FROM THIS DAY FORWARD, as a member of the BU community, I promise to be part of the solution to end interpersonal violence.
-BU White Ribbon Day Pledge
The option of whether or not to take the White Ribbon Day Pledge really had me thinking about my personal journey into this movement. It all began when I was a student in my third year at Northeastern University. Jackson Katz, the founder of a program called Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP), and Byron Hurt, a former Northeastern athlete, came to speak with students about how some of the values, attitudes, and behaviors amongst men can help support and foster violence against women.
I still remember the tension in the room. The sense of feeling exposed and challenged mixed with the emotion of betrayal. Katz and Hurt took the audience through a series of conversations and exercises meant to challenge our thinking about what it mean to be a man and men’s role in preventing violence against women. We shared experiences with one another about instances in which we witnessed violence against women. We asked ourselves, “Why didn’t we step in and do something?” Most of our responses came from a place of defense and guilt – we felt like we were being attacked just for being men. We didn’t want to violate the “male code” – you know, ‘mind your business’ when it comes to other guys and their relationships. We were pretty much denying that the topic was relevant; we thought of ways to blame the women during these discussions, we minimized the prevalence of actual violent acts towards women.
We then explored how we would feel if those events would have happened to women that we knew and loved. Other people were bystanders –people who witnessed what was happening but didn’t step in. The visualization of that happening to my loved one made me angry, because I wasn’t there to protect them. I also had an overwhelming feeling of sadness, because I knew that the experience would have a grave impact on their life. Katz explained how we could use our platform as student athletes and student leaders to instead set an example as a positive bystander in our community – stepping in to prevent violence. I got the message. But how was I supposed to act on it? The male code still existed.
Fast forward two years. I had left Northeastern for an opportunity to be a professional sprinter. During my time as a professional athlete I started to witness those same attitudes and behaviors that Katz and Hurt had talked about. I started to realize I had to do something. When I returned to Northeastern to finish my degree, I decided I wanted to be a part of the movement to change those attitudes and beliefs. As a part of the Center for the Study of Sport in Society I did just that. My whole life changed.
I traveled all over the United States facilitating workshops and conversations about violence prevention with students and professional athletes. I remember thinking I would be labeled as a sellout or traitor because as a male and athlete I wasn’t supposed to care about these issues. To my surprise it was the total opposite. People were excited to have the opportunity to talk about these issues. I used real life experiences, humor, rap – whatever I could to connect with my audience – to break down the walls that prevented me from having those same conversations that I’d had at Northeastern. These conversations raised awareness among young men about issues that traditionally have been considered “women’s issues”. The discussion encouraged men to not merely be bystanders, but to play an active role in reducing sexual violence, harassment, and abuse in their community.
White Ribbon Week is a time designated for the Boston University community to make a commitment to be part of the solution to end interpersonal violence. We know it’s not a simple request – it takes courage to admit that there is a problem, that we might be contributing to the problem, and that it’s hard work to be a part of that solution and conversation. We ask that you have that courage to join BU in taking the White Ribbon Day pledge and be part of the solution.
You can sign the pledge at Fit Rec, the GSU, and 100 Bay State Road during BU ‘s White Ribbon Week from March 3rd to March 6th. Show your commitment to being part of the solution by wearing white and your white ribbon on March 6th, White Ribbon Day.
Step Up. Step In. BU
White Ribbon Day Pledge Locations
FitRec: 3/3/14 through 3/6/14 from 3 PM to 9 PM
GSU: 3/3/14 through 3/6/14 from 11 AM to 3 PM
100 Baystate Road: 3/3/14 through 3/6/14 from 11 AM to 3 PM