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Week to address sexual violence

Kaitlynn Riely | Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The members of a new task force, Men Against Violence (MAV) have decided the male population of Notre Dame can no longer listen passively to criticism from women about rape and sexual assault – and to address this concern, they are leading an initiative to encourage men to take a proactive stance against sexual violence.

The MAV, a task force that originated within the Gender Relations Center has put posters up around campus that show campus leaders committed to ending violence for Sexual Assault Awareness Week.

Graduate student Alex Chapeaux, founding member and co-adviser of MAV, sat outside South Dining Hall Sunday night to encourage men to sign the pledge against rape and other violence. The pledge campaign will continue at both dining halls through Tuesday night.

“Our main goal is to … educate men and to redefine masculinity in a positive way,” he said.

The idea to organize a task force featuring men talking to other men about sexual assault grew out of a conference at DePauw University attended by Heather Rakoczy, director of the Gender Relations Center, student body president Dave Baron, student body vice president Lizzi Shappell in April.

Men are often uncomfortable talking about violence against women in the manner in which it is usually presented, Chapeaux said.

“The issues have always been approached from a woman’s approach – women telling men what’s right and what’s wrong,” he said.

Rakoczy said the use of male leadership could be instrumental in decreasing the incidence of rape and sexual assault.

“Women have been doing this work … since the women’s movement in the ’70s … but when it comes down to it, men are the ones who hold the special power in this culture,” she said. “In order for the violence to actually end, it requires men and women collaborating together.”

Chapeaux said men need to take the initiative to prevent assault.

“Some of what society has accepted of them, has told them what it means to be a man, isn’t truly what it means to be a man,” he said.

Baron, who played an active role in founding MAV, said he hopes the group can facilitate future discussion about what it means to be a man at Notre Dame.

“It is readily apparent that there is a … Notre Dame male identity,” he said. “There are very good things about it but also very destructive things.”