Sports, school leaders tackle crisis of violence against women at ‘MEND Experience’

Over 300 attended the first annual YWCA MEND Experience; a prevention program dedicated to ending violence against women and girls by engaging males.

Over 300 attended the first annual YWCA MEND Experience; a prevention program dedicated to ending violence against women and girls by engaging males.

More than 300 educators, coaches and community leaders packed into the Bridgestone Arena concourse on May 26 for the first ‘MEND Experience’ sponsored by Bank of America. The MEND Experience focused on teaching healthy masculinity to those who work with Nashville’s youth and celebrated those who are making an impact in their lives. MEND is a program of YWCA Nashville & Middle Tennessee.

“It’s time for men to step up and be great role models and teach young men how to become great men who value and respect women and girls,” said MEND Director Shan Foster. “The issue of violence against women is an epidemic in our country, in our state, and in our city.”

Tennessee ranks sixth in the nation for the rate at which men murder women. Fifty percent of all crimes in Tennessee are domestic violence-related. Metro police receive about 26,000 domestic violence-related calls each year. The MEND initiative is a primary prevention program dedicated to ending violence against women and girls by engaging and educating men and boys. MEND has focused its early efforts on engaging the athletic community, due to its influence on boys and young men. To date, MEND has worked with more than 150 coaches across the region, educating them on how to be part of the solution to the crisis of violence against women.

The MEND Experience featured several of the community’s high profile leaders, including Vanderbilt Football Coach Derek Mason and Athletics Director David Williams, and Tennessee State University’s Head Men’s Basketball Coach Dana Ford. Nashville Predators President and CEO Sean Henry is one of the program’s chief advocates, with the team and the Bridgestone Arena sponsoring and hosting the event. YWCA’s Vice President of Domestic Violence Services Tracy DeTomasi was also a featured speaker.

Several hundred Metro Nashville Public School teachers and coaches attended the morning-long event. Chief Support Services Officer for Metro Schools Dr. Tony Majors announced a key partnership between MEND and eight MNPS middle and high schools to begin this fall. The YWCA’s Girls Inc. programs will also be integrated into this partnership.

“If our children are witnessing their mothers and sisters being abused, they bring that damage and that harm to school,” said Dr. Majors. “We as a school system want to make sure were acknowledging that, but also working with the right agencies to help address the issue.”

Several area leaders were recognized for their efforts and involvement with MEND and were awarded the first MEND Awards. Honorees included the Honorable Karl Dean/Community Leader Award; Sean Henry/MEND Man of the Year Award; Dana Ford/Collegiate Coach of the Year Award; Daniel Zahn/Coach of the Year from Montgomery Central High School.