By June Mathews
YWCA Central Alabama and the Megan Montgomery Domestic Violence Prevention Fund are partnering to introduce the nationally recognized Amend Together program to the greater Birmingham community.
Started at the YWCA Nashville & Middle Tennessee, Amend is a prevention initiative dedicated to ending violence against women and girls by engaging men and boys to challenge the culture that supports violence. The program is now in eight cities across the U.S.
In an event at the Homewood Library on May 2, Shan Foster, national executive director of Amend Together, will make a presentation on how the program works. Several local mayors will be in attendance. The event will run from 4 p.m. until 5:30 p.m.
Foster is a 2008 graduate of Vanderbilt University, where he was the all-time leading scorer in Commodores men’s basketball history. He later played with the Dallas Mavericks.
“Amend Together started over 7 years ago as the YWCA Nashville & Middle TN began exploring the question ‘how do we end domestic violence?’” said Foster. “Through research and speaking with gender-based violence experts nationally we realized that half the population could not end this epidemic alone, we must combat domestic violence together. Hence the name Amend Together. Men must be involved in the solution as role models, allies, and advocates.”
“Amend Together is important because it seeks to prevent violence against women and girls from happening in the first place,” said Dr. LaRhonda Magras, CEO of the YWCA of Central Alabama. “It’s important for men to have this conversation with other men and boys because they may have shared experiences that only they can understand. Once identified, they can discuss it without fear of judgment, then learn about healthy communication and healthy relationships.”
The biggest reason domestic violence has become such a massive problem, Magras believes, is the tendency of its victims to hide it in the shadows.
“Intimate partner violence and domestic violence are the most under-reported crimes in the world,” she said.
Reasons range from shame and guilt to victims’ fears of their abusers or fears of being ostracized by their families or faith communities. Domestic violence, Magras pointed out, does not discriminate based on race, socio-economic factors, religion, career or even gender.
“One in three women and one in four men experience some form of intimate partner violence in their lifetime,” she said. “And violence is perpetrated by someone who says they love or care for that person.”
“Gender-based violence has always been an issue in American society,” said Foster. “It predates everyone living today and has been largely swept under the rug and excused. Taking it a step further, those who witness abuse are more than twice as likely to be a perpetrator or victim.”
Whereas Amend was founded to educate men and boys about ending violence against women, the Megan Montgomery Domestic Violence Prevention Fund advocates for healthy relationships by educating young women on the red flags of abusive relationships.
The fund was founded by Megan’s mother and stepfather, Susann Montgomery-Clark and Rod Clark, on March 31, 2021, the day Megan’s estranged husband was sentenced for her murder. It seeks to prevent dating and domestic violence before it starts by partnering with like-minded non-profits and schools.
“We looked at lots of programs before we found the Amend program,” said Montgomery-Clark, “and we think it’s the best approach and a huge step in the right direction. We believe when schools, school foundations and cities learn about the program, they will want to do everything they can to implement it for their students.”
The problem is even bigger than it seems. Clark said Jefferson County District Attorney Office statistics show 58% of homicide perpetrators have some history of domestic violence.
To reserve a spot at the Amend Together event, call Anna Read at the YWCA at (205) 322-9922, ext. 303 or visit https://bit.ly/35oal4y. This event is free and open to the public.