Serious conversations about sexual harassment, dating and domestic violence have begun among Bartholomew County men since vulgar comments about women made by GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump began circulating.

The fallout from Trump’s incendiary remarks in a 2005 “Access Hollywood” videotape made public Oct. 7 has become a big talking point among men — for the right reasons, said Stephen Dishinger, community prevention manager at Turning Point Domestic Violence Services.

“If you think about it, these subjects weren’t a huge deal to many guys until this happened,” Dishinger said. “But now, it’s exactly what we are all talking about.”

The Trump controversy has brought issues previously kept in the background to the forefront, said Alec Friend, who attended Thursday’s fifth annual “Men Take A Stand” event.

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“Some people do think like that,” said Friend, a Cummins Inc. employee. “And it’s time to have conversations in order to quell it.”

While rain confined the event to a noon program inside Columbus City Hall, “Men Take A Stand” still managed to attract more than 100 participants — up from the 85 who marched in good weather along Washington Street to City Hall last year to raise awareness about dating and domestic violence.

Trump apologized for the crude statements, which he categorized as “locker room talk” for men.

“This event is a way to condemn those who are continuing that kind of mentality and those types of thoughts,” said Columbus city councilman Tom Dell, a Democrat.

Guest speaker Austin Lewis, who served on the Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence Youth Council, made a similar point in his address.

“Stand up in these so-called locker rooms, and make it exclusively clear that discriminatory language is not accepted,” urged the 2016 Columbus East graduate in a comment that drew the strongest round of applause during the 30-minute program.

In his address, Lewis suggested the best way for men to address such matters as sexual harassment and domestic violence is not to “ride into this like savior knights on white horses.”

Instead, he urged men to focus on becoming positive role models for their children, as well as avoiding discriminatory language.

“In class and in gender, we need to state what we believe here,” Foundation for Youth executive director Chuck Kime said. “We need to make sure kids understand what our values are in Columbus.”

In remarks focused on domestic violence, Columbus Mayor Jim Lienhoop recalled a time about 20 years ago when he was scheduled to be part of a team that was going over the financial records of Columbus-based Turning Point.

But when the team was abruptly told not to come that day because of a threat of violence, it was an eye-opening experience, the mayor said.

“It had a significant impact on me regarding the extent and places that domestic violence can go,” Lienhoop said.

From January through August, Turning Point’s statistics for Bartholomew County show:

  • 287 victims served through nonresidential services.
  • 140 adults and 92 children provided emergency shelter.

Although Lewis was chairman of the 17th annual Turning Point Dance Marathon that drew more than 500 students in March, some in attendance may have wondered why Turning Point chose an 18-year-old Depauw University freshman as the guest speaker.

But when the young speaker concluded his address by presenting the annual Turning Point “Stand Up” award to his father, Greg Lewis, there were many understanding nods and smiles visible as father and son shared an affectionate hug.

Greg Lewis, the Columbus East social studies department chairman and member of the Columbus Human Rights Commission, received the award largely for his long-term support for the Dance Marathon.

The Stand

The stand displayed on purple cards worn Thursday by participants in the annual “Men Take a Stand” rally stated the following:

I am a man who can prevent domestic violence in my community by:

  • Modeling healthy relationships for young men and women.
  • Saying something if I see something.
  • Challenging friends and family on disrespectful comments.
  • Supporting equality in the workplace.
  • Sharing power with the women in my life.
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Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.