Performer, writer stands up for women

Published May 31, 2007

Domestic violence might not be a popular topic among men, but one activist aims to change that through comedy and celebrity voice impressions.

Ben Atherton-Zeman said his goal is to approach this serious subject in a not-so-serious way so that his audience will be relaxed and open to hear it.

"We think men are generally good, " said Linda Osmundson, executive director of Community Action Stops Abuse, a local organization that aims to combat domestic violence. But she said men need to hold one another responsible.

The organization is sponsoring Atherton-Zeman's play, Voices of Men, at 7:30 p.m. today at Studio@620 at 620 First Ave. S.

For more than a decade, he has been working to help victims of domestic violence. He is also a spokesman for the National Organization for Men Against Sexism.

"This is a group women that is universally made fun of, " Atherton-Zeman said. "It makes violence easier and more tolerated."

He wrote the play six years ago. It's important for many reasons, but "especially with current events, " said Osmundson, referring to the recent news about Devil Rays rookie Elijah Dukes, who has been accused of threatening his wife and children.

"As long as we accept domestic violence at home ... I think men are saying it's acceptable on some level, " Osmundson said.

"I often hear, 'Well, he's a good father. He just beats his wife.' How can you be a good father and beat your wife?"

The play is directed at men because Atherton-Zeman said that is where the problem begins.

"We're hoping that a lot of men will come so that men that are domestic abusers know they are not part of any good club, " Osmundson said.

She said men need to send the message to other men that "your behavior is criminal" and that they won't tolerate having friends who are abusers.

The play's main topics are sexual assault and consent, dating violence and domestic violence, sexual harassment and objectification.

Atherton-Zeman said he chose this path after dating women who had either been raped or abused.

"Men are beginning to get involved, but it's not enough for me, " he said. "The reality of what their lives are like is strong in my heart."

He said he has other ventures he would like to pursue but said he won't stop fighting this battle until the numbers of raped and abused women each year decrease.

"The strength of the voice inside me won't let me do anything else, " he said.

The event is open to the public, but guests are asked to call ahead. Refreshments will be served.

To RSVP call Katherine Lenel (727) 895-4912, ext. 101.

Victims of abuse can call CASA's 24-hour help line at (727) 895-4912 or (800) 799-7233.

Nicole Bardo-Colon can be reached at nbardo-colon@sptimes.com or 893-8779.

If you go

'Voices of Men'

Ben Atherton-Zeman's one-man play is at 7:30 p.m. today at Studio@620 at 620 First Ave. S.