Starting Point’s Men’s Advocacy Group had its first meeting on September 20 at the Advocacy Center in Conway. This is the first group of its kind in New Hampshire according to the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence. Nine men attended. Raetha Stoddard, Starting Point’s Outreach & Prevention Specialist, and Brad Loomis, Direct Service Coordinator, represented the agency.
The group’s first meeting was dedicated to introductions and a presentation on the overview of Starting Point services, followed by a robust discussion of prevention.
Most of the attendees were well versed in the services offered by Starting Point but like many had not known the full extent of those services. Stoddard explained that the extent or limitations of services are often due to funding changes, through either expansion or defunding. Starting Point strives to continue all essential services despite fluctuating funding, recognizing that sustaining these services is key to breaking the cycle of abuse.
“In times of decreased or defunding from our government funding sources, we rely on our community and grassroots efforts. We have never been disappointed by our community”, says Stoddard.
The Grace House, Starting Point’s Domestic Violence Shelter, was built during a period of governmental defunding for domestic violence services. “Besides providing an essential need for shelter for our community, the community also let us know that Starting Point is considered an essential service.”
Starting Point works with dozens of local, regional, and state systems to provide a continuum of care. Stoddard explained to the group that, “in our homeless population a large percentage are also victims of domestic and sexual violence or trafficking. This is also true for those struggling with substance misuse and for those grappling with mental health issues. Either the trauma has caused the deterioration of their mental health, or it puts them at risk for victimization. If you surveyed those who are or have been incarcerated, you would also find a high percentage of trauma due to victimization. This means that Starting Point must work closely with those entities who are taking a lead in caring for these members of our community in order to offer comprehensive care that will be meaningful to a positive course in their lives.”
The group was interested in preventative methods for breaking the cycle of abuse and reducing sexual violence. Starting Point provides prevention in all of Carroll County schools, focusing on healthy relationships and allied behaviors. Surveys of the program over the years have shown that it is an effective method of prevention. Having Starting Point in the schools has also helped increase disclosure rates for those experiencing abuse in dating relationships or at home.
The group was particularly interested in prevention aimed at boys and young men. Statistically, it is within this population that perpetrator traits are most prevalent.
Stoddard stated, “it is a small population of men who perpetrate but in a population of perpetrators it is overwhelmingly men who abuse. There is no denying that women can be violent. Statistically, women’s violence is not as prevalent, it is most often aimed at other women or children, and it stems from the same social constructs that support men’s violence. So, the truth remains that women and children are the vast majority of victims and men the majority of perpetrators. If we address the social constructs that promote this violence, then we can reduce violent behaviors in both men and women.”
The group plans to meet quarterly with the mission to “mobilize men to take action against domestic and sexual violence through awareness, education, and advocacy”. The next meeting will be on January 17 at 6 PM at the Advocacy Center in Conway. Meetings will consist of discussion and action points.
The first action point for the group is to attend Starting Point’s Annual Vigil on October 20 at 6 PM in Schouler Park in North Conway during Domestic Violence Awareness Month to promote the group’s mission through a show of support by men for Starting Point. The group shared email addresses to further discussion and determine future actions for consideration.
For more information about the Men’s Advocacy group or Starting Point in general email [email protected].
Starting Point provides free and confidential services to victims of domestic and sexual violence, stalking, and human trafficking along with prevention and outreach programs throughout Carroll County. To speak with an advocate or prevention specialist Monday thru Friday from 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM call 603-447-2494 or call for 24/7 support at 1-800-336-3795.
Starting Point volunteer training begins October 4 at 5 PM. For more information about volunteering email [email protected].
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