Friday, November 4, 2011

Building better men

New project aims to reduce violence

Express Staff Writer

Travis Jones is a hands-on dad and is frequently seen out playing with his sons, Sebi, at left, and Mats. Photo by David N. Seelig

Travis Jones is determined to show the community that nice guys don't finish last.

Jones has been hired by the Hailey-based Advocates for Survivors of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault to lead a new project aimed at engaging men and boys in violence prevention efforts. The program is specifically designed to mobilize men and boys so they are inspired to take action against sexist violence and bullying.

According to statistics, more than 90 percent of violence against men and women is committed by men.

"There are many well-meaning men in this valley," Jones said. "By getting them involved in the conversation, we will help them to have the confidence and information they need to stand up when they see abuse taking place. We are trying to turn bystanders into upstanders."

Jones was blessed with a strong father and a stable family. His parents are celebrating 40 years of marriage soon.

"My father traveled a lot in his job as an airline pilot, but when he was home, he was always really engaged with us—coaching soccer and skiing, picking us up from school, reading at night, making chili rellenos," he said. "I was lucky to be raised in an environment where I felt safe and secure. That's probably the biggest gift that parents can give their kids.

"So, yes, I was lucky to have a father who was present and engaged, but that said, people need to know that there are millions of great single parents out there doing an amazing job of giving their kids that same gift of safety and security."

A father himself of two elementary-age boys, Mats and Sebi, Jones has already seen the impact he can have at home.

"As a dad, I feel like I learn something new from my kids every day. Some days it's about baleen whales, other days it's big life-lesson stuff. One thing I've learned is that you are always under the microscope. They watch everything you do and they imitate it. They see you drop your shirt on the floor, they drop their shirt on the floor. They see you disrespect or hurt another person, they are likely to do the same.

"On the other hand, if they see you stand up and speak out against abusive behavior or any type of wrongdoing, they are likely to step up and demonstrate the same type of bravery and responsibility that you were modeling. Kids are smart, and by the time they're 3 or 4, they pay more attention to what you do and less to what you say. This isn't to say that you need to be perfect, just try to model the things that you believe are the most important. Kindness, honesty, integrity, compassion, strength of character, respect for others—whatever matters most to you."

The Engaging Men and Boys project received startup funds from several local foundations and a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice's Violence Against Women Office. The grant is overseen by the Idaho Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence.

There are several programs like this around, the closest in Boise, which is the model for the Blaine County program.

"We're really excited about Travis leading this new project," said Advocates Executive Director Tricia Swartling. "He's outgoing, community involved and committed to the values inherent in the program."

Jones brings to the position several years experience working with and coaching youth. He stepped down this spring as coach for the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation's Olympic development cross-country team after three years, citing a desire to spend more time with his boys.

 "I've been lucky to have some time to ramp up into this position," he said. "I've been doing lots of reading, studying up on domestic violence and the effects it has on our communities. I've come to see that domestic violence isn't just a women's issue, it's a human issue. To create a society free from domestic and many other forms of violence, both men and women need to be involved."

Jones will take the Engaging Men and Boys project to classrooms, civic groups and sports teams, leading discussions about bullying, dating and domestic violence, and healthy relationships.

As part of the development of the new programs, Jones is seeking community members to sit on an advisory committee to help shape the work done by the project. Interested people can call Jones at 788-4191 or email him at

"We're looking for people who are interested in domestic violence prevention and who understand the impact that it has on our families and our communities," he said. 

Jennifer Liebrum:

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