When: Tue., Nov. 29, 5 p.m. 2016
So often in cases of domestic violence and sexual assault, the onus of responsibility falls on the survivor, especially if that survivor is a woman. People will ask what she was wearing, how much she had to drink, why she was walking alone at night or even what she did to deserve it.
The fact is, sexual and domestic violence is never the fault of the survivor. Period. So why does the responsibility for ending this violence fall on survivors as well?
This question occurred to Ben Atherton-Zeman many years ago, and the women in his life advised him not to just get mad, but to do something about it.
After working in rape crisis centers and in domestic violence prevention, he took his show, Voices of Men, on the road, wanting to convey a message to his fellow man: Step up.
"Most domestic violence and almost all rape and sexual violence is committed by [men] toward [women], and yet it's been seen as a women's issue historically," he says. "And what that has meant is that women have done all the work to stop it when it is men who have caused this violence."
Though its message is clear, Voices of Men is hardly a lecture. Atherton-Zeman uses masculine pop cultural icons like Rocky Balboa and James Bond to illustrate various situations. "Each one of the characters undergoes an 'aha' moment around each individual issue," he says, "and once they have that moment they commit to becoming part of the solutions."
He makes it funny, which tends to surprise people. "Some audiences," he says, "and particularly predominately male audiences — they'll get defensive when presented with basic information about gender-based violence unless one uses humor and survivor stories and a bit of self-reflection."
Voices of Men does all three. During scene changes, PSAs from various groups play on the screen. It helps keep the balance between inspiring laughter and encouraging serious thought about a delicate topic.
He says he finds that balance by getting feedback from survivors and their advocates. Over the 10 years he's been performing Voices of Men, he's adjusted it so that "it does not perpetuate the problem or any of the myths of gender-based violence and seeks to dispel them."
In his bio, Atherton-Zerman calls himself a "recovering sexist," which means he's constantly learning. "It's up to me as a white male who wants to be an ally in stopping sexism, racism and homophobia to pay attention to the ways that I've been socialized," he says, "and when I'm confronted on my sexism and my racism, rather than getting defensive, to listen and change. To always be working to better myself as well as the world."
Voices of Men is potentially triggering, and some of the PSAs contain depictions of violence. While Colorado College will have advocates on hand just in case, Atherton-Zerman wants the warning to get out there.
Should anyone reading this suffer from domestic violence or trauma following sexual assault, please take advantage of local resources at TESSA (tessacs.org, 633-1462). You are not alone.
7-9 p.m., CC's Armstrong Hall, 14 E. Cache la Poudre St., Free, coloradocollege.edu.