First-ever men’s conference to be in Howe Hall

Heather Harper

A statewide initiative for men to end violence against women will be held on the ISU campus today, making Ames the first city in the nation to host such a conference.

Iowa’s Ending Violence Project, which is made up of about 30 individuals from sexual-assault support organizations, has invited more than 200 guests in leadership positions across Iowa to the daylong Men’s Conference to End Violence Against Women, said Julie Harders, project committee member.

The conference will be from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Howe Hall. Iowa State was chosen to host the conference because of its central location and its large donation amounts – the Department of Public Safety donated $500, and Howe Hall’s auditorium is being used for free.

Harders, coordinator of the Story County Sexual Assault Response Team through DPS, said it is important for men to be aware of violence against women so they can take action against it. She said about 75 percent of the guests attending today’s conference will be male.

“I think men need to be allies with women to stop the violence against women,” Harders said. “The majority of men are not committing the violence, but they’re not taking the action to end the violence.”

Jim Meek, family specialist in the ISU Cooperative Extension Service and special projects manager for Iowa State in the Extension to Families, said invitations were sent to professionals in the state government, court and education systems and the state university athletic departments.

“We think these folks are respected individuals, and if they speak out, it will help others to speak out as well,” he said.

Meek said lectures and training sessions at the conference will help leaders in Iowa communities to promote nonviolence toward women.

“The hope is that men will leave that day and feel they have a better set of tools to deal with these issues,” he said.

Jackson Katz, trainer in strategies to end men’s violence against women, will be the keynote speaker at the conference. He was an all-star football player for the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and the only male graduate to minor in women’s studies. He now resides in Long Beach, Calif.

“Part of my work is helping to catalyze a conceptual shift in our thinking about issues that historically have been considered women’s issues,” said Katz, director of the Mentors in Violence Program. “We need to call them `men’s issues’ and `women’s issues.'”

Katz will give violence-prevention training at the conference. He said he wants men to learn to talk openly about violence.

“Men need to be speaking out much more than we have been,” he said.

Iowa Lt. Gov. Sally Pederson also will speak at today’s conference. She will give an address at 12:15 p.m.

Katz will also give a lecture at 8 tonight in the Sun Room of the Memorial Union. The lecture is free and open to the public.

Katz will focus on issues, such as rape, sexual harassment, abuse in college dating relationships and other forms of gender-based discrimination.

“I honestly think getting men involved is the key to ending the violence,” Harders said.