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Ottawa event asks how men can be allies

The Ottawa Coalition to End Violence Against Women is holding an event focusing on how men can be allies on Wednesday night.

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The allegations of rape and other sexual misconduct made about film mogul Harvey Weinstein, have sparked a conversation in North America about sexual assault and harassment than has ever taken place. 

Naturally, some of that conversation has focused not only on the accused men, but what men can do to end violence against women. It’s to that end that, on Wednesday night, the Ottawa Coalition to End Violence Against Women is hosting an event called “Male Allies: Holding Men Accountable.” 

For Matt Schaaf, coordinator of the MANifest Change program, this presented an opportunity for their organization, which focuses on men’s role in eliminating sexual violence. 

“We know that most guys aren’t violent,” he said. “If most guys aren’t violent, but most violence comes from guys, what do we do about that?”

The event, which will feature panel speakers from the Ottawa Rape Crisis Centre, New Directions and Circles of Support and Accountability — all groups that work with survivors of sexual violence — will focus on practical approaches to difficult situations. 

Most men, he said, are ill-equipped to respond to issues relating to sexual violence not due to malice or apathy, but because they simply don’t know what to say or do. 

“There’s awareness right now,” he said. “So, how do you translate awareness into change?” 

The event, Schaaf said, will be focused on empowering men, rather than creating a victim/perpetrator dichotomy. The skills that will be discussed are applicable, he said to many cases of violence—not just violence against women. 

“We want to reduce violence, not add fuel to the fire.” 

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