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From Tim Wernette

Want to share a powerful experience I recently had up in Kingman High School.  I was invited to participate in a morning assembly program (around 500 students) addressing a variety of violence issues.  My presentation on sexual harassment prevention was first, followed by a police officer and DA discussing legal aspects of domestic violence/sexual assault and the cycle of violence (honeymoon, tension, violence, honeymoon…), followed by a young woman (in her 30’s) who spoke about surviving a violent relationship and her sister being killed by her abusive husband (who then committed suicide) and finally a young woman who survived an abusive relationship and sang songs about her experience of abuse.

At the end of the program all of us sat up on the stage and answered questions from the students, and I requested if I could end with a few comments.  I told the students I wanted to share something very personal with them, and waited until they were quiet.  I told them that I sat in the back of the auditorium and cried when I listened to the woman talk about losing her sister to domestic violence.  I told them how incredibly sad/broken-hearted and angry I am that there is so much violence in our society, that we imprison more people than any other country, that we spend more money on our military than the next 8-10 countries combined, that we’re one of the most violent, gun-toting countries in the world.  I challenged them to think about the gender stereotyping that encourages young men to be aggressive, controlling, and violent and encourages young women to be sexy, passive and to accept abusive relationships.  I told them that earlier this morning I read the back of a student’s shirt which had printed: “Bulldog’s Laws:” (Kingman High School mascot is “bulldog”) “No Fear” and “Never Surrender”.  I asked the students to think about what that teaches boys and young men about being a man.  I told them that I had never met Amy’s brother-in-law (who killed her sister and committed suicide), but I knew him well: beneath his anger and violence was a scared little boy who feared losing his wife (she had filed for divorce) and was scared about how to live without her.  I told them that all of us, boys and girls, women and men, are victims of these gender stereotypes and I invited them to examine their impact on their lives and perhaps reconsider what kind of woman and man they wanted to become.

Tim Wernette has been a gender equity educator in Arizona for over 25 years. This is his second contribution to this website. Thanks Tim.

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