Last week, all of us new Sport in Society interns attended the Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) program that took place at Northeastern University in Boston. This 3 day training took us all outside of our comfort zones to approach the societal issue of men’s violence against women head on. Before we started we heard raving reviews from co-ops and interns who had gone through the MVP training before us. They really set the standards sky high, and I am happy to report that my experience was by no means a disappointment. People from all over the country came to the training, and all of us had a common goal in mind. Each person had a different reason that brought them to MVP; some worked for domestic violence agencies, others experienced men’s violence against women first-hand, and there were some people who, like me, were required to attend by our employers. For whatever reason we were there, we were all connected to one another and I think I speak for all of us when I say that we left on the third day with a more open mind and 28 new partners in the fight to end men’s violence against women.
One of the first things that the facilitators of the program said was that MVP would be different than other professional trainings out there. Rather than just sitting in a big room and listening to the same person talk for 3 days straight, MVP was extremely interactive and the more conversation the better. It was a safe space for anyone to ask questions about whatever was on their minds. Before starting the training, I expected that I would just be listening to what other people had to say; I didn’t think that a 19-year-old girl with hardly any personal accounts of men’s violence against women would have much to talk about in comparison to the older, wiser experts in the field that attended. Little did I know, I found myself addressing the large group on many different occasions, expressing my own views and opinions on topics such as sexual harassment, gender stereotypes, and the bystander effect. It was enlightening hearing what people of different backgrounds and social classes had to say on this universal injustice. Not only did we get to discuss our thoughts and feelings on a wide variety of topics based around men’s violence against women, but we were given the opportunity to facilitate our own discussions within the group. It was a harder task than I expected, but it was an amazing learning experience. The ability to listen to people’s personal stories and foster conversation amongst a group of strangers is scary, but the ability to facilitate these conversations with others is a lesson that I will take with me forever.
Although a daunting task, MVP is attempting to change the world. Clearly molding society isn’t going to be easy and it’s not going to happen overnight by 29 people; but nonetheless, it’s a step in the right direction. I am only a very small piece of the enormous puzzle that society has created in the shape of men’s violence against women, but every person who shares the MVP mission is changing the world in their own way. If each person at this training, or any MVP training, tells their friends, family members, or co-workers what was discussed, and then those people passed on what they were told and so on, the message has the ability to reach all ends of the earth. It would be a beautiful thing to live in a world where bystanders take action in the fight to end men’s violence against women. This social injustice happens every day, in many different forms. If you take the time to identify it, and take a stand against it, then you are making the world a better place. If we all took our part in eliminating men’s violence against women then maybe changing the world won’t be such a difficult task after all.