INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.––Shan Foster, a former NBA basketball star and director of a YWCA program to combat domestic violence, urged men attending the National Gathering of UM Men to be “part of the solution” to violence against women and girls.
“Men and boys have become so desensitized to the violence that we buy tickets to games in support of athletes who beat their wives and vote for men in elections who normalize disrespecting women’s bodies by saying, ‘It’s just locker room talk’,” said Foster.
The all-time leading scorer for the Vanderbilt University basketball team cited five truths men need to know about domestic violence:
- One in four women experiences domestic violence in her lifetime.
- One in four women experiences sexual assault or abuse before she reaches age 18.
- One in five women is sexually assaulted or raped during college.
- Every day three women are killed by men who say they love them.
- 15.5 million children witness abuse in the U.S. every year
“It’s this culture that is objectifying women and girls and it’s this culture that we must challenge and change,” said Foster.
He offered six principles to change the culture:
- Be you. Be who God has called you to be.
- Learn and share. Social media have taken this world by storm with 21.25 million Facebook posts, 347,222 tweets, and 300 You Tube videos posed every minute. But there is little meaningful discussion and learning. Recalling how the marriages of both of his grandmothers ended in divorce because of violence and how his mother was physically and emotionally abused by her first husband, Foster said, “As a young boy, I could never talk about the violence I saw. It wasn’t manly to do so. So I held it in.” He urged men to share and learn from their experiences.
- Choose wisely. Foster told about an experience at Vanderbilt when he was challenged to fight. A teammate advised him, “If you fight him, win or lose, it won’t make you a man, it will make you stupid.” “Sometimes being a man means walking away. Who cares what others think,” said Foster.
- Speak up. “Our silence is a problem,” he said. “We have a problem when men find it more important to fit in and not offend, than to call out the sexist jokes that we hear in the locker room. It’s not women’s responsibility to stop men from objectifying them, it’s ours.”
- Encourage and celebrate. “We must celebrate men in our community who get it right and encourage young men and boys so they won’t get it wrong.”
- Contribute. “Find ways to support programs, initiatives and efforts that teach healthy manhood and healthy relationships. When you give of your time, money and efforts, it connects your heart to a mission greater than yourself,” said Foster. He reported the UM Men are helping develop an 8-week curriculum where men can discuss the root causes of violence, define healthy manhood, and learn how to safely intervene in situations that objectify women and support violence.