DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – While the YWCA assists women who’ve been victims of domestic violence, they believe interactions don’t have to get out of hand if preventative measures are taken. Dayton is one of five pilot cities to implement the AMEND Together Program, which teaches young men how to communicate in order to avoid domestic violence situations.
“If we can start to change some of the norms around masculinity that can lead to toxicity, we can start to change some of the violence,” said AMEND Together program lead, Marshall Weil.
That’s been the program’s aim since it began in Montgomery County schools six months ago. Travis Richards, a program specialist for the organization, said working with students early on can teach them how to forego heated situations by preparing them to respond appropriately when tense moments do arise.
“In order for you to be an effective communicator now, as a child, you have to practice,” he said. “You have to practice because as an adult, it gets tougher and tougher.”
Joshua Johnigan, who is also a program specialist with AMEND, said while they’ve received some pushback that stems mostly from conditioning, staff is already seeing an immediate impact with some of the students. He added, he and his colleagues hope to challenge common narratives that often keep men and boys from expressing their emotions.
“It goes against everything that society tells us about men,” said Johnigan. “[People say] ‘men don’t communicate, men don’t do these things.’ So why not be the person to demand that change? Why not encourage these young men to go against the grain of what they’ve been taught through society?”
Since AMEND Together came to Dayton, Weil said about 215 students have already participated in the program and he only hopes to see continued growth moving forward.
“I would say to anyone who’s watching, if you’re a parent, if you’re a student, if you’re a teacher, a principal, superintendent, and you think this is a program that might be great at your school, we are looking to expand, and expand rapidly going into year two,” said Weil, “And we’d love for you to reach out to us.”