Tuesday, June 17, 2003

Domestic violence: Targeted appeal

An issue for men

You had to take notice. It was a full-page advertisement in Sunday's Enquirer, headlined "A Father's Day Pledge." It denounced domestic violence and was signed by 450 men, many of them well-known Cincinnati names. They appealed to other men to join them in a "commitment to end domestic violence, and in so doing, honor the legacy of men as loving protectors, supportive partners, proud fathers and involved uncles, mentors, brothers and grandfathers."

The ad was created by the YWCA of Greater Cincinnati, which provides emergency shelters for battered women and their children, and paid for by Liz Claiborne, Inc.

Many Cincinnati men responded. Who wouldn't? But it was more than an impressive ad. To us, it represents an encouraging evolution in the fight against domestic violence, which traditionally is viewed as a women's issue.

The ad reminded us that most men do care about abuse and are willing to take action to stop or prevent it.

The Cincinnati ad reflects a nationwide effort to involve men in the fight against violence in the home. The Family Violence Prevention Fund, a national non-profit group, recently launched a "Founding Fathers Campaign" to do this.

"Men are in a unique position to reach out to other men and boys to say that there are better alternatives to violence," says Esta Soler, president of the fund.

The Founding Fathers campaign is an extension of the prevention fund's long-established program, "Coaching Boys into Men," which encourages men to talk to boys early and often about violence and the importance of treating women with respect.

These ad campaigns, so far underwritten by foundations and businesses, generate millions of dollars worth of media exposure and confirm that men are an untapped resource in fighting domestic violence.

We also hope the campaigns represent an expansion of the national conversation around family violence to include men as well as women in solutions. That includes finding more men willing to help more boys find their way to respectful manhood without destructive violence. It also includes challenging men not only with blame, but with hope.

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