The MENDing program at the Kawartha Sexual Assault Centre works with men in the Peterborough area to educate and prevent gender-based violence. The program approaches ideas of gender expression and how violence factors into how society constructs masculinity – then attempts to break down those rigid ideas.
Listen to the interview with Ted Lohrenz, MENding program coordinator at KSAC and scroll down to read an excerpt.
KSAC is currently looking for volunteers and participants for the Young Men Leading Change program – an initiative geared towards educating newcomer and racialized men about preventing gender-based violence.
Ted Lohrenz: The MENding program has been running at KSAC for longer than I’ve been around, but I’ve been around for two years and working on that in particular. It’s about engaging men and ending gender-based violence. A lot of our work is with sports teams and other groups of men. It comes from the perspective of a non-shaming attitude but very much centered in gender-based violence prevention.
Ayesha Barmania: What are the kind of things that you talk about and teach there?
Ted Lohrenz: It’s very much activity based. So we start off with some talking about the prevalence of gender based violence and sexual violence and the role that men can do in preventing that. And then we have a couple of activities that are really supposed to be very illustrative. And so one of them is called The Man Box and we ask participants to sort of fill in this box with things that men are stereotypically expected to be. And then we ask them questions about sort of what happens to men who are outside of the box and we get lots of sort of sexist and homophobic insults. And then we ask men why are they these things right. Then we have another activity that goes next to that called The Strongest Man. And basically we ask participants to describe the things about the strongest men in their life right. And we don’t really mean strong as in like burly and can throw rocks but I mean strong as in what are the admirable character characteristics that they have. And very often the things that we admire about the men in our life are not the things we’re told to be as men.
Ayesha Barmania: So it sounds like a lot of introspection about gender. How does that tie to preventing gender based violence?
Ted Lohrenz: That’s a great question. The idea is that men who have a healthy emotional outlet, who are less likely to be isolated or experience substance abuse, who have an emotional intelligence of themselves, are men who are less likely to be violent. It’s about challenging toxic masculinity and how it absolutely okay.