton told the magazine. "But I have made a choice: I want to do this. If you aren't fighting, you aren't a fighter."

Sharing their experiences helped these women gain self-assurance, but Take Back the Night is more than just women supporting women. Organizers are encouraging folks to bring a male friend.

As Porter says, "We're encouraging men to really partner up. We can't sit back and allow ending violence against women to be just a women's issue. It's a human rights issue and all of us need to be part of the equation."

And it would probably help if we didn't laugh at phrases like "nappy-headed hos" or listen to songs that talk more about female body parts than feminine virtue.

That's all I'm saying.

Ernest Hooper can be reached at hooper@sptimes.com or 813-226-3406.

Take Back the Night

What: A candlelight vigil and speak out.

When: 7 p.m.

Where: Temple Terrace United Methodist Church, 5030 E Busch Blvd.

Information: APPLE Trauma Response Center, 813 264-9955.

WHAT: TAKE BACK THE NIGHT, a candlelight vigil and speak out.

WHEN: 7 p.m.

WHERE: Temple Terrace United Methodist Church, 5030 E Busch Blvd.

For more information: APPLE Trauma Response Center, 813-264-9955.

[Last modified April 12, 2007, 06:43:03]


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