Julie Eckert, assistant director of the Student Health Center, encountered a peer program at a conference more than 10 years ago that focused on a specific issue she had never seen addressed in such a way before at Texas State.Even though violent incidents were not a huge problem, Eckert knew it existed among Texas State students. Violence prevention peer groups were available before 1997 but were not specifically aimed at the university’s male population.
In 1997, Eckert put a team together to bring Men Against Violence (MAV) to campus.
“The idea behind targeting men is that women have traditionally done violence prevention this entire time,” Eckert said. “Men haven’t had much of an active voice or role. In fact, men will probably be more effective with other men.”
The purpose of the group is to “break the link which exists between traditional norms—the ways men and women are taught to behave—and violence,” according to the MAV mission statement on the Texas State website. MAV seeks to challenge “young men to redefine male and female relationships in an equitable manner, to resolve conflicts effectively, to develop meaningful friendships with other men and appropriately manage anger and fear,” according to the same mission statement.
Membership is open to all students. Although it is a male-oriented organization, women are welcome. Eckert said the female perspective is needed in the lessons the group teaches.
“I joined because I always had it in me to do something, but I didn’t know how to,” said Sean Quinones, MAV vice president. “In MAV, I finally found my opportunity to do something.”
MAV officers are currently recruiting new members, looking for a tagline and rebranding the whole organization.
The organization’s affiliates use four presentations to educate MAV members and peers. Each is unique in its message and targets a violence-related theme consisting of sexual assault, alcohol intervention, hate crime prevention and intimate partner violence prevention. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered scenarios are also included.
“I think that promoting the idea of redefining gender roles is innovative and progressive,” said Valerie Gonzalez-Vega, public relations senior. “Norm(al) gender roles are totally linked to verbal and psychological violence.”
The affiliates offer several campus activities throughout the year aimed toward violence prevention and campus wellness. Some of the activities include sexual assault awareness month, petitions, poetry slams, DeStress Fest, Safer Spring Break and campus-wide speakers.
“Men Against Violence continues to be an important part of my life,” said Christopher Sean Watson, former national MAV president and co-founder. “While in the organization, I switched my major from education and have spent the last 12 years working to end domestic and sexual violence.”
Breaking the links that associate men with cultural norms of masculinity is one of the organization’s goals. These norms include being strong, unemotional, being the “breadwinner” and being sexually promiscuous are possible links to violence against each other and toward women, to the MAV website.
“I believe it’s really important to redefine masculinity and femininity in our time,” Quinones said. “We are a more tolerant generation. I feel we are the generation that can make a change. What we do is spread awareness, and we like to shed light on the fact that stereotypes are not reality.”