By Voices of Men Leadership Team
There are times when a negative event reminds every one of us of our mission in life.
We speak from experience. It happened to Fox Valley Voices of Men.
On Aug. 14, the organizations and volunteers who have partnered to lead and support Voices of Men learned that the organization’s one paid employee — for many, the face of Voices of Men in the area — was accused by two women of sexual harassment.
The victims involved work closely with the local agencies working to eradicate domestic violence and sexual assault. They are credible and believable.
The course of action was crystal-clear.
Goodwill Industries of North Central Wisconsin, our parent organization, the leaders of the four local agencies dealing with domestic violence and sexual assault, and volunteer leaders of Voices of Men unanimously agreed that the resignation of the leader was needed.
By the end of Aug. 14, our common associate was asked to resign, and he did.
But we were abruptly reminded of our organization’s purpose: To work toward a world in which boys and men avoid such disruptive and inappropriate behaviors by changing their culture, their language and their behaviors, and raising expectations of them.
We were harshly reminded that acts of sexual harassment are far too prevalent in our society and that perpetrators sometimes come from the least expected places. Nevertheless, it’s important to treat all forms of sexually related transgressions with transparency and to ensure that those perpetrators face consequences for their damaging behavior.
Voices of Men is much larger than the actions of one individual. We work with hundreds of past and present volunteers, and the organization’s vision of “creating a community where boys are taught Healthy Manhood, and men treat all people with dignity” remains more vital than ever.
We are continuing with plans for our Nov. 15 Call to Action annual event at the Red Lion Paper Valley Hotel in Appleton because it’s never been clearer that we must.
Voices of Men will continue to urge men and boys to listen to victims who endure pain and injustice and, most importantly, to believe them. We know that sexist, harassing behaviors are often minimized — as in this case — as “blind spots.” We reject this description of what are clearly dehumanizing acts.
We also plead with men to establish a clear understanding of the power and control that exists within their relationships. That’s power by virtue of their size, strength, position within an organization, stature in the community, etc.
It is imperative that all men respect and not abuse those power and control dynamics in their relationships with others. And we implore men and boys to conduct themselves always with the most basic of human decencies, treating all people with dignity and respect.
The recent actions of the organization’s one paid employee have given us great cause to reexamine our organization on many levels and strengthen our practices.
In addition to ensuring that all arrangements are covered to provide the Nov. 15 Call to Action event, Voices of Men also has begun the work of addressing things such as support to victims, changes in organizational structure, policy, training and more.
Voices of Men, a program of Goodwill NCW, is an organization of men, informed and inspired by the insightful and strong leaders of the four local domestic violence and sexual assault agencies — Harbor House Domestic Abuse Programs, Sexual Assault Crisis Center, Reach Counseling and Christine Ann Domestic Abuse Services — in the Fox Cities.
We are partners. We hear them. We support them.
Voices of Men is committed to engaging men and boys in the fight to end domestic violence and sexual assault in our community.
We’re heeding the reminder we received, and now we’re reminding you: We’re part of your community, and we value your support — and the changes we must make together — to benefit all of us.