The work men do - Women's protective Services


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Ben Zeman works at Women's Protective Services, which is a combined Rape crisis/DV agency in Framingham, MA.  He is the community educator, responsible for giving presentations for teens and adults on issues of DV/SA, healthy relationships, and community responsibility to end violence in families, on the streets, and in relationships.  His job is to change the culture that tolerates and even encourages this violence, and that blames the victims for the violence rather than holding rapists and abusers accountable.  In what follows, he explains what led him tobecome involved in such work.

"'So, what made you get into this work?'

"This morning was not the first time I was asked that question.  I had just finished giving a presentation on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, to a group of all women.  And I'm a man.

"For 10 years now, I've been committed to the movement to end men's violence against women.  At first, I did it as a volunteer, but have also had the privilege to be paid to do this work.  My colleagues have been almost all feminist women, who have chosen to believe in me enough to hire me.  I feel lucky everyday.

"Although men are certainly victims of domestic and sexual violence, by far we are the most common perpetrators.  And for us to remain silent while thousands of strong women try to solve this problem seems unjust to me.  It's as if we've left a huge mess in the kitchen and then said, "Oh well, it's your job to clean up the mess!"  It's our mess, and more of us have to get busy cleaning!

"'I got into this movement,' I answered the woman this morning, 'at first, because I was asked.'  I knew, and also dated, women who were survivors of sexual and domestic violence.  They told me that there were hardly any men in this movement, so would I please join?

"When I began doing this work, I thought I was pretty cool.  I was keen to expose these 'bad men' who rape and beat their partners.  It was only after a long while that I began to look at my own sexism, and how I benefited from male privilege!  I'm not sure I ever would have looked, but my feminist women colleagues would kindly confront me on my sexism.

I would respond defensively (why weren't they just grateful that I was there to begin with?), until I would hear other women tell me stories of men in their lives who were behaving as I was.  I'd get mad at those men, and realize that I'd been doing the same thing.

"I still have a lot of work to do on my own sexism, and on my defensiveness when confronted like that.  But I care more about ending the violence than I do about being seen as 'one of the good men.'  And I think that more and more men will join this movement, and together With feminist women's leadership, we can change this culture and create a world where all people are safe."



WPS, a Framingham-based program, provides counseling and advocacy to battered women and sexual assault survivors. These services include a 24-hour emergency hotline, crisis intervention and short term counseling, legal advocacy, support groups, assistance with hospital and police procedures, a battered women's shelter, and information and referral. These services are confidential and provided free of charge. In addition, WPS conducts community education and a bi-annual volunteer training program. WPS is funded by the Department of Public Health, the Department of Social Services, the United Way, and WIN. For additional information call (508) 820-0834. In an emergency, call the 24-hour hotline at (508) 626-8686. Collect calls are accepted.

Women's Protective Services has three units, the Domestic Violence Unit, the Rape Crisis Unit, and the WIN Haven Battered Women's Shelter. All program staff participate in providing 24-hour emergency hotline services, crisis intervention, and safety planning.

Domestic Violence Unit

The Domestic Violence counselors provide individual counseling, crisis intervention, safety planning, assist clients with locating appropriate support services such as housing, welfare, legal advocacy, and facilitate support groups. The Victim Advocacy Program provides services to victims in conjunction with the Framingham Police Department. In addition, The Bilingual (Portuguese) Counselor-Advocate provides victim advocacy in the Marlborough Probate Court on Thursdays as part of the Lawyer for the Day Program. Staff participate in various collaborative efforts, i.e., Roundtable's and Community Taskforces. All of the Domestic Violence Unit staff provide outreach and education to community groups and train professionals on the dynamics of an abusive relationship and the needs of the victims.

Rape Crisis Unit

The Rape Crisis Unit offers individual counseling, support groups, and legal and medical accompaniment and advocacy to victims of sexual assault. The Community Educator for the Rape Crisis Unit is responsible for organizing special projects for the program, as well as outreach and education about rape prevention, the effects of sexual assault, and the needs of rape victims. The Rape Crisis Unit also runs regular educational groups at the Pre-Release Program for the women's prison in Framingham, substance abuse residential programs, and homeless shelters.

Shelter Program

Win Haven provides a safe home for up to five families. It is the only battered women's shelter in the MetroWest Area and is one of the few handicapped accessible shelters in the State of Massachusetts. Women and their children can stay in the shelter for up to 90 days. We provide case management, counseling, advocacy, and a children's program for the residents.

Special Projects

This past August we celebrated our 2nd Annual Block Party with the participation of 30 community agencies. Our goal was to expose our community to the resources that are available to them. We included many educational events for children and teens, as well as food, live entertainment, a magician, face painting, a theatrical performance and clown. It was a great success, full of fun and information for the Framingham community.

The Teen Peer Education Program is designed to raise awareness and give teens the opportunity to start talking about dating violence and sexual assault. The program is being implemented at Wayland High School. Juniors from the school are being recruited to participate in an extensive training with WPS and will become Peer Educators. We have developed training manuals that will be distributed to teachers and Peer Educators. This fall we will be sponsoring two short plays about dating violence, The Yellow Dress and Hitting Home, at two local schools. The peer educators will have the opportunity to design educational presentations and handouts, which they will then use in the classrooms as they facilitate discussions on teen dating violence and sexual assault.

Women's Protective Services has been developing outreach into the African-American Community. On June 24, 1998, WPS held the first event in the Women of Color Speaker Series on domestic violence in the African-American community at the Sheraton Tara hotel. As part of the project we developed an advisory board comprised of members from the Greater Framingham Community Church, the South Middlesex Chapter of the NAACP, and Unity First News. Patricia Smith was the guest speaker. We were able to raise awareness and highlight the impact of domestic violence on the African-American community.

Women's Protective Services has also been expanding outreach efforts into the Portuguese speaking community. As part of the project we put together an advisory group of service providers and community members, performed a needs assessment, held focus groups with community members, designed a Portuguese brochure on sexual assault prevention, and created a resource directory. WPS held a daylong conference on cultural differences and sexual assault. The event took place on June 10 and was very well attended with the majority of participants being Portuguese speaking.

New Projects

This winter we will start a community based therapeutic group for children who have witnessed domestic violence. The Safe Home Program will provide emergency shelter for up to two families with a maximum stay of five days. We will be prioritizing women with boys over 12 years of age, Spanish or Portuguese speaking-clients, and teens 18 to 20 years old.


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