"At Men Stopping Violence, we are clear that men’s violence against women will not end until men assume more responsibility for the problem as well as the solutions."
Meet Ulester Douglas
Men Stopping Violence
commitment to pragmatic activism has fueled the work of Ulester Douglas for two decades. The men and women who have had contact with Men Stopping Violence, the Atlanta-based organization where Douglas serves as director of training, have been witnesses to and beneficiaries of that commitment.
Douglas did not, however, start his journey in this work. Traveling from his St. Kitts’ birthplace to enter the University of Michigan in 1982, Douglas had plans for a career in communications; he received his bachelor’s degree in that field. But, energized by the South African divestment movement of the 1980s, which was very active at the U of Michigan, Douglas developed an interest in work that connected to a larger social justice movement. He also decided to seek a graduate degree in social work.
“My interest in community organizing and clinical work made social work the ideal profession and Michigan the ideal school,” said Douglas. “I was able to major in interpersonal practice and minor in community organizing.”
One of the highlights of Douglas’ social work education was being awarded a National Institute of Mental Health Graduate Fellowship. This was an intensive and extensive clinical training, under the guidance of Dr. Kathleen Faller, in providing therapeutic services for families affected by incest.
After graduation in 1992, Douglas worked as a family therapist at the YWCA counseling center in Grand Rapids, Mich., where he also facilitated groups for men who batter women. When Douglas decided to move to Atlanta, he knew he wanted to continue in violence prevention. Men Stopping Violence was the ideal place to put his passion into practice.
“I had read about Men Stopping Violence before I arrived in Atlanta,” he said. “I was impressed and inspired by their approach to addressing men’s violence against women.”Male allies as agents of social change
When Douglas joined Men Stopping Violence in 1994, he became part of a social change organization that seeks to actively engage men in the work of ending violence against women.
“Patriarchy insists on defining violence against women as a women’s issue, one that men need not be concerned about, despite evidence that most of the crimes committed against women are perpetrated by men,” said Douglas. “At Men Stopping Violence, we are clear that men’s violence against women will not end until men assume more responsibility for the problem as well as the solutions.”
The notion that men have both the power and the responsibility to end male violence against women is part of the framework of Men Stopping Violence’s programs and policies. MSV works from a set of core principles that includes such concepts as listening to women’s reality, community accountability, and intersectionality – the interrelationship between violence and other forms of oppression, such as racism, heterosexism and classism.
Most important to MSV’s day-to-day work with men, is the principle that organizing male allies in communities takes precedence over intervening with batterers. While MSV does work with batterers, the organization focuses on encouraging all men to take responsibility for the culture that condones violence against women. This approach means that in MSV classes men who have been identified as batterers share space with men who have not.Community-based prevention
Community-based approaches are built into MSV programs. This is quite evident in programs such as the Internship, which invites young men to explore the work of addressing violence against women through education, mentoring and real-world experiences. Many Internship graduates have gone on to positively impact their communities. Among MSV Internship graduates are pastors, law school and graduate school students, advocates in violence prevention and intervention programs, and others.
Another initiative that engages men in a community setting is Because We Have Daughters™, a program that encourages fathers to see the world through the eyes of their daughters. At monthly gatherings, fathers and daughters have fun and forge stronger connections, but also take time to consider safety issues facing girls and young women.
MSV is also developing a new curriculum designed to engage men, whether identified as abusive/violent or not, in becoming agents of social change. This course will provide men the opportunity to learn more about men’s violence against women and offer practical ways men make a difference in their home and communities.
“Working on this curriculum has been exciting for me, because its community-based focus is right in line with where I started in this work,” Douglas said. “I know that I have made the right choice about the work I do and where I do it, when after 14 years, I still look forward to going to work and still believe that what we do really makes a difference in women’s lives.”