The movement to end sexual violence requires work on all fronts.
It needs passionate and focused organizations like STAR, but its success truly relies on cooperative efforts among several other networks, including law enforcement, medical professionals and educational institutions. Most importantly, however, it is dependent on the realization that sexual violence is not just a women’s issue.
Men’s voices, stories, and perspectives matter and are needed in the work to eliminate sexual violence. Here at STAR, we understand this and seek to engage men and women equally in advancing our mission.
Enter George Godfrey, an LSU service-learning student who volunteered and engaged with our prevention program this semester. What started as a class assignment for this ex-military father of two ultimately became a meaningful and enlightening experience, which he describes below.
What surprised me most about STAR are the people here. Knowing the organization that I signed up for was generally a type of organization that is filled with feminists (which by no means is a negative thing), I was expecting to be demonized for being a man, because the largest percentage of sexual assaults are committed by men. STAR completely dispelled that preconceived idea that society taught me to expect.
Since volunteering at STAR, my entire outlook has changed, especially in regards to society and the roles of masculinity and femininity. All of the training and educational materials we viewed had a great impact on my thought process, but probably the most impactful piece was the video about masculinity and femininity, Tony Porter’s TED Talk, “A Call to Men.”
Before coming to STAR, I very much subscribed to the roles of masculinity, and I did this without any thought because it is how I was conditioned to think. I did not question things as much–not because I wanted to avoid the issue–but because I was never instructed or encouraged to think about these issues objectively. STAR has challenged me to think about relationships differently, actions within relationships, and what those actions mean.
Also my time at STAR has made me change things I do at home. For example I used to tell my son that “big boys don’t cry” or to “be tough.” If I had not worked with STAR, then I would have never thought about the damaging effects little things like these sayings do to a young child.
STAR also changed my outlook on sexual violence completely. Before, I was a strong advocate for fighting violence with violence… i.e. carry a firearm, taking self-defense classes, etc. And although I am still an advocate for these measures, I look at this in a different light. I don’t see these measures as a means of preventing sexual assault. I now see that the way to solve these problems is through community education and awareness, and I view self-defense as a temporary solution.
My short time as a service learning student at STAR has given me information on a host of topics that I am able to articulately discuss with my peers, which is leading into bigger discussions. I have not yet ruled out a path in politics, and if I do decide that I want to serve in public office, this is a cause that I would like to advocate for. I say this because the things that I have learned here have forced me to look at things differently and acknowledge that the prior social training I had on this subject was flat out wrong. And because I can acknowledge the fallacies within those ways of thinking, I do not want my children to grow up and face these same issues; or since realistically they will face these issues, I would like them to be able to see that progress has been made by the time they are adults.
I now see that there is a host of problems that as a society we have yet to address or acknowledge, and that these problems are multifaceted, and cannot be traced to just one specific demographic or problem.
If time allows me to, I would like to advocate for STAR and help educate the younger generations. I do not yet know what my future holds, but I do feel that this is an important subject that needs to be addressed.”
We are grateful to George for engaging with us and sharing about how his time at STAR impacted him. We look forward to continuing to build a movement in which we can all come together, listen to and learn from each other, and work toward collective freedom from oppression and sexual trauma.
Your voice matters and is needed. Connect with STAR and others in the community via our Prevention Action Coalition, or email firstname.lastname@example.org to learn about opportunities for action and involvement in local sexual violence prevention efforts.