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Howard's Legacy Project asks males to take responsibility

Sexual Assault

The Domestic Violence Center of Howard County sponsored The Legacy Project Step Show and Basketball Tournament last week in an effort to get boys and men more involved in ending the culture of sexual, domestic and dating violence, according to Director of Community Engagement Vanita Leatherwood.

Leatherwood said that more than 100 people "stepped into a new legacy" on June 8 at the Howard County Sports Center, in Elkridge. They learned about the Legacy Project, were entertained by dance groups such as Jessie's Soul Line Dancers and Groove Phi Groove Step Team and participated in a 3-on-3 basketball tournament, which was won by members of Bridges to Housing Stability, an organization in Columbia that fights against homelessness in Howard County.

"People definitely enjoyed themselves and became aware of the center itself and the Legacy Project. It was a wonderful family event," Leatherwood said.

The Domestic Violence Center, located at 5457 Twin Knolls Road, in Columbia, helps women, men and children affected by intimate partner violence and sexual assault. Services include a 24-hour help line, residential assistance, counseling, and an abuser intervention program. The DVC is also the only provider of rape crisis services in the county, according to Leatherwood.

The Legacy Project seeks to raise awareness about domestic, dating and sexual violence and how men can prevent them in the community. Leatherwood said that women are traditionally at the forefront of these efforts, but said it is important for men to join the cause.

She said that, in a society where men are taught to hide their emotions, "to have big muscles, and to push people down," society must redefine masculinity so that the cycle of sexual abuse and domestic violence does not continue.

"We have to give a voice to those who are being harmed because sometimes they can't do it themselves," said Leatherwood. "That is a very manly thing to do."

Several males signed up for The First 100 Club at the event, joining a list of individuals who promise to be nonviolent and to examine things like male privilege, according to Leatherwood.

Dominic Goodall, the community educator for the Domestic Violence Center, said he provides workshops to community groups throughout the year. Topics include domestic violence, healthy relationships, and how to be a responsible bystander.

The Legacy Project's next event is an October screening of Beyond Beats and Rhymes, a documentary that Leatherwood said looks deeper into the issues of masculinity in today's culture.

For more information on the Domestic Violence Center or to schedule a presentation, go to dvcenter.org or call the office at 410-997-0304. The 24-hour help line is 410-997-2272.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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