At UT, where two in five women report experiencing some form of sexual assault, one group of men is hoping to put that to an end.
Last fall, the Texas Blazers, an all-male service group, launched MenCanEnd — a committee aimed to promote healthy masculinity while combating rape culture on college campuses.
“We want to work with men on how to raise young boys and how it’s on us to be involved in the conversation,” said Justin Atkinson, government senior and head of the MenCanEnd committee. “We’re trying to raise exposure and get more men involved.”
In Blazers, each “new guy class” must present a project to work on throughout the semester. Atkinson originally pitched the idea of creating MenCanEnd as his class’ project because of his previous interest in feminist work. Although the initiative was originally meant to be temporary, the importance of the cause led to its permanent installment.
Sam Karnes, chairman of the Texas Blazers and a Plan II senior, said he attributes the committee’s popularity to the change it inflicted on individuals and the group as a whole.
“I can’t overstate how impactful this has been,” Karnes said. “It really has changed the course of our organization, and all of us are trying to make a conscious effort to take this idea outside of Blazers by ingraining it in our daily lives.”
For the initiative’s first major project, they partnered with Voices Against Violence to fundraise for the Survivor’s Emergency Fund, which provides emergency financial assistance to survivors of sexual violence, relationship violence and stalking.
Though they only had 16 members, MenCanEnd was able to raise over $4,000 and contribute the second largest donation from a single organization.
“The idea of MenCanEnd is really to activate men in the movement against violence,” said Katy Redd, assistant director for prevention and outreach for the Counseling and Mental Health Center. “That’s something that [Voices Against Violence] cares deeply about, so it was a natural partnership.”
Besides the fundraiser, the initiative also brought in speakers for a banquet they hosted and created their own social media campaign to share facts and statistics about sexual assault on campus.
This year, MenCanEnd plans to focus less on the monetary side of anti-rape work and more on primary prevention.
“There’s a lot of conversation around anti-rape work that treats it as an absolute,” Atkinson said. “It puts the responsibility on people to protect themselves and doesn’t address how it’s people who are committing these acts because they have been taught and socialized in a certain way.”
This semester they hope to contact other male spirit groups and mobilize more men in organizations outside of the Blazers. In October, they plan to hold a screening of “The Hunting Ground,” a documentary about campus sexual assault and the lack of action taken by universities, with fellow service organization Texas Orange Jackets.
While MenCanEnd will continue to play its part in the movement against sexual assault, Atkinson is quick to acknowledge that others have been leading and participating in preventative work long before them.
“People have always been doing this work,” Atkinson said. “We’re just using our privilege as men to lift up other voices and spotlight them."
This story has been updated since its inital publication. Texas Orange Jackets is identified as a service organization.