The tragedy at Newtown, CT, last week has brought a plethora of news stories saturating our newspapers, radios, televisions and computers. Unfortunately this will not be the last incident of horrific violence. Just a week earlier, we were reading, watching and listening to stories about the football player Javon Belcher killing his girlfriend Kasandra Perkins. This week we are seeing media attention about the gang rape of a women on a bus in India. I am certain there will be another incident of violence in the headlines soon.
As people dedicated to preventing sexual violence and domestic violence, it is important we need to move beyond retelling the specifics of the individual situations to promoting the solutions to violence. I am reminded of the excellent report by the Berkeley Media Studies Group on the media coverage child sexual abuse case where they noted in media stories “most child sexual abuse advocates did not discuss solutions, but instead spoke passionately about the horrors of victimization….” While we need have our understanding of trauma inform our work, we need to advance potential solutions, especially promoting policies and prevention.
Several blogs have begun to to do this in the discussion about Newtown by recognizing 61 of the 62 mass murderers committed in the United States since 1982 were committed by men. In his article Memo to Media: Manhood, Not Guns or Mental Illness, Should Be Central in Newtown Shooting, Jackson Katz identifies the opportunity for the media to look at this issue differently:
Maybe the Newtown massacre will mark a turning point. Maybe the mass murder of young children will force the ideological gatekeepers in mainstream media to actually pry open the cupboards of conventional thinking for just long enough to have a thoughtful conversation about manhood in the context of our ongoing national tragedy of gun violence.
Alan HeisterKamp writes in his article Guns, Mental Illness and Violent Masculinity: A Recipe to Kill:
Let’s begin by acknowledging and staying focused on the one common thread consistent with all shootings of the past 30-plus years and then work backwards from there. That is, our country has a major problem associating guns with power and control, and associating power and control with being a man.
Gender construction on what it means to be a real, authentic man must be the new curriculum.
Jennifer Rey and Pamela O’Brien of Aid to Victims of Domestic Abuse, Inc. (ADVA) in Florida describe how prevention efforts can address these links to masculinity:
AVDA works daily to promote healthy masculinity building community support for young men and boys to express a full range of emotions to become individuals within themselves. AVDA also works to infuse our community with a more peaceful approach to conflict resolution with the goal of shifting our culture of violence into a culture of peace and caring for our community members.
I am greatly saddened by the deaths in Newtown. Yet I am more saddened when our society does not use the lessons of this situations to create make positive changes. In our prevention work we have the opportunity to create real lasting change.