Monday, June 16, 2014

Manager of National Programs, Adrian Valdivia, takes Masculinity training to Puerto Rico

Two weeks ago MCSR’s Manager of National Programs, Adrian Valdivia, traveled to Puerto Rico for his first international training. Universidad del Turabo hosted Adrian for the two-day training with the Vice Chancellor, twelve university counselors, and three students. Two of the counselors who run the University’s counseling program were inspired to bring MCSR’s training program to their institution in Puerto Rico after attending the DC Healthy Masculinity Training Institute in January thanks to a grant through Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health.
At first there was nervous excitement surrounding the upcoming trip. Adrian anticipated Puerto Rico would be his most challenging training thus far. To his relief he found the experience to be amazing from start to finish and the people welcoming and accessible. As a Spanish speaking Venezuelan, Adrian found an immediate connection to Puerto Rico’s language and the Caribbean way. 
“They were extremely open about sharing their personal stories around healthy and unhealthy masculinity in their lives, which I suspect has a lot to do with an already cultural expectation about sharing stories in Latino/Caribbean culture.
Many island cultures build and sustain relationships through story telling, which also happens to be a hallmark of the MCSR approach. Sharing experiences with sincerity and candor is key for building group connections and trust within a training, especially while evaluating dominant stories versus counter stories. The dominant story is the negative depiction of men saturated in media and prevalent in every day culture. The counter story helps combat the stereotypes and expectations of dominant masculinity by presenting an alternative approach. For Puerto Rican men “machismo” culture is the dominant story. Adrian noticed that sexism is very much an ingrained part of men and women’s thinking, “many stereotypes about rape are so normalized and internalized given their culture that they are facing an uphill battle.” Over the two days Adrian emphasized to trainees that the systems of oppression they are facing, such as sexism, do not define them. These systems are a product of culture and the society they were raised in, and therefore can be changed through awareness training.
            The counseling team at the Universidad del Turabo identified with the MCSR strategy and felt motivated by this approach to engage men and their university community.  In the past there has been no supportive male group for men to turn to; rape is only a topic of conversation during assault aftermath and punitive consequences. But Adrian feels that the training has sparked an up and coming shift in perspective. 

By the conclusion of the training administrators and counselors at Universidad del Turabo felt motivated to confront gender-based violence in their community through a new approach. Like many places, Puerto Rico faces a prevalence of relationship violence that often goes unreported. Turabo wants to take a stand and be the first University in Puerto Rico to tackle this issue through programing that engages men. Even after their HHS funding is over, the administration wishes to continue to build a long-standing relationship with Men Can Stop Rape, and integrate the hallmarks of healthy masculinity into their teaching and counseling programs. To kick-start this Turabo will be conducting a survey for college men to see where they stand on the issues, and what resources they feel are lacking and would benefit them and the community. The administration hopes to create the first group of its kind in Puerto Rico that engages men in solving sexual assault. The University will take pride in being the first group of allies who take a positive approach to assault prevention.
Adrian would like to thank everyone at Universidad del Turabo who welcomed him, shared stories, and made this training such a success. Men Can Stop Rape looks forward to working more with Puerto Rico in the future and seeing their commitment to positive male engagement and healthy masculinity take flight.

An English and Women's Gender and Sexuality Studies double Major, Kiki Martire is a rising Senior at Washington and Lee University in Virginia. 

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