Center for Women in Transition obtains federal grant for new men’s program

GVL / Courtesy - Center for Women in Transition Michigan

GVL / Courtesy – Center for Women in Transition Michigan

Drew Schertzer

One in three women and one in four men will experience physical violence, sexual assault or stalking from a sexual partner in their lifetime, according to a statistic provided by Beth Larsen, executive director of the Center for Women in Transition (CWIT). 

Larsen and her team recently received a three-year grant of $281,465 from the U.S. Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women. Larsen oversaw the use of this money to hire a men’s Call to Action Project team leader. This leader will start an advisory council to help young men.

“Promoting healthy masculinity is about engaging men and boys as leaders and empowered bystanders who can positively influence their peers,” Larsen said. “Modeling respect and healthy relationships as the norm is how we embed this message in the fabric of society.”

The CWIT’s goals are to reduce and help the victims of domestic and sexual violence, said Lesley Coghill, CWIT prevention coordinator. Coghill said the organization has many options to help victims. These include case management, therapy, 24-hour service lines and more. She has high hopes for the Call to Action Project advisory council.

“We are committed to the growth and launch of this program, and we will do everything we can to sustain it,” Coghill said. “We would love to see it (the program) become permanent with community schools to engage young men.”

The advisory council will aim to engage men as leaders and positive role models in the lives of young men, Larsen said. The goal of the program is to engage men as allies in preventing domestic violence, dating violence and sexual assault, Larsen said. She believes this program will give the CWIT an opportunity to increase its prevention efforts.

Currently, the CWIT serves Ottawa and Allegan counties in West Michigan. Coghill said the center works closely with high schools and elementary schools. In addition, she said the CWIT communicates with a lot of other organizations to make sure they are doing their best. Some of these include law enforcement agencies, as well as other service providers, like Kent County’s YWCA.

“We offer resources and support for all people,” Coghill said. “Every person can feel a sense of empowerment within after a successful step.”

Coghill said it is important that victims don’t feel like they are alone. She said people often think they are the only ones going through or experiencing something, but many people are in similar situations, and the CWIT has support groups and 24-hour service lines to help victims, Coghill said.

Larsen thinks engaging children at a younger age will help reduce domestic and sexual violence in the future. She said the more positive role models children have, the more likely that behavior will become the norm.

The Call to Action Project team leader has recently been chosen. Within the next few weeks, the advisory council will begin to take place, and Larsen hopes the new program will show children what respect looks like, as well as how to have good relationships so they may better society.