Inspired by the intersection of Black History Month and Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, Break the Cycle partnered with Ujima, Inc, - the National Center on Violence Against Women in the Black Community - to introduce young people to the prominent Black and African American activists and change makers who have influenced the field of violence prevention. TRAILBLAZERS will continue to highlight the intersectional identities of activists in the gender-based violence and domestic/sexual violence prevention movements throughout the series.
About Ujima, Inc. - Ujima was founded 2015 in response to a need for an active approach to ending violence against women in the black community. Ujima (a Kwanzaa Principle meaning Collective Work and Responsibility), through its education and outreach, training and technical assistance, resource development, research and public policy efforts, will mobilize the black community and allies to strengthen our families, recognizing the safety and viability of our families is connected to the health and well-being of our individual neighborhoods and communities at large.
Introducing: Ron LeGrand
“Service and a commitment to making a positive difference in the lives of others.”
This statement has been the consistent theme underlying Ron LeGrand’s career. Ron is a father, advocate, and lawyer who has dedicated his life to making the world a better place through his efforts to end trafficking, dating abuse, and sexual violence. Ron is an example of how men can be allies in these movements, by using his voice and experiences to teach men about healthy masculinity
Ron’s experience in both the corporate and nonprofit worlds is vast, ranging from positions with the Narcotics Abuse and Control on Capitol Hill to Chief Diversity Officer at AARP. These positions prepared Ron for the intersectionalities that diversity and drug use play in the fields of domestic/dating abuse and human trafficking. Using his expertise, Ron served as the Vice President for Public Policy with the National Network to End Domestic Violence, successfully advocating for the passage of the Justice For All Reauthorization Act of 2016 during his tenure. During Ron’s time on the House Judiciary Committee, he was the lead Democratic Counsel on the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 - a crucial piece of legislation for the domestic and sexual violence movements. Ron also advocated for criminal justice reform as the lead Democratic Counsel on the House Committee on the Judiciary’s Over-Criminalization Task Force. Today, Ron is the CEO and a consultant at The LeGrand Group, LLC, which focuses on gender-based violence prevention, legislative affairs, and criminal justice reform.
As part of our TRAILBLAZERS series, we will ask featured activists to answer a few questions about their experiences in the movement.
Why did you initially get involved with the Gender-Based Violence Movement or Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault prevention?
I was introduced to the Gender-based Violence Movement during my tenure as Counsel to the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary’s Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security. My legislative portfolio included human trafficking with emphasis on domestic minor sex trafficking - a polite term for “slavery"...at least that was my visceral reaction. It was an eye opener – slavery is alive and here in the U.S., and our children are among its victims. It was a painful realization that other than those directly affected, I, along with the vast majority of our population, was unaware of the existence and the extent of the problem. I read everything I could get my hands on. I met with advocates and, more importantly, I met with victims and survivors, especially victims who were children. I traveled as part of a Congressional staff delegation to India and Thailand, and met with more adult and child survivors of sex trafficking. Through it all, I was horrified and outraged at the atrocities being perpetrated on these persons. My legislative portfolio also includes domestic violence, sexual assault, dating abuse and stalking – more example of the horrors and abuses being inflicted by one person upon another, too often in the name of “love”. Eventually, dealing with these issues as Counsel on Capitol Hill was not enough. Too often, when I convened meetings of advocates to discuss legislation and strategy, I was the only guy in the room. I sensed that too often men tend to think of these as “women’s issues”, and that they (men) have no role in addressing these issues. Knowing this to be totally false, I resolved to be a voice and advocate for the engagement of boys and men, redefining “healthy relationships”, “healthy masculinity” and enlisting more men as allies in combating all forms of gender-based violence.
What do you see as the greatest accomplishment and challenge of the movement thus far?
One of the greatest accomplishments of the movement thus far has been enhancing public awareness of gender-based violence: such as, bringing domestic (and dating) violence from behind closed doors and into the light and moving domestic violence from being viewed as a private, internal family matter to being recognized as a public health and public safety matter with the potential to impact persons beyond members of the immediately affected household. The greatest challenge is to expand the reach of the movement, communicate beyond the active members and invite “non-traditional” individuals and/or entities to become partners/allies in the movement. New allies, especially well-meaning men, must be identified and welcomed.
What specific message do you want to send to young people about what you hope they will accomplish in the next phase of the movement?
More than anything, I want young people to have a clearer understanding of what a healthy relationship looks like and that love should never hurt. I want boys and young men to understand that true masculinity is not determined by the number of girls or women they control or claim as “theirs”. Rather, the mark of a real man is reflected in his character, how he respects and honors the girls and women in his life as well as others around him. I want boys and young men to break free of the false notions of “masculinity”, “manhood”, “strength.” I want boys and young men to learn to have the courage to express their feelings openly and without fear.
Activists like Ron LeGrand paved the way for conversations and services around healthy masculinity to take place. The movement is certainly headed in that direction; according to Mary Kay’s annual Truth About Abuse survey, 78% of domestic violence organizations feel that men serving as role models and mentoring younger men can help break the cycle of abuse. At Break the Cycle, we know that attitudes of healthy masculinity should be fostered from a young age - that’s why we focus our services on young people 12 - 24 years old. Young people are already taking Ron's advice and starting to discuss the role of healthy masculinity in violence prevention; in fact, one of our Let's Be Real member, Rodrigo, talks about the struggles between men, masculitnity, and vulnerability in his blog this month. It's up to all of us to start these conversations; thank you, Ron, for being one of the louder voices in the room!
Stay tuned for our next TRAILBLAZERS feature this month: www.breakthecycle.org/trailblazers