Men in Prevention by Matt Brown

Safe Harbor Voice  |  November 19, 2020
Men in Prevention by Matt Brown

Hey y’all – for those of you who haven’t met me yet, my name is Matt (he/him/his)! I work at Safe Harbor as a primary prevention coordinator on our REP team and primarily work in Greenville County. In my two years working at Safe Harbor, I can say that every week at Safe Harbor I learn something new – whether it be a new experience, a new emotion to process, a story to hear, or a project to design – I’m privileged to be on this journey with such wonderful staff!  
In light of International Men’s Day, I wanted to share a few thoughts of my own! 
As a primary prevention coordinator, I spend time in conversation with teens about intimate partner violence, healthy relationships, and the role that Safe Harbor plays in assisting and empowering survivors. In one of our lessons – depending on if I have a boys-only class or not – I’ll run an activity that our team took from a documentary called The Mask You Live In. The activity has the students anonymously answer two questions:  
What is the mask you wear – what do the people you interact with see of you? What are you known for? What’s your role at school? 
What is behind the mask – what are you using the mask to cover up? What don’t you let people see about you? 
Short plug: the movie is available on amazon prime. Highly recommend watching. Anything I’m about to say in no way does justice to the insight of that film.  
Without question, the large majority of the young men will have written down a word associated with emotion and/or trauma below the mask: ‘sadness, depression, thoughts of suicide, violence in the home, anger,’ etc.  
What do they use to hide those emotions and experiences? Often times, it’s something like: ‘I’m the class joker’, ‘tough’, ‘athletic’, ‘player’, and the list goes on.  
For whoever is reading this: I encourage you to dig into the severity of this problem, but also recognize the hope that is in these moments. Here’s the hope that I’m learning to see: Men can be willing to open up about the pain and trauma in their life – but you have to know them well enough to offer them in a space where that willingness can grow. Here’s the problem: We are not offering that space enough, and it is often non-existent. This is an international issue – we all have a part to play.   
Celebrate strength. Lift up vulnerability. Give each man the space to be themselves with accountability and support from those around them. 
“All of us have to recognize that being a man is first and foremost being a good human. That means being responsible, working hard, being kind, respectful, compassionate. If you’re confident about your strength, you don’t need to show me by putting somebody else down. Show me by lifting somebody else up.” – Barack Obama 

I am a survivor of domestic violence.

“I didn’t know that I was being abused...

I am a survivor of domestic violence.

“I didn’t know that I was being abused because my definition of abuse looked different. My husband pushed me, but most of my suffering was verbal and psychological. I left my husband to protect our young daughter. Almost immediately I felt the weight of his oppression begin to lift. I could see a difference in my daughter as well. Then he broke into my home and assaulted me in-front of her.

I sought help and was led to Safe Harbor. My daughter and I are in counseling now. I am sorting out the mess that abuse has caused. I am finding my voice and seeking opportunities to grow and better my life as well as my daughter's. She will gauge her self-worth from my own self-worth. I must show her that she deserves the best, by expecting the best for myself.

Many years I suffered in silence. By telling my story and being honest with friends and family, I am taking control of my life again.”

- Beth



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