One in three women will be physically or sexually assaulted at some time in their lives, but Middlesex District Attorney Gerry Leone met with the boys in the senior class at Watertown High School in an effort to change that.
The senior boys met with Leone last week and took a pledge to join the White Ribbon Campaign to prevent violence to women.
“You need to do something and stand up like real men and take a pledge to say no to violence against women,” Leone said.
Although domestic violence has been something that has concerned Leone for years, the importance of education hit him a few years ago when singer Chris Brown severely beat his girlfriend, signer Rhianna. After the incident, young men in Massachusetts were polled, and Leone was surprised by their responses.
“Over half said that she deserved what she got,” Leone said. “That is a real problem. And that is why we are taking action.”
Much of the violence against women is done by someone they know: partners, friends and even family members.
The White Ribbon Campaign was started by a group of men in Canada after a man brought a gun to a college in Montreal and opened fire on a group of women, killing 14.
“He said the reason why he targeted them was because he was angry that they were organizing a campaign for women’s rights,” Leone said.
Violence against girls in high school can occur when a couple that has been dating breaks up. Steve Harrington, Watertown’s head basketball coach, said if guys feel confused or upset by a breakup, they should seek someone to talk to.
“When something like that happens you have emotions, you don't know what to do,” Harrington said. “You should see your coach, see your teacher when you need someone to talk about your feelings.”
Each boy received a white ribbon pin, and took a pledge to prevent violence to women. Watertown High School Principal Steve Watson told the group they could make a difference at the school.
“You are just a fraction of the school,” Watson said. “It is just a couple weeks before spring break. It would be great for you to wear your pin and let the message trickle out.”
Leone became the chairman of the White Ribbon Campaign in the Bay State a year ago, and he has visited a few high schools to spread the message.
He came to Watertown not in response to an incident, but because the school reached wanted to have him come speak t the students.
Reaching high school students is fine, but Leone said he would like to start even earlier.
“Optimally we would hit them even younger, in middle school and get them even before they go to high school,” Leone said. “These are seniors. I hope they take this with them when they go off where they are going (after graduation), and show their leadership before they leave school.”
After his discussion, Leone said he believed at least some of the Watertown boys understood his message.
“Three if them did,” Leone said. “They came down and had a conversation with me afterward.”