Men launch anti-domestic violence group in North County

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NORTH ADAMS — What has the community done to address violence?

And what gaps remain?

Though domestic violence has been a long-standing issue in the Northern Berkshires, a community dialogue began in earnest following the homicide of in January.

In March, the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition dedicated its monthly forum to sparking discussion about — and action to address — domestic violence.

On Friday, the coalition again dedicated its monthly forum to the topic, this time circling back to see what progress has been made locally and what still needs to be done to confront the ongoing problem.

That the forum occurred in October — Domestic Violence Awareness Month — was no coincidence.

At the March forum, community members highlighted the need for men to become involved in addressing domestic violence, including by being a role model.

"We know that not everyone participates in domestic violence, and we wanted to make clear that there's other ways of being a man and being masculine in this environment, without it being that toxic masculinity that so often results in relational violence," said Benjamin Lamb.

So following the meeting, Lamb and a number of other volunteers formed MIC INC — Men Initiating Change In North County.

"We wanted this to be something where it was an ongoing dialogue and there was ongoing action to curb those behaviors in our community," Lamb said.

The group has met monthly to determine its objectives, largely modeling itself on similar groups elsewhere.

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"We don't have all the answers, we never will have all the answers, and we really want to get feedback from the community," Lamb said.

So far, the group has participated in events like the Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event to benefit the Elizabeth Freeman Center, raising $500. From 4 to 6 p.m. Tuesday, the group will hold a standout in front of North Adams City Hall.

"Our mission is really around working towards raising up and empowering women and girls and marginalized groups in our community from our own point of privilege," Lamb said.

After the March meeting, the Elizabeth Freeman Center hosted a three-hour North County training for 45 law enforcement officials, and a second session is being planned.

The nonprofit, which offers a variety of services to the community, also has worked to establish a presence at all high schools in the Northern Berkshires. It hosted another Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event in Pittsfield, which drew more than 800 participants and raised more than $90,000.

"It feels like a growing community movement against violence," said Janis Broderick, executive director of the Elizabeth Freeman Center.

About 75 people gathered at the First Baptist Church on Friday to participate in the conversation, which featured four working groups that sought to address relational violence from different perspectives.

Though progress was marked, questions persisted and potential improvements were highlighted in each working group.

In one group, Elizabeth Freeman Center officials noted the connections between rural populations and relational violence. In another group, community members highlighted potential for improvement in areas such as educating boys about sexual consent.

The nature of those conversations, the group hopes, will encourage people to produce such ideas. October's meeting served as proof that those ideas can lead to action.

Adam Shanks can be reached at ashanks@berkshireeagle.com, at @EagleAdamShanks on Twitter, or 413-629-4517.


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