George Kilpatrick, a longtime Central New York media personality, co-chaired Vera House’s White Ribbon Campaign in 2009. In 2012, he was named the agency’s men’s outreach coordinator. After a 20-year-run, George Kilpatrick broadcast his final show on WSYR-AM (570) on March 30. His syndicated show, “New Inspiration for the Nation,” continues on WHEN-AM (620) and in nine other markets. Stay tuned: Kilpatrick expects to announce a new role with Clear Channel, which owns WSYR.
What’s the scope of Vera House’s men’s outreach programs?
We received a federal grant (through the Violence Against Women Act) for outreach to men and boys 13 and up. We run programs in high schools around violence prevention. We’re looking to intervene in the lives of men and boys before violence occurs. We also use the 12 Men Model. We ask one man to be in conversation with 11 peers to unpack some of the ways we can be better allies to the women and girls in their lives.
How do your programs address African-American men?
The culture of dominance, the culture of violence is pervasive across cultures. Some of the stories we tell, the words we use, may have the unintended consequence of allowing violence to occur. We know there are certain cultures where it appears women don’t have full rights. We want to create a space where people feel comfortable enough to break the silence. Maybe there’s a (comfort level) because I’m going into the churches that have large representations of African-Americans.
When did men become part of this conversation?
This area of prevention and men really taking leadership is new. Women have been doing this work for a long time. We need men at the table to take responsibility – not about what she’s wearing but about their actions. Men don’t talk to each other about relationships. We allow men the freedom to have conversations about the intimate details and pain they don’t get to express.
Give me an example.
I did a talk in (the county jail at) Jamesville. We talked about men’s expectations of women. There’s a language about putting a man down: he’s a b-word or a p-word. We’re trying to understand how those words become abusive when we describe a woman as less than a man.
What’s the value of the annual White Ribbon Campaign?
We really try to focus on the societal silence around domestic violence – that we’re ashamed to be in a relationship like that or we didn’t say something about someone’s behavior. We can’t just say, “I’m not that guy.” We have to examine our words. Do we know that guy? Do we go along or do we speak up?
What about men who are abused by women?
Our efforts are focused on men’s violence against women because 90 percent of the domestic violence is men against women. This does not excuse any violence by women against men. We provide services to anyone who is a victim. We think men can stop violence and men can stop rape.
How do you address the expanding understanding of gender identity and the changing definition of family?
We provide services to the LGBTQ community. We talk about masculinity, and when the issue comes up. We know that homophobia is connected to this issue. Gender identity is a new area for us, and we have some training to talk about it.
You work with 13-year-old boys. That seems awfully young.
Are you in the middle schools? We’re in a culture that is highly sexualized. Because of the media and social media, we can’t start this too early.
How do you talk about these issues with your children?
I have a son, who is 20. I have three girls: 18, 14 and 12. I am really blunt. I am that parent whose daughters have to stop me: “TMI, Dad, TMI.” The best I can do for my daughters is to show my wife (Gloria) love and respect. If I do that, they’ll know what to expect in a relationship.
COACHING MEN INTO BOYS
Free violence prevention program for athletic coaches designed to inspire them to teach young male athletes about the importance of respect for themselves, others and women and girls.
Wednesday, April 30, 6 to 9 p.m.
Gifford Foundation, 126 N. Salina St., 100 Clinton Square, Syracuse
For information, call (315) 425-0818, ext. 228.
Renée K. Gadoua is a freelance writer and editor based in Manlius. Follow her on Twitter @ReneeKGadoua.