Former pro basketball player Shan Foster has seen acts of violence around the world. He now works to end domestic violence by creating safe spaces for men of all ages to learn about healthy manhood and to discuss their emotions. AMEND Together, a program of the YWCA of Nashville and Middle Tennessee, and the United Methodist Men have a new partnership that is providing an 8-week group series that will teach men to recognize, respond to and prevent violence against women.
My name is Shan Foster and I am the Senior Director of External Affairs for the YWCA of Nashville and Middle Tennessee. I’m also a former professional basketball player. I was drafted by the Dallas Mavericks after graduating from Vanderbilt University as the all-time leading scorer in Vanderbilt basketball history.
After traveling this entire world, playing the professional sport of basketball, not only did I see so many unfortunate acts of violence, but I also saw a culture that supports violence. It’s one that is prevalent in not only just our community, but in our world. It’s one that allows for women to be disrespected, to be demeaned, to be devalued and objectified.
When you look at the fact that one in four women experience domestic violence in our country, that every day, three women are killed by the hands of a man that says that he loves her, and more than 15 million children witness abuse in their households every single year, that’s having a profound effect, not only on the adults, but on the children.
So one of the things that we provide with AMEND Together is our clubs. We’re in middle and high schools teaching young boys how to value and respect women and girls. We’re also teaching them healthy manhood, healthy masculinity, what it really means to be a man. Not what the world is teaching them through social media, through advertisements, but what it really means to be a man who is a good father, who is a good friend, who is a good brother, a good son.
The partnership with the United Methodist Men is so critical to our effort to reach a more national audience as we try to not only just impact Nashville but to impact the world. How are we starting conversations with our adult men about how to be better role models, how to make sure that our sons are seeing great fathers, that our sons are seeing great husbands? That they understand that that’s more important than any ball that you’ll ever bounce, any touchdown you’ll ever throw, or any amount of money you’ll ever make. At the end of the day, you’re going to be judged by the content of your character.
And what we’ve found as we’ve done this with other groups is that men are victims of violence, too. Unfortunately, myself included. I grew up in a household where violence was a prevalent thing, and so not having an avenue to talk about those things, not feeling comfortable to share those things, has profound effects on your life as an upcoming young man.
And so, what we’ve found is if we can allow men to have these conversations and start a dialogue, and be vulnerable, then we can deal with those things. We can deal with that hurt, deal with that pain, teach men and boys how to channel that into something positive and not have violence be an option at all.
Once men get this kind of a message, they’re immediately inspired to change their surroundings. We’re so grateful for the partnership to really look at how we make this a national conversation and really create change.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
This video was posted on October 3, 2017.