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SALT LAKE CITY — “Man up” as used by our fathers and grandfathers was a not so gentle reminder to stand up, be responsible and behave as a man is expected to.
The term seems, over the last three decades or so, to have fallen into disfavor, and the reasons are largely irrelevant. The results of the failure to "man up," on the other hand, are highly relevant. Women, particularly young women, seem to be at higher risk for relationship violence than ever before.
The website http://www.teenviolencestatistics.com notes a number of truly disturbing statistics. Among them are the following: “About one in five female teens report physical dating violence by a dating partner. And some domestic violence statistics studies have found that 40 percent of teens from 14 to 17 have reported knowing someone their age who had been hit, beaten or abused by a boyfriend.”
The Alabama Coalition Against Domestic Violence (ACADV) reports that in a survey of 500 young women ages 15 to 24, 60 percent were currently involved in an ongoing abusive relationship, and all participants in the survey had experienced violence in a dating relationship.
The National Conference of State Legislatures considers dating violence to be one of its priority issues.
Our sisters, daughters and granddaughters are at risk. It seems it is time for both schools and communities to man up and put an end to this disastrous trend.
The reasons for this trend are numerous and likely to include the less prevalent nuclear family, loss of positive male role models in the home and the portrait of violence toward women and girls in popular entertainment. This coupled with the real and theatrical treatment of women by the current role models for young men, including actors, rappers, entertainers and professional and college athletes combine to help create, if not a culture, at least a large sub-culture of male dominance and relationship violence.
Whether you favor the theory of evolution or that of intelligent design, the fact remains that on average males have more raw physical strength than females. Strength has always implied power, and until recently the corollary to power has been responsibility. Responsibility is the missing component in today’s relationship equation.
While most programs approach the issue from a female perspective, with safe dating education, warning signs and the like, it is only half of the answer. Dealing with the male part of this relationship equation is imperative in addressing the problem.
One way to change this dynamic is to intervene in that most testosterone-laden arena of young men’s sports, from peewees through high school. The organization Futures Without Violence (formerly Family Violence Prevention Fund) in 2001 launched a program called “Coaching Boys into Men” (CBIM). Capitalizing on the unique position of mentorship that coaches occupy and providing research-based materials for coaches’ use, the CBIM program’s core goal is to inspire men to teach boys the importance of respecting women and that violence never equals strength.
The CBIM program is finding acceptance in community sports programs and middle school and high school athletic departments across the country.
CBIM is not the only program attempting to address this issue. Love Is Not Abuse is a grass-roots coalition encouraging dating abuse education and providing educational materials to schools nationwide.
The number of programs addressing this issue is impressive, and that is indicative of the magnitude of the issue. Check with your local school, health and welfare office, hospital or mental health provider for programs in your area.
Our sisters, daughters and granddaughters are at risk. It seems it is time for both schools and communities to man up and put an end to this disastrous trend. Programs like Coaching Boys into Men are a good place to start.
Guy Bliesner is a longtime educator, having taught and coached tennis and swimming. He is school safety and security administrator for the Bonneville School District in Idaho Falls, Idaho. He has been married for 26 years and has three children.