Leaders are saying it's time to shift narratives and responsibility around gender violence.
Safe Homes of Orange County partnered with the Orange County Human Rights Commission on two events Wednesday to teach men and women about the role men can play to combat sexual assault and violence.
"We need to bring good men around the table to have a conversation on what we all can do to end gender based violence," says Kellyann Kostyal-Larrier, executive director of Safe Homes of Orange County. "If not now, when? Because, at this point, we know it's critical."
Both events featured speaker and scholar Dr. Jackson Katz. He works across the country and internationally educating about men's role in gender violence.
"Domestic violence, sexual harassment, sexual assault," said Katz, who is founder and director of anti-violence group MVP Strategies. "They've been seen as women's issues that some good men help out with. And a big part of my work is to try to change that paradigm to see these issues not as women's issues that men help out with but as men's issues."
That message resonated with some of the high-profile Orange County leaders at the event.
It's on us," said Orange County Executive Steven Neuhaus, a Republican. "We can really set the standard. And I see in our community whether it's Orange County, or across the state or across the country, opportunities where people need help right now."
Charles Austin, creator of a new group called Men Facing Masculinity, said that empowering young men with new understanding of what is being a man will help change the dynamic.
"For a long time, women have been doing this on their own backs," said Austin. "And, if they could have stopped this they would have. So we need to build up new leadership in young men to help do this work."
Orange County Legislator Kevindaryán Luján says the event caused him to think introspectively about how he could help the cause.
"I think it was really inspiring to see so many leaders from around the county to see how we can be better leaders, how we can be better listeners," said Luján, a Democrat representing parts of the city and town of Newburgh, "and not just be observers. To really engage and find out how we could be doing more."
Katz says that it's important for men to think differently about what is considered acceptable behavior to help create a safer culture for everyone, especially women and girls.
"We need you to stand and publicly and privately challenge and interrupt other men who are being abusive, who are making sexist comments who are, creating an atmosphere where women are not being fully respected," said Katz.
He says the more men challenging those normalized behaviors will have a long-term impact.
"We'll see over time, if more men do that, over time we will see the rates of domestic and sexual violence come down," explained Katz. "It's not just about a handful of sick individuals.
"This is a cultural problem, so we all have a role to play."