Atlanta therapists Dick Bathrick, M.A., and Gus Kaufman, Jr., Ph.D., each with a history of involvement in progressive social change work, began Atlanta’s first program for batterers. Kathleen Carlin, who was then executive director of the Cobb County YWCA Women’s Resource Center, hired them to run a group under her supervision. The structure for the classes that they created proved extremely challenging. It was unheard of for men to talk together about the ways they view and treat women, knowing that their discussions would be taped, listened to and commented on by women. As difficult as it was, Kathleen, Dick and Gus continued to hold open classes and learned that men were more likely to change when they were continually reminded of the impact of their actions on the women in their lives.
Within one year, the classes and community education work had grown and it was time to form an organization whose mission was to engage men in ending male violence against women. Men Stopping Violence (MSV) was incorporated as a not-for-profit organization with a small, very dedicated board of directors whose first president was Congressman John Lewis. To meet the need to keep women’s reality central to the work, Kathleen Carlin left the YWCA shelter to become the founding executive director of MSV.
While MSV continued its work with batterers, the organization also pursued opportunities to create systems change. The 12 years of work did not change Kathleen, Gus and Dick’s commitment to social change. In fact, they became more convinced that social change was the key to preventing violence against women. A significant new work area was added in 1994 when MSV won one of four national cooperative agreement awards with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to conduct research into effective community intervention to end battering.
MSV and women’s advocates across the country were devastated when Kathleen was diagnosed with lung cancer, and passed away after a six-month battle with the disease. A planning committee was appointed from MSV board members and staff, women’s advocate consultants, and the community at-large to design and recommend an organizational structure that would meet the growing philosophical and programmatic needs. The results of this in-depth process were a new team structure; the naming of Ulester Douglas and Dick Bathrick as co-executive directors; the creation of a two-woman consultancy to the organization; and a new by-law requiring that women constitute a majority on the board of directors. This structure remained in place from 1998-2003, and in 2004 Shelley Serdahely became the executive director.
MSV continues to evolve through a continual process of examining internal lessons and external demands. However, MSV’s vision of safety for women remains constant, and the long-term commitment to social justice and systems change work is firm. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) awarded MSV $500,000 in October 2009 to organize and manage the first national initiative to engage men and youth in the work of addressing violence against women.