Reimaging Manhood

A Guest Blog by Middlesex Sheriff Peter J. Koutoujian. Peter is the co-chair of Ma White Ribbon Day 2016. Peter K

As a prosecutor, legislator and now as Sheriff, I have seen firsthand the horrific results of gender-based violence.

I’ve prosecuted those accused of sexual assault, sponsored legislation to provide victims of stalking more tools to protect themselves, and held in my custody hundreds of men accused and convicted of unspeakable acts of domestic violence. But it’s not enough to pass laws and prosecute offenders after the fact – we need to do more to prevent violence from ever occurring in the first place.

That’s why I got involved in the inaugural White Ribbon Day Campaign here in the Commonwealth nine years ago. Men possess a unique voice which must be heard loud and clear as we seek to end violence against women – it’s how we will create healthier relationships and communities. Men must stand up and be counted. That means we must speak up, speak out and model positive behavior for all those around us.

When I was young, I was fortunate to have men in my life – most especially my dad – who modeled that very behavior of which I speak. They not only told me what it meant to be a man and what healthy relationships were all about – they showed me through their everyday actions.

Being a man means showing strength through love and strong moral character, never through the use of force or violence.

As Co-Chair of this year’s White Ribbon Day Campaign I hope to place an emphasis on direct outreach to high school and college-aged teens and young men whose ideas about healthy relationships are still being formed. The statistics tell us this is a crucial age at which to intervene, and it’s here I believe we can make the most immediate and long-lasting impact.

Nearly 33 percent of young people aged 14-20 reported having been involved in an abusive relationship according to the American Psychological Association, while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report approximately 1.5 million high school students experienced physical abuse from a partner in one year. The effects of this violence on victims can be long lasting, and put victims at risk for further domestic violence.

As men, we can – and we must – do more to prevent this.

When we talk about Reimaging Manhood, we are not talking about creating something that’s never existed, but rather about modeling a value system and moral code, which already exists in thousands of men across the Commonwealth. It’s the value system instilled in me by my father and in him by his father before that. And it’s what I hope I am instilling in my own two boys. It’s a value system that must be passed on from generation to generation - a value system that says you never lay your hands on your partner in anger; that says healthy relationships are built on love & respect, not threats & intimidation; and that says men hold other men responsible for their actions.

These were once the societal norms and they can be again, but only if we can successfully model these values and engage young men and boys in constructive dialogue about positive masculinity.

That is what I recommit myself to doing today and I hope you will join me.