Hugo Rios, Education Coordinator at Resource Center for Survivors of Sexual Assault and Family Violence (RCS) in Fresno, CA, attended the Women of Color Network‘s (WOCN) Call to Action Conference and Institute. Hugo facilitates MyStrength Clubs for young men to stand up and speak out against sexual assault.
Listen to Hugo by clicking on the recording at the bottom of this blog post. Here is a summary of Hugo’s experience at WOCN in his own words:
On May 10, 2010 my morning began at 5:30 a.m. It was the start of a new journey for me. I was nervous uncertain of what to expect and what the WOCN conference experience would be like. It was my first time traveling by airplane and let me tell you, it was an experience I will never forget. After a four-hour flight I arrived in New Orleans I knew was there for a reason but was uncertain of what exactly that reason was. My experience checking into the hotel and trying to figure out the elevator is another long story, but another time. You would have had to be there to know what I mean. I rushed up to my room, rushed back to the elevator and prepared to walk into a room where I had no clue of what to expect; my new journey was about to begin.
Being in a room with over 40 men with the same needs, pain, anger and who cared about the importance of being a man, husband, father, friend and role model was powerful. I found being in a roomful of men who voiced our opinions on ending violence against all women was validated and encouraged. These men shared what violence on women has meant to us and how we as men have been affected by violence to women.
We as men praise other men for teaching young men how to hit a baseball, throw a football, punch someone, pin someone to the ground. However, when a man talks to a young man about violence against women they are viewed as different and treated as an outcast. The latter must be considered a priority for our young men in order to prevent violence against all women so our mothers and future mothers can be treated with respect and love.
Throughout the room during the two day Men’s Institute, men shared their experiences of trying to be accountable as they take on their roles in the field of domestic violence, family violence and sexual assault. I shared experiences with what I heard from the other men about how we are seen by other men, women and among ourselves. Many of us reflected on our concerns about other men thinking something is wrong with us because we choose to be with our family instead of being out with the guys. We explored the importance of being a good husband everyday versus being a husband when you want to or only on special occasions such as Valentines, birthdays or when you did something wrong. We talked about what it means to be a daddy versus a father. We appreciated the importance of being a friend/role model without having to be someone else; that it is okay to be sensitive, equal, caring, emotional to a male friend without anyone thinking different about you.
All these shared and common feelings where bottled up within me. My experience at the WOCN Conference and the Men’s Institute Training allowed me to release these feelings, thoughts and values; it was accepted and it was liberating.
As I previously mentioned, arriving at the WOCN Conference I did not know what to expect; however, leaving the conference I realized that there are many men, like me, fighting the same fight. The experience and the power of the voices of the women who are survivors of domestic and family violence made me proud and honored to have the opportunity to listen to them and meet them. I am proud of the work I do and I am determined to work harder to lessen the number of stories of violence and increase the stories of change through the voices of women and men. I would like to thank WOCN and A CALL TO MEN for their hard work, commitment and efforts of ending violence against ALL WOMEN.
Listen to an interview with Hugo Rios: