Registration is now open for the fall 2021 session of the Man|Made program through Western Health and Wellness.
The five-week online discussion series aims to help students who identify as male, become upstanders in preventing gender-based and sexual violence. It is facilitated by Anova, a London, Ont.-based organization providing support and services for survivors of gender-based and sexual violence.
The two-hour weekly modules begin Monday, Nov. 8, and focus on masculinity, consent, pornography, accountability and bystander interventions. Participants can include the course on their co-curricular record, an official document from the university that chronicles participation in activities outside of the classroom.
The Man|Made program, first launched in 2015, frames “gender-based violence in the context of the post-secondary environment and young people,” said Terry McQuaid, director, wellness and well-being and co-chair of Western’s newly established Gender-Based & Sexual Violence Action Committee. “We absolutely need to be survivor-centric in creating safe spaces within a population of emerging young adults across the gender spectrum that includes males.
“The program uses a developmental learning model, allowing male-identified individuals to ask questions and understand what consent means from that side of the conversation, among other individuals who are male,” McQuaid said. “Broadly speaking, young men are working up against stereotypes around the ‘ideal male’ and the toxic masculinity that is part of the world we live in right now. The program helps them see how they can be the upstander in those moments.”
Agents of change
With a focus on survivors of gender-based and sexual violence, the overall goal of the program is to show men they can create change for themselves and their community.
The program views participants not as perpetrators, but as agents of social change.
“Man|Made is really helpful for men who are open to understanding the impact of their actions and wanting to do better. It provides a welcoming space where they can learn,” said AnnaLise Trudell, manager of education, training and research at Anova.
Trudell facilitated the program for the first three years it ran at Western and has seen the program grow along with its participants.
“There are so few spaces where men can do an emotional deep dive into what causes their behaviour, and that is the work that is needed to actually stop and address the trauma,” Trudell said.
Program facilitators lead the group discussions, with the first session examining the different ways gender-based and sexual violence shows up in our society and the pressures around masculinity.
“We talk about everything from locker room talk, drunk sex, which is assault, to touching and verbal harassment on the street,” she said. “We look at how this behaviour is so connected to being a certain kind of male in our society, and then we take a look at the impact of those actions.”
By fostering a place for peer connection, and through dialogue and reflective activities, participants are challenged to step into accountability. They learn what constitutes an effective apology by discussing celebrities who’ve missed the mark, and how to learn how to speak up to facilitate change.
“A lot of guys on campus have been through some form of bystander training, but in the small group context, we talk about ‘guy-to-guy’ situations,” Trudell said. “For example, how do you intervene when your friend is saying something in the locker room, or in a bar, getting a girl drunk? How do you balance the social capital loss?”
The Man|Made program began following Western’s launch of a stand-alone policy on gender-based and sexual violence in 2014. Western was one of the first Canadian universities to implement such policy.
In response to an action plan introduced by the Ontario government to eradicate sexual violence and harassment on postsecondary campuses in 2015, the university sought to balance its judicial process with prevention education.
“Western provided leadership in the early days of acknowledging the need for a program like this and worked with us to develop it,” Trudell said. The program has since been offered at Fanshawe College and more recently, seven other postsecondary schools have trained facilitators through Anova.
Knowing more young men have access to this type of education is heartening for Trudell.
“Facilitating directly with men is where I find the most hope,” she said. “It’s the part of the work that will lead to change and stop sexual violence.”
Western offers a range of survivor-focused supports, including a dedicated gender-based violence and survivor support case manager. Survivors have support options, including making a disclosure, filing a complaint and/or requesting support. In emergency situations, Western’s Special Constable Service and St. Joseph’s Health Care Regional Sexual Assault Program are available 24/7. Anova (formerly, Sexual Assault Centre of London) also operates a 24/7 support and crisis line at 519-642-3000.