[Editor’s note: This story is the sixth part of the multi-series “Violated,” examining the horrors of sexual assault that began with Issue #1 and concludes in Issue #6. Several staff members took it upon themselves to interview, take photographs, and conduct research. The results of their combined efforts follow.]
by SARA MARSHALL//Editor-in-Chief
Men perpetrate 96 percent of the sexual violence against women.
One West Texas organization has made it their mission to educate men on the importance of being positive role models for the next generation.
After several national and local incidents of violence against women and sexual assaults in 2014, Kenneth Castillo founded the South Plains Men Challenging Men organization.
South Plains Men Challenging Men is a men’s organization aiming to end violence against women through education and activism, according to Castillo.
“ I have seen first hand the effects of sexual assault and violence against women and girls,” Castillo said. “We have had women’s organizations and schools tell young women what they should wear and how to act in order to avoid being a victim of sexual assault. There are not any men’s organizations telling men not to rape, explain to men what a healthy relationship looks like, or just how to act toward the opposite sex.”
Since his sophomore year at Texas Tech University in 2002, Castillo has volunteered as an on-call advocate for The Lubbock Rape Crisis Center, also known as Voice of Hope, and has logged more than 2,500 volunteer hours. He also served on the board of directors from 2006 until 2016. Castillo said that he understands most men have not seen what he has while volunteering for Voice of Hope, and due to this, they do not understand that what they did was wrong.
“Now, this is by no means an excuse,” Castillo explains, “but there are some sexual assault cases where the guy honestly did not know what he was doing was wrong. Since there is virtually no sex education in this region, many boys and girls are learning about sexual relationships through the media, including pornography.”
Castillo hopes to change this problem by educating men and boys about how viewing sexual and violent images desensitizes people to violence.
“Men are the primary perpetrators in sexual assault,” Castillo said. “By understanding the privileges we have as a man, we empower men to end violence against women.”
Despite the organization’s name, South Plains Men Challenging Men is not just an all-male organization.
“I encourage any woman to join,” Castillo offered. “After all, this organization was created for them. Women are also more social than men. They know where the audiences in our region are and can aid in helping us get our message out. My wife is one of my motivators, and she is a member and at most meetings.”
South Plains Men Challenging Men includes 53 men who receive the organization’s emails. There are eight men who are active members, as well as 16 active women. Vinnie Gomez, a counselor at the Health and Wellness Center at South Plains College, is one of these members.
“I really like what Kenneth represents,” Gomez said. “Kenneth talks about how most of the women he knows are real go-getters. Also, he talks about how women have changed over the years. But the one thing that hasn’t changed is violence against women. The question is, why haven’t women been able to change this?”
Gomez says that he believes ending violence against women isn’t the woman’s job. It is the man’s job to change the never-ending cycle of men who have failed to protect their daughters, wives, sisters and mothers.
“I took a women’s study class while I was at Texas Tech, thinking I needed to understand the ‘enemy.’ I quickly realized that I was actually the enemy. I had been conditioned by society to believe something that wasn’t true.”
There is currently no chapter of South Plains Men Challenging Men at SPC, but Gomez says he hopes to change this.
“We are a nation of weak men,” Gomez said. “As men, we need to regroup and refocus our way of thinking toward women. Men need to lead by modeling and raise the standard. If we set a low standard, boys will continue to become failed men.”
Castillo said he hopes to encourage this change through his organization.
“We want men to be proud about being a man,” Castillo said. “Honestly, it is a man’s world. But with that comes responsibility. We explain why all men need feminism and how our strength is for protection, not abuse.”
South Plains Men Challenging Men tries to be as active and visible as possible. They sponsor a White Ribbon Campaign, which starts in January and continues until October.
“The white ribbon stands for men not to commit, condone, or remain silent about violence against women,” Castillo said. “Violence against women happens throughout the year. Therefore, our campaign should go throughout the year as well.”
Each month, South Plains Men Challenging Men endeavors to have an event where they can educate the public about their cause and raise money for various women’s organizations.
This year, South Plains Men Challenging Men collaborated with a local beer-brewing club, the Ale-Ian Society, and gave out free craft beer at the First Friday Art Trail in Lubbock, starting with the campaign, “Hops For Hope,” on April 1. They raised $500 for Voice of Hope’s new human trafficking office. The next White Ribbon Kickoff will begin in January 2017 at the Escondido Theater, in the basement of the Student Union Building on the Texas Tech campus.
Next year, South Plains Men Challenging Men will be exploring different places to have meetings to be more inviting to younger men ages 15 to 25. Castillo says he hopes to begin a White Ribbon Campaign on the SPC campus, during the campaign at Tech, to reach out to other students who may be affected by these issues.
“We know men and women are not equal,” Castillo said. “That doesn’t mean women shouldn’t get equal pay for equal work. It means the Lord built us different for a reason. Women ensure the survival of our species, and a man’s role is to protect women, not abuse them.”
For those interested in learning more, South Plains Men Challenging Men posts future events and meeting dates and times on Facebook. Castillo said he would love to talk to potential speakers, and members and can be contacted via email at email@example.com.
SPC has counselors who are trained and willing to help. Voice of Hope has a 24-hour crisis hotline, 806-763-7273. Voice of Hope’s advocates are available 365 days a year.
“If you are a sexual assault survivor, I want you to know you are not alone,” Castillo said.