On campus

AMEND Together addresses women’s violence through virtual event.

Thousands of women suffer from sexual assault or domestic violence every day, and the number keeps climbing. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, one in four women suffer from some form of domestic or sexual violence.

To raise awareness, Tech invited AMEND Together’s Executive Director Shan Foster to provide a keynote address. Foster’s AMEND focuses on educating men and boys to become the solution to ending violence toward women and girls. 

Tech’s Project Awaken member Marissa Finger logged into this late February virtual event to listen to Foster’s advocacy.  She said she was interested in hearing his message because he is a former NBA player, a man of color and chooses to speak about sexual assault and domestic violence.

“Foster’s event was important to me because I do not think that victims of abuse, assault, or harassment should be the only ones advocating and creating change,” Finger said. 

Another attendee, Tech student Cole Jennings, said he’s always been an advocate for preventing dating and gender-based violence. The primary drive behind his avid support is the relationship between he and his sister. He said he’s always been protective of her, so learning how to be a better advocate just made sense.

“Something that was impactful for me was Shan’s philosophy on ‘being a man,’” Jennings said. “What does ‘being a man’ mean? Shan explained that having ultimate respect for women and not objectifying them in a negative way is what ‘being a man’ is.”

Jennings said it was important Tech hosted this event because traumatizing crimes such as rape and abuse happen more frequently on college campuses than one might realize. He said Foster’s pro-women messages taught others to not only respect women but each other. 

“Another concept that was discussed was the stereotype that ‘boys will be boys,’” Jennings said. “Shan discussed that society has gotten so used to this stereotype that it makes guys think it’s okay to freely objectify women, and that there will be no repercussions because ‘boys will be boys.’ This is exactly what separates the boys from the men, as ‘being a man’ is abolishing this unfortunate stereotype and influencing and guiding others that objectifying women is not an okay thing to do.”

As part of the online conference, Foster addressed the heavy burden of isolationism victims might feel as a result of gender-based abuse. Finger said it’s important those who are suffering through trauma are not alone. 

“Foster advised us to ask our friends and family in order to offer support because we never know if they are in an abusive relationship, especially a mentally abusive relationship,” Finger said. “He emphasized the importance of men showing up for women and working against our current rape culture…if [victims] do not have allies, then we will continue to see victim blaming, targeted harassment, and people claiming victims ‘are just too soft’ or ‘easily triggered.’ Our culture cannot continue to exist the way it does, and I think Shane Foster and allies have a significant role to play in changing it.”

Both Finger and Jennings believed the virtual event was an extra step toward eradicating gender-based violence.

Foster serves as the Vice President of External Affairs for YWCA Nashville & Middle Tennessee. He is a Vanderbilt University graduate and played for the Dallas Mavericks from 2008 to 2013. 

The AMEND Together keynote address was streamed through Zoom February 23.