May 02, 2011

Engaging Men and Boys to Prevent Domestic and Sexual Violence: Q&A with Dr. Andrae Brown

May 3 and 4 The Center for Community Engagement hosts A Call to Men. This intensive two-day training institute supports community-driven domestic and sexual violence prevention efforts that include men and boys.
  • Andraé Brown, PhD

May 3 and 4, The Center for Community Engagement hosted A Call to Men Institute. This intensive two-day training supports community-driven domestic and sexual violence prevention efforts that include men and boys.

The CCE caught up with Andraé Brown, PhD to find out more about his work and the vision behind this partnership between the Center for Community Engagement at the Graduate School of Education and Counseling, and A Call to Men.

How did you begin working with A Call To Men (ACTM)?

My relationship with ACTM has developed over several years. While I was aware of their projects and used some of their materials, I did not have an opportunity to work with them until I became a member of the Oregon Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence Communities (OCADSV) of Color Task Force. The OCADSV co-hosted a conference in which ACTM were featured presenters. While I was unable to attend the training, the feedback that I received from those in attendance was overwhelmingly positive. I actually felt left out.

The OCADSV remained in dialogue with ACTM about opportunities to continue supporting the work to end domestic and sexual violence in Oregon. The Coalition was later informed that ACTM had a grant that allowed them to produce a conference anywhere they wanted. ACTM wanted to bring their services to Oregon because of their relationship with OCADSV, the grassroots work being done here, and the potential for leadership development in Oregon. I then began to work more closely with ACTM as part of the planning committee to bring ACTM here.

What is unique about the ACTM approach in contrast to mainstream anti-domestic and sexual violence efforts, and why do you support ACTM’s methods?

I feel one of the most important key differences to the ACTM approach is that they not only want to stop violence, but they focus on challenging and redefining manhood and norms of masculinity. This focus has been proven to sustain shifts in attitudes and behaviors. Too often programs are designed and implemented in ways that focus solely on the reduction of intimate partner violence and the punishment of perpetrators, but they do not address the hurt and pain that men experience as both victims and perpetrators of violence.

ACTM attempts to hold men accountable for their actions, as well as shift the culture in which these behaviors are learned and perpetuated. Subsequently, they address violence and promote expanded norms of masculinity for men of all ages, sexual orientations, and ethnicities. Oftentimes programs do not have a genuine passion for caring for and supporting men and they do not address the complexity of the issues that contribute to domestic and sexual violence. This is evidenced by their lack of engagement and recidivism in the programs. Needless to say, the majority of those programs are marginally effective. Once the program is over, there are no supports for the men. This is harmful to all parties involved. 

Another key feature is that ACTM address all types of violence: between intimate partners and families, and within schools and our communities overall.  This deliberate recognition of various forms and levels of violence engages all types of men. Furthermore, ACTM partners with other groups who hold them accountable to their own mission. Women trust ACTM because they know that they are going to be consistent, thorough, and true to the mission of ending violence.

The Center for Community Engagement is committed to “support the self-organizing capacities of groups, organizations and communities working toward social justice”. Can you tell us how hosting A Call to Men Institute works to actualize this vision?

I must first say “Thank you” to the Center for Community Engagement for supporting this initiative and for being great sponsors. It is not only about hosting or providing space, but the collaborative nature in which the process has gone is unique. From the initial presentation of the proposal to host, the CCE has been “all hands on deck”.  It is easy to work together when there is a shared vision and focus on building community capacity. Not many departments can leave egos and competition at the door and join a collective focused on the work.

Hosting ACTM allows Oregonians to come together in one place and engage in a dialogue that is transformative and will literally have an impact for years to come on families and communities. This is just the first of many steps in this process. 

How does your work with ACTM connect with your work around Liberation-Based Healing?

The connection between ACTM and Liberation-Based Healing is quite strong. I think the crux of both movements lie in these core tenants: 1) raising critical consciousness about issues which impact our lives; 2) empowering individuals, families and communities to begin to address these issues; and 3) holding individuals, communities and systems accountable for stopping oppression and promoting, social justice, equity and healing.

One of the aims of the Liberation-Based Healing Conference is to bring together professionals, community advocates and organizers, and concerned and not-so concerned citizens to utilize the resilience in their communities to develop sustainable practices that will improve our lives. It is also important to help connect those individuals who are working in isolation in order to develop a network of colleagues who can support their work and innovative ideas.

We also recognize that many of the things which professionals consider innovative are new to them, but are mainstays of the communities in which they serve. So, the goal is to amplify the voices of those who may be silenced. When I began to look closer at ACTM the fit was obvious.

Who are some of the community partners you are working with on this project, and how do these partnerships strengthen the Graduate School’s ability to “enhance the effectiveness of education and mental health professionals as agents of change”?

Partners for this project are from all spheres of the community. They include St. Johns All Nations Church of God in Christ; SoValTi; Martha’s House; Attorney General’s Sexual Assault Task Force; SAWERA; Henderson House; Northwest Country Community Outreach; and AllState Foundation.

What’s most impressive is that the list continues to grow because this is a community supported grassroots effort.  We have gotten referrals and support from grandmothers, restaurants, barbershops, schools, community members, colleges, health service providers, and well-meaning men across the state of Oregon. The goal is to create and support effective mental health workers and advocates throughout the entire community, not just among individuals with degrees. Everyone has the capacity to create positive change. Community problems require community solutions.

Where do you hope to see this work going at the Graduate School and/or the larger Lewis & Clark community? Where do the greatest opportunities to effect change lie?

This work has the potential to reverberate at all levels of the Gradate School and across the larger Lewis & Clark community. First, it forces all of us to investigate the ways in which sexual and domestic violence impacts our individual and collective lives as a school community. Imagine how wonderful it would be if no member of the L&C community were neither victim nor perpetrator of a sexual or domestic violence on or off campus – even if for a year.  We can also look at the policies (formal and informal) that we have in place to support and challenge issues related to violence, abuses of power and control, and equity along all lines: gender, sexual orientation, religion, and ethnicity.

In regards to the Graduate School, I can first articulate the goals of the Marriage, Couple and Family Therapy program specifically. The MCFT program is further integrating issues of domestic and sexual violence into its curriculum, paying particular attention to the intersection of race, class, gender, sexual orientation, and abilities. This will enable our students to better address the complexities of these issues in their clinical work and as social justice advocates.

We are also seeking opportunities to be a resource for the community via capacity and leadership building and trainings. We have started this work through the L.E.A.P. of Faith project, which works with Black churches to address domestic violence in their congregations. We want to be seen as a place where people can receive advanced training in understanding violence and how to develop strategies to combat and challenge it.

As a Graduate School, we are in a position for everyone in all of our programs to continue to heighten their awareness of issues of violence as it impacts working with families and communities, and in addictions treatment or educational settings. The biggest impact will come from us taking a proactive stance, and then supporting our students be more sensitive to and respond to these issues in their work. Our reach as a graduate school is tremendous and we can use our influence to help people across the state on a daily basis.

Who should participate in the Institute and why?

This Institute was designed to service the community. Men, women, teens and adults of all ages were invited to receive advanced, in-depth training to help shift social norms that define manhood in our culture. We paid particular attention to seeking out men from ethnic groups who have traditionally been marginalized in the domestic violence movement. One of the goals is to produce and engage people in a national movement of men committed to ending violence against women.

Andraé Brown, PhD, is an assistant professor at Lewis & Clark Graduate School of Education and Counseling, co-director of Affinity Counseling Group (New Jersey), and board member for the Council on Contemporary Families. Dr. Brown earned his BS in psychology at Elizabeth City State University (North Carolina), his M.Ed. in school counseling at the University of Maryland, Eastern Shore, and his PhD in marriage and family therapy at Seton Hall University (New Jersey).