News Local/State

Event Aims To Promote Dialogue Among Men About Trauma & Violence


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The group CU Trauma and Resiliency Initiative is working to help people better understand the link between trauma, mental health and violence; and an event this Saturday aims to bring together men for a discussion about the issue.

The event begins at 9 am this Saturday at the Anita Purves Nature Center in Urbana.

One of the organizers is Sam Smith, director of civic engagement at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts.

He spoke with Illinois Public Media about what he’s looking forward to about the event.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

What’s the “Men, Boys, Trauma and Violence” event all about?

There's this idea that the more we understand trauma and the impact of trauma, then the better we are able to respond to people when they are having some sort of response or reaction to trauma. But then also we can better protect and take care of people. For example, if we're thinking about people who are bullied in school, we know that there are related risks to being bullied. And if we understand that, then a school district or community can then respond in such a way to sort of address that issue.

This is one in a series of trainings to help our local community become a more “trauma-informed” community. And the idea is for this to be a conversation, a dialogue, about the impact of trauma, and then thinking about what it is that this particular group of men and boys in this community can do to buffer or alleviate, or think about minimizing and protecting other men and boys from the effects of trauma.

You’re hoping to bring in men from all parts of the Champaign-Urbana area who have some role in interacting with men and boys, whether it's as teachers or as mentors, as parents or members of the community?

Yes, and in fact any person that identifies as a man or a male, we are hoping that those people will be at least 12 years old, or old enough to participate in the conversation. So they don't necessarily need to be people that are professionally working with men or boys, it could be just a man that's interested in having a conversation with other men.

There are lots of men that have had lots of experience with trauma, that have something to offer and share about that experience. So the idea is just to bring together a fairly small group of men to have a conversation about the impact of trauma.

What do you feel like are some maybe common misunderstandings or misconceptions about this issue?

There are a lot of things that I don't want to say because, I don't know, they may just be true for me and for my experience. And that could be because I'm a black man of a certain age. But I think that there is this sense that men's lives should be, or are easily given to violence.

And I also don't want to suggest that I think men are victims in this society. But I do think that, you know, the loss of young black and brown lives to gun violence in the country is abhorrent, and we tolerate it. I think there's something that is curious about that.

Is there anything else that you would want people to know about the event?

I am really looking forward to the wisdom that can come from bringing people together, to focus on their lived experience, and to share the hard-earned knowing that they've gotten from their lived experience. I'm I'm looking forward to that.

Follow Christine on Twitter: @CTHerman