The Argonaut – UI honors Katie Benoit in tackling gender-based violence


Mental health on college campuses across the country has recently become a more accepted topic of discussion as it is no longer socially scrutinized. The University of Idaho and its professors made it their mission this fall semester to fight this stigma and provide support to students in need.

September being Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month and August marking the 10th anniversary of Katy Benoit’s death, UI has worked with several organizations to honor her and the student body.

The Interfraternity Council, a call to men, ASUI, faculty and university staff gathered on Thursday, September 16 in a presentation organized to discuss what it means to have a healthy and respectful manhood. Jeff Matsushita, specialist in the A Call to Men’s Idaho Coalition Against Sexual & Domestic Violence program, led the program with resounding enthusiasm.

The evening began with a moving introduction from the parents of Benoit, Gary and Janet Benoit.

Ms. Benoit, overcome with emotion while discussing her daughter, tried to keep her cool during the keynote.

“It’s important to be here, to lean in and talk about these things,” she said.

Mr. Benoit also shared these emotions alongside his wife.

“No one likes to face the death of a girl,” he said, as he held his wife as she continued to cry. “I urge you all to be careful, these are hard lessons to learn.”

ASUI President Kallyn Mai shared some feelings ahead of A Call to Men presentation for the remainder of the speech.

“My job here is to stand up for each other’s experiences, to learn how to manage them appropriately and responsibly,” she said. “Gender violence is everyone’s business”.

Matsushita began her speech by immediately breaking down masculine language, such as “being a man” or “standing man,” in front of the Fellowship Chapters in the International Ballroom at the Bruce M. Pitman Center.

Following this, Matsushita presented that 14% of men choose to be sexually or physically violent towards women.

He also explained that more than half of female homicides are linked to intimate partner violence, while one in five women between the ages of 16 and 24 will be sexually assaulted at some point in her life. Matsushita then offered the audience an invitation to have a conversation about ending gender-based violence.

After analyzing the stats on the memory card, Matsushita asked the audience to consider a photo of three young boys flexing their biceps in front of a camera. The child on the right, looking at the other two on the left for validation, is where Matsushita explained the roots of a man seeking validation in their masculinity.

“Our story began when we were born, the trauma of manhood,” he said.

This phrase resonated with the thousands of men attending the keynote.

The presentation changed direction to unhealthy masculine language with a video clip of a small child being vaccinated in a doctor’s office. Once the boy started to cry, his father quickly focused his support by repeating “be a man”, only to have his son repeat “I am a man!” “. Matsushita explained this as “(…) subconsciously subverting emotions with ‘being a man’, and quickly introduced the Man-Box.

A Call to Men and Matsushita explain the Man-Box as ideas that men have generally become accustomed to as societal expectations. Some of these ideas include “being strong”, “acting like a man”, “being heterosexist”, “not supporting gender equality” and “girls are sex objects”. Matsushita explained how the diagram “fuels our emotional intelligence” and contains a lot of “don’ts” rather than “doing.”

Matushita explained to the audience of Greek UI members that we need to move away from this ideology, saying, “Men are socialized not to ask, accept and offer help. He explained that the inability to reconnect our heads with our hearts is what has the most impact when it comes to mental health issues – not just domestic violence and interpersonal violence.

The evening ended with an extensive and productive Q&A platform to continue the conversation and deepen the points raised by Matsushita and A Call to Men.

One of the questions asked of Matsushita was that of a young man in the fellowship questioning the line between comforting men and men of character. Matsushita responded by explaining how we can still love them and continue to hold them accountable.

“Boundaries are healthy and setting them are acts of love,” Matsushita said. “But I always heal my wounds so that I don’t bleed all over my loved ones.”

A Call to Men and Jeff Matsushita ended the night with a powerful statistic, via Mental Health America, explaining how suicide rates for men are 3.5 times higher than suicide rates for women.

The presentation ended with the mantra “together everyone achieves more”.

For more information and resources, contact Alternatives to Violence on the Palouse, 208-883-HELP (4357), Idaho Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence, 208-384-0419, Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) , 800-656-HOPE (4673), or the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline, 208-398-4357.

Caden Young can be contacted at [email protected]


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