Men and Masculinity

By Ben Woodward-Breckbill, Dove's Nest's Acting President and Associate Pastor at Shalom Mennonite Church, Newton, KS

The board of Dove’s Nest is in an exciting season. We are searching for a new executive director! As we entered into this transition, the board held intentional conversations about where we have been, where we are, and where we are going as an organization. In those conversations, we affirmed much of what makes Dove’s Nest a needed organization: consultations with congregations and organizations on policy and procedure, a nationwide speakers bureau to provide in-person or virtual trainings, and a positive reputation. In addition to those things, a new topic of interest arose: men and masculinity.

Too often, Dove’s Nest’s mission of “keeping children and youth safe from abuse and neglect” is seen as being a women’s issue. The stereotype is that women are the ones responsible for caring for youth. According to that stereotype, women are responsible for child protection too. But if we as communities truly want to keep children nurtured and safe, all adults are responsible. Furthermore, men are very often the perpetrators of abuse. So we need to explore some key questions: What is it that can make men likely to perpetrate abuse? How can we reduce those risk factors?

Of course, men are not only perpetrators of abuse, they are also victims. Nearly 1 in 6 men have experienced sexual abuse or assault in their lifetimes. To keep all children safe, we must recognize that boys experience abuse in our communities as well. Dove’s Nest’s Speaker’s Bureau member Glen Guyton recently gave a presentation on keeping boys safe. 

We will continue to explore these questions. Dove’s Nest’s interim director, Nancy Kauffmann, and I recently had a conversation with two representatives of Mennonite Men, the men’s organization for Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Church Canada. While there has been some exchange between our organizations in the past, we look forward to continuing to pursue child safety with this and other organizations.