Stop before it starts: Winona County group continues work on sexual, domestic violence

March 11, 2014 6:41 am • By Hannah Jones

When President Barack Obama started the conversation on stopping sexual assault on college campuses in his State of the Union address this year, his remarks continued a conversation closer to home.

Just another step in the process, said Joe Morse and Lynn Theurer, chairman and secretary of the Winona County Primary Prevention Project, one in the right direction.

“We’re seeing stars and lights in the dark,” Theurer said.

The Primary Prevention Project, a group working on issues of sexual and domestic violence and now in its seventh year, will host a free talk Thursday at Winona Health on the topic.

Theurer, a former Winona County community health services director, said addressing the problem begins with understanding its scope.

“People need to get the concept of the harm sexual and domestic violence can do,” she said.

For every incident there are costs, not just to the individual but to the community. Perpetrators are caught and jailed. Survivors need medical care and sometimes counseling — not to mention time to recover. Compounded with the years of “life loss potential,” Theurer said, Minnesota ended up spending about $8 billion on sexual assault in 2005.

The cost to the community alone, Morse said, is reason enough to get the rest of the community — particularly men — involved in the conversation.

“We need to stop seeing this as a women’s issue or a family issue,” Morse said.

Morse is the president of Beyond Tough Guise, a partner to the Primary Prevention Project. Beyond Tough Guise is an organization for Winona-area men to reach out to other men and change attitudes and behaviors.

Beyond Tough Guise and the Primary Prevention Project are both attempting to “fish upstream,” Morse said — stopping sexual assault and domestic violence before they happen.

“Winona has some really good intervention programs,” Morse said. “But all of that occurs after the incident.”

Winona County’s coordinated community response program allows different organizations in the community such as the Women’s Resource Center, health services and criminal justice services to communicate and work together in the wake of a sexual assault.

Both prevention and intervention, Morse said, are essential. But until this year, intervention has received much more coverage.

The project’s main initiatives this year are to raise awareness and educate about healthy behavior in a birth to grade three curriculum, implement prevention education programs at Winona-area businesses and engage the community in spreading the message with events like Thursday’s talk.

All of that begins, Morse said, at the source: upstream.

“If you hear an anti-woman joke, say it’s not funny. When you see violence against women, say, ‘Can I be helpful? Can I take you home?'” he said. “Every man can do that at any time. That’s going to make the biggest difference.”

Men must engage to stop domestic violence (10/23/2013)


By Chris Rogers

In a glossy magazine advertisement, two bikini-clad women hang on either side of rakish man while he points pistols at them. At a Minnesota State Fair radio booth, talk show hosts discuss when it is okay for a husband to murder his wife. A culture where such things are permissible breeds sexual and domestic violence, advocates for prevention say, but it does not have to be that way.
Men have a crucial role to play in changing that culture — they need to speak out, argue local groups. Men Breaking the Silence to Prevent Men’s Violence is the title and mission for a new campaign led by local anti-violence groups Beyond Tough Guise, the Winona Women’s Resource Center, the Winona County Primary Prevention Project, and the Winona State University Gender Based Violence Advocacy Program. The organizations are focused on stopping domestic abuse and sexual assault before it starts, and they do not mince words about what gender is responsible for the majority of such violence. In the last decade, 250 Minnesotan women have been murdered by husbands or boyfriends, they report. A new concept has been gaining popularity among anti-sexual violence groups and local governments: the idea that combatting machismo and instilling a greater respect for women may be the key to stopping rapes and murders.

Winona Mayor Mark Peterson will introduce a screening of an award-winning documentary on culture and sexual violence for Breaking the Silence’s kickoff next week, and a talk with documentary writer and St. Paul representative Michael Paymar and Minnesota Men’s Action Network co-founder Chuck Derry will follow the film. Paymar developed the documentary “With Impunity” with the late women’s advocacy hero Ellen Pence.

Paymar himself began fighting domestic violence by accident. He was a City Council member in Duluth when men in his district committed a rash of rapes. Distraught citizens, women’s advocates, and local leaders sought ways to prevent such tragedies, and their efforts led to one of the most successful sexual violence prevention programs in history and inspired prevention programs adopted by Winona County and the city of Winona.

“We’ve done a good job of changing the laws in this country” regarding domestic violence, said Paymar. “But changing the laws are not good enough,” he continued. “We can create all the laws we want, but until we change the culture, this attitude that boys and men have about women will still lead to violence.”

Breaking the Silence is based on a simple but bold concept: viewing women as sexual objects and believing in male superiority makes it easier for men to abuse women and harder for them to relate as equals.

“We want to encourage community leaders, particularly men, to start talking about how to prevent sexual violence,” explained Beyond Tough Guise President Joe Morse.

Fair warning, for some, the message behind “With Impunity” may not be an easy one to hear. Paymar and his cast of abuse experts indict popular video games, jean advertisements, pornography, and even professional sports for contributing to what they deem as a degrading form of sexuality. The greater emphasis of Break the Silence, however, is an attempt to get men talking about and modeling respect for women and intolerance for sexism and violence.

Men need to send the message that being a real man means caring about your community and the women in your life, Morse said. Challenging friends’ sexist jokes is not easy, said “With Impunity” main character, Hector Matascastillo, a former abuser turned abuse counselor, but “If you’re comfortable then you’re not growing.” Admitting you have mistreated women is not easy either, he continues, but “courage comes when you start taking responsibility.”

Breaking the Silence to End Men’s Violence will screen “With Impunity” on Monday, October 28, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in the Student Activity Center, downstairs in Winona State University’s Kryzsko Commons.
Copyright © 2014, Winona Post, All Rights Reserved.

‘We can change this’

With Impunity Deco Art

Beyond Tough Guise and the Women’s Resource Center of Winona will screen “With Impunity: Men and Gender Violence” at 6:30 p.m. Monday night in Kryzsko Commons at Winona State University. After the film, State Rep. Michael Paymar, DFL-St. Paul, and Chuck Derry, co-founder of Gender Violence Institute and the Minnesota Men’s Action Network will lead a community dialogue about ways to prevent gender-based violence.
By Abby Eisenberg

If You Go

What: Screening of “With Impunity: Men and Gender Violence,” followed by an open conversation

When: 6:30 p.m. Monday

Where: Kryzsko Commons, Winona State University.

Details: Free and open to the public

Film, discussion Monday to launch two-year effort in Winona County to prevent gender-based violence

Joe Morse wants men to start talking about sexual violence.

To get the conversation going, his group Beyond Tough Guise, along with the Women’s Resource Center of Winona, will screen the film “With Impunity: Men and Gender Violence” at 6:30 p.m. Monday at Winona State University’s Kryzsko Commons.

After the film there will be a dialogue led by film developer and state Rep. Michael Paymar, DFL-St. Paul, and Chuck Derry, co-founder of Gender Violence Institute and the Minnesota Men’s Action Network.

“What we believe is that if well-meaning men are silent, then abusive or violent men take that to mean that what they are doing is OK,” Morse said.

Monday’s screening will also launch a two-year countywide project funded by a state grant that will focus on preventing gender-based violence.

Other aspects of the project include the development of a curriculum for young students through third-grade students that focuses on gender equality, and creating a model policy for businesses and companies to adopt to prevent gender-based violence.

“It’s a terrible problem, but the good news is we know how we can change this,” Morse said.

The film “With Impunity” was developed in St. Paul by Paymar and his late colleague, Ellen Pence. It tells the story of an abusive Minnesota man who after working his way through counseling and the court system was able to change his behavior. The 2012 film was nominated for a 2013 Midwest Regional Emmy Award.

The way Paymar sees it, society has done a good job at intervening in sexual violence cases by enacting laws and working with the criminal justice system.

But it hasn’t done so well at preventing the cases.

Part of his purpose in creating the film was to prompt discussion among community leaders about what they can do differently when it comes to speaking up against and preventing gender-based violence. That question is central to the conversation he hopes to lead Monday night.

“It’s a discussion that’s long overdue,” Paymar said.


Published October 12, 2013, 12:00 AM

Duluth men’s group calls for action against sex trafficking

A men’s forum on sexual trafficking in Duluth won’t just discuss the issue, an organizer said. It also will call for practical steps to address the problem. By: John Lundy, Duluth News Tribune

A men’s forum on sexual trafficking in Duluth won’t just discuss the issue, an organizer said. It also will call for practical steps to address the problem.”Understanding that the demand for trafficking is predominantly through men, it fits right in with Men as Peacemakers’ mission to take a look at how men can join women in being part of the solution,” said Ed Heisler, executive director of the nonprofit Duluth organization.

Men as Peacemakers is collaborating with the Program for Aid to Victims of Sexual Assault, the American Indian Community Housing Organization and Mending the Sacred Hoop to host the Men Against Trafficking Forum at 6:30 p.m. on Monday in Wellstone Hall of the Labor Temple, 2002 London Road.

The issue cuts close to home. Heisler cited the Duluth Trafficking Task Force survey released in April in which 63 people — 49 of them female — identified themselves as trafficking victims. Two of them said they were 9 or 10 when first exposed to prostitution.

It also has been exposed in recent criminal cases:

In July, a St. Paul man and a Northfield, Minn., woman were found guilty in Ramsey County District Court of sex trafficking a woman and a girl from Duluth.
In September, a Duluth man was found guilty of sex trafficking a teenager for nearly seven months in Duluth, the Twin Cities and the Chicago area.
Last week, three Milwaukee women were charged with child sex trafficking a 14-year-old runaway girl in Iron County, Wis.
Behind the statistics and the court logs are victims who are beaten, stalked and intimidated, said Chuck Deery, co-founder of the Gender Violence Institute in Clearwater, Minn., and the Minnesota Men’s Action Network.

“We listen to survivor stories, and it’s just unbelievable,” said Deery, who will attend Monday’s forum. “It’s torture. That’s the closest word I can come up with.”

It will be up to the men at the forum to decide what to do, Heisler said, but there will be a call for action.

Among possible approaches that have been tried elsewhere:

“The Mending Project,” in which “male-oriented or male-run businesses provide goods and services that women and children need,” in Deery’s words.
The idea, he said, is to help women emerging from being trafficked or other forms of sexual violence at a time when they are economically vulnerable.

A group called “Beyond Tough Guise” initiated a Mending Project in Winona, Minn., about nine months ago. Joe Morse, president of the organization’s board, said an optometrist offered no-cost or low-cost eye exams, a tire company offered a set of tires for one vulnerable woman and a handyman service offered home repairs.

Establishing a “clean hotel policy,” in which businesses, public and private organizations and municipalities refuse business to hotels and conference centers that provide pay-for-view pornography in their rooms.
The porn industry is linked to trafficking, Heisler said.

“There’s a good chance that what you’re watching could have a lot of pain and harm behind the scenes, because there is a lot of trafficking that bolsters the pornography industry,” he said.

Winona County government established a clean hotel policy three years ago, Morse said. The one-line policy says that no county employee will be reimbursed for a hotel stay if that hotel offers pay-for-view pornography in its rooms.

Such a policy can be effective, Morse said. For example, after that policy was established the county’s chief deputy called a major metro hotel and said his county’s delegation would not be able to stay there during a convention. Within a few weeks, that hotel removed access to pay-for-view porn, Morse said.

Monday’s forum is open to all, including women, Heisler said. But the idea is to get men into the discussion.

Deery said men tend to sit on the sidelines unless they’re specifically called to action. He’s seeing that to start to happen across the state, he said.

“It’s very heartening to see the current level of discussion about trafficking,” Deery said. “And it’s heartening to see more men stepping up because we don’t want to take pleasure in women’s pain.”

On the Web

Men As Peacemakers:

Gender Violence Institute:

Beyond Tough Guise :

Many hotels in Duluth and the Northland already are listed as “clean hotels.” You can click on a list at:

Ending violence in our community

Community columnist Stewart Shaw

A woman is called degrading names, deprived association with her female friends, and battered and bruised by her husband.A sleep-inducing drug is secretly placed in a co-ed’s drink. Her date then takes advantage of her temporary disability, and commits an act she would not knowingly consent to.

These and worse abuses of women and girls happen in our society because we glorify violence, tolerate an attitude of male dominance, and live in a culture that accepts the freedom of men to do pretty much anything they want to women.

One in three Minnesota women are sexually assaulted and/or physically abused in their lifetimes, according to a 2010 study of the Minnesota Women’s Foundation. Twenty-eight percent of all adult women in a relationship are victims of domestic violence on an annual basis, according to federal government agencies. One in four girls are sexually assaulted before they reach the age of 18, and 21 to 30 percent of college women report violence from their dating partner.

It is high time we put a stop to this national disgrace. We have law enforcement officers to protect women and girls and arrest people who commit crimes in which other people are the victims. In our community, we have the Women’s Resource Center to advocate for victims of abuse. We have courts and rehabilitative services and penal institutions to deal with abusers. But what we haven’t had, until recently, is an intentional program to prevent sexual and domestic abuse before it happens.

Two local organizations — Beyond Tough Guise and the Winona County Sexual and Domestic Violence Primary Prevention Project (WCSDVPPP) — are committed to stopping violence before it takes place.

Started in 2008, WCSDVPPP is a coalition of many citizens, health and human services, educational institutions, judicial services, professionals and their agencies, collaborating to develop community strategies for the prevention of sexual and domestic violence. It is responding to a survey in which 92 percent of Winona County citizens said they would support more community education on domestic and sexual violence. It has organized and trained people to speak to service clubs and other organizations about the effects of sexual and domestic abuse in our community.

The WCSDVPPP action plan for 2012 includes changing the practices of organizations that affect the health and safety of everyone, and influencing public policy and legislation. It also plans to provide people with information and resources that strengthen the capability of individuals to prevent sexual and domestic violence.

Beyond Tough Guise is a private organization of area citizens concerned about preventing domestic and sexual abuse. Organized in 2004, it has sponsored a community forum, developed a theater project in which high school students dramatized abusive situations before audiences of their peers and middle school students. Together with WCSDVPPP, it persuaded Winona County commissioners to adopt a first-in-the-nation “clean hotels” policy that called attention to the corrosive influence of pornography in our community.

Beyond Tough Guise projects planned for 2012 and 2013 include an effort to persuade men to stand up for women and girls who are at risk of abuse or violence or are actually being abused or harassed instead of passively standing by. Beyond Tough Guise also plans to respond to requests of university social fraternities and other student organizations to help them structure parties so that everyone has fun and no one is in danger of becoming a victim of aggression. And it will signal a plan to identify sources of pornography in our community, because its customers are more likely to act out the increasingly more violent images they see.

Ninety-five percent of all abuse and violence against other people is committed by men. Beyond Tough Guise focuses its efforts on changing the attitudes of men, modifying the image of a strong man to one who respects the dignity and worth of others, and altering our community’s accepted norms of male behavior. Its programs are based on the premise that men can more effectively change the behavior of other men than women can.

To date, Beyond Tough Guise’s work has depended entirely on volunteers. It wants to accelerate the pace of its activities in this critical area, beyond what volunteers alone can do. Currently it is conducting a campaign to raise funds to finance a part-time paid coordinator.

For more information about this campaign, call Joe Morse at 507-452-8232.

Stewart Shaw is a community columnist for the Winona Daily News.

County hotel policy is both ‘clean’ and good

Stewart Shaw | Community columnist

In his editorial, “Hotel ban meant well, missed mark,” Darrell Ehrlick wrote that in approving the clean hotels policy, Winona County Commissioners expressed a “good sentiment” and had the “best of intentions,” but had practiced “poor government.”

Ehrlick questions the involvement of the county in what he considers a “boycott,” especially if, like this one, the boycott is based on a moral issue.

It is important at the outset of any discussion of the wisdom of approving a clean hotels policy that we are clear about what it does and does not do.

This one says simply that except in special circumstances, which are described in the policy, the county will not reimburse its employees if they stay in hotels that offer pay-for-view adult movies.

It does not say that employees cannot watch pornography. It does not say that they cannot stay in hotels that sell porn viewing. It says only that if they do, they will not be reimbursed for their lodging expenses.

One of the goals of the policy is to help in some small way to reduce the rising cost of health care. Sexual and domestic abuse are now recognized both by the Minnesota Department of Health and the Winona County Public Health Department as public health issues. In a publication entitled “The Costs of Sexual Violence in Minnesota,” the Department of Health estimated that the cost of sexual abuse in the state in the year 2005 was almost $8 billion.

Loss of employee efficiency, work absences, mental health therapy counseling, unwanted pregnancies and other effects of sexual abuse were used in calculating this figure. On a per capita basis, Winona County’s share of that cost is in the neighborhood of $80 million.

Another goal of adopting the policy is to reduce the involvement of county government in dealing with sexual and domestic violence and abusive acts.

County Administrator, Duane Hebert, wrote to “all county users” in a recent memo that “the reason for the adoption of the policy is related to helping prevent activities that the county spends significant time, energy and effort dealing with after they occur.”

The state Department of Health has developed a website that lists all of the hotels that offer pay-for-view adult movies, and those that don’t.

Ehrlick implies that it is inappropriate for government, and since it represents all of us, the public, to act in any meaningful way to contain the influence of pornography. Presumably governmental units may still pass toothless resolutions opposing immoral practices, but may not take effective action on behalf of the commonweal.
As individuals we are left to express our regrets and wring our hands, but denied the legitimacy of collective effort to confront the damage that porn inflicts on our society, and to reduce its costs.

Pornography viewers expect to see people being dealt with in ways that make them victims. While it may be true that the actors who are paid to be photographed or filmed consent to being treated in the way they are, the activities and relationships that are depicted usually represent people being abused. Purveyors of porn respond to the demands of the market.

In a 2007 report, “Analyzing the Pornographic Text: Charting and Mapping Pornography Through Content Analysis,” researchers Robert Woznitser, Ana Bridges, and Erica Scharrer analyzed 50 films randomly selected from the top 250 grossing pornographic films of that year. Their research revealed that 90 percent of the activities in contemporary pornography were physically and/or verbally aggressive.

Is there really any relation between watching porn and acting out what is seen in violent and abusive ways?

Ehrlick argues “the conclusion that just because someone watches pornography means that person will become sexually violent or aggressive” requires “several large leaps of logic.”

His point is true only if one is thinking of deductive reasoning. Just as there is no certainty that an individual who smokes will get lung cancer, so there is no “proof” that someone will commit sexually violent or aggressive acts if he watches porn. But as in all conclusions based on empirical evidence, it is inductive, not deductive, logic that is used.

Research examines the behavior patterns of large groups of porn viewers, and compares their conduct with people who do not view it. Just as smokers are at greater risk of getting lung cancer than nonsmokers, so porn viewers are more likely to act violently than those who do not watch porn.

There are, of course, many reasons why people act abusively. Watching pornography is one of them. Research has shown correlations between pornography use and an increased risk of violence against women and children. Based on the evidence he found, researcher Edward Donnerstein concluded that “the relationships between particularly sexually violent images in the media and subsequent aggression … is much stronger statistically than the relationship between smoking and lung cancer.”

The first laws that banned smoking in public places were passed in localities, much like Winona County, by governmental boards who took seriously their responsibility to protect members of the public that they represented, and had the courage to take meaningful action, which would in some small measure make their community a more healthy and safer place in which to live.

Just as members of these boards are now honored, the Winona County commissioners deserve our respect and support, not only for their good intentions, but also for acting to prevent violence and abuse. Their good governing merits our commendation.

Copyright 2011 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Reprinted with permission