Rutgers holds event raising awareness for sexual violence against men
The Rutgers Office for Violence Prevention and Victim Assistance (VPVA) held a coffeehouse event on Wednesday night to raise awareness for violence and domestic abuse against men.
The event, Songs for Survivors: Exploring Men's Stories, was held at the Druskin Lounge of the Rutgers Honors College. Spoken word poets and musicians expressed domestic abuse that men experience, a reality that event organizers said often goes unnoticed.
“This year we’re focusing on men's stories (of being victimized) because what's important about focusing on domestic violence and the survivor experience is that we capture all survivors' experiences,” said William Pauwels, a graduate student at the School of Social Work who coordinated the event. “Survivors come from different cultural backgrounds, religious backgrounds and genders.”
One in 6 men face abuse, Pauwels said. Signs hung around the venue, citing statistics like “2 in 5 gay and bisexual men will experience intimate partner violence in their lifetime” and “1 in 18 men have been stalked by an intimate partner during their lifetime.” Performers explained their own experiences of being abused in prose, ranging from molestation to domestic violence, he said.
One of the spoken word performers, Jonel Vilches, told his own story about staying with a partner for a year who sexually abused him while he was intoxicated.
“I had a lot of conflicted emotions and ended up staying in that relationship, because to me that's what felt right at the time,” he told the crowd of several dozen after performing his poem. “I had so many conflicting emotions in my head. When we think about why (victims) stay it’s so complicated, it’s never as simple as leaving your partner.”
He said the use of poetry is his expression.
“I feel like with poetry you can capture the rhythm and the flow of how you use sounds, the way you use repetition and play with the rhythm,” Vilches said. “It’s really reflective of what it's like to be a survivor (of assault). Having the highs and the downs and having that be like a roller coaster ride in your poetry can translate what it's like to recover from trauma and heal with trauma.”
The venue was decorated in purple, the color representing domestic violence awareness. Volunteers wore t-shirts advocating for survivor awareness and others donned the color purple in solidarity.
“I'm really enjoying the diversity in terms of the different survivors represented, turning the focus away from this narrative of male-on-female violence,” said Syd Rosen, a School of Arts and Sciences junior present at the event that is also a part of VPVA. “We know that’s the most statistically prevalent but we also know that's not the only way violence happens. We need to be more aware about violence against men, people of color and queer people.”
Rosen also noted that the event was “one of the most successful” events they had seen to date.
The event also featured improvisation games, a wellness room and crafts. While people made bracelets and decorated mugs, more music and poetry could be heard in the background. Bands played everything from smooth melodic piano pieces to covers of “We’re Not Gonna Take It” by Twisted Sister. Organizers underscored inclusion present at the event.
“This is a space for everybody to be apart of and add to the conversation,” Pauwels said.
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