Drivers honk while pedestrians wave and shout thank you at more than dozen Stand Up Men who make an appearance every Friday from noon-1 p.m. at the courthouse lawn, spreading the message to stop domestic violence and sexual assault. These well-known men are launching a new project.
“Our campaign goal is to raise $45,000 to expand community and school outreach,” Stand Up Men’s Larry Greene said.
The Stand Up Men formed nearly four years ago to support SAFE San Juans’ goal of reducing domestic violence and sexual assault in the county, and have become prominent figures in the community. Since it’s inception approximately five years ago, the group has grown from just a handful to more than 20 active members who provide examples of positive male role models. They have assisted survivors of abuse move into safe houses, inspired young men and have made a presence at the courthouse each Friday to remind the community that domestic abuse does happen in the islands.
“These men are amazing: they have never missed a Friday, even in the snow,” said Kim Bryan, director of SAFE San Juans, a local nonprofit with the mission to, prevent and eliminate domestic violence and sexual assault through helping victims, educating the community, facilitating awareness and encouraging cultural and social change. Statistics show that across the United States, one in three women and one in six men will experience a form of sexual violence in their lifetime, according to SAFE San Juan’s documents.
Under this new project, major donors will now contribute to just this one campaign rather than individual events like the SAFE on the Rock 5K run, or the spring fashion show. According to Courtney Smith, SAFE San Juans legal advocate and programs manager, existing fundraising events will still occur, and contributors will still have name recognition at the event.
Now, however, the money will be under one umbrella.
Greene explained that the funds would go toward a variety of outreach programs like working with businesses to provide those interested with information about what abuse looks like and what can be done once spotted.
“For example, we know we have sex trafficking on the island,” Bryan said. “We know because we have worked with survivors.
With help from the new campaign, we would work with businesses and schools to educate them to recognize the signs.”
Smith added that in previous years, SAFE San Juans worked with the athletic department in the schools, partnering with national domestic violence nonprofit Future’s Without Violence, to incorporate programs like “Coaching Boys into Men,” which trains and motivates high school coaches to teach young male athletes healthy relationship skills and that violence never equals strength. For the girls basketball team, according to Smith SAFE San Juans used the program “Athletes as Leaders” to empower young women to take an active role in promoting healthy relationships and ending sexual violence.
With additional funding, SAFE plans on expanding similar prevention and outreach projects.
Sixty percent of money raised will go toward education in county schools, 20 percent will fund education and collaborative efforts with community professionals, and the remaining 20 percent would provide multiple community awareness and prevention education projects for adults, according to SAFE San Juans.
“Prevention is so important because it helps if you catch problems early on. The whole community will be healthier,” Greene said.
For info, visit safesj.org.