Creating a community where everyone is valued and safe. That is part of Gentlemen Against Domestic Violence’s mission when standing as equal partners with women.
On Thursday night, they hosted their 12th annual men’s event, raising money for the Shelter for Abused Women and Children at the Grey Oaks Country Club in Naples.
There were more than 200 men in one room with one goal, put an end to domestic violence and human trafficking.
“It feels great when this many men show up and want to stand with us. You know, women here, they want to stand right with us on the front lines and do the work and raise awareness and support the issue,” said Linda Oberhaus, CEO of the Naples Shelter for Abused Women and Children.
“Men have a significant responsibility in the causation factors of domestic violence. And therefore, it’s up to us to change what we do in the future,” said Collier County Sheriff Kevin Rambosk.
For keynote speaker Christy Carpenter, ending domestic violence is more than just a cause; it’s her purpose.
“I think I, unfortunately, my experience is not unique. And I think that’s why I speak up,” said Carpenter.
Carpenter’s husband abused her for years. She and her children made it out alive, but years later, they got the news that he’d killed his new wife, stepdaughter, and himself.
“I was going to have to tell my two boys that not only was their father dead…But he was also a murderer,” Carpenter said.
While she initially kept her suffering a secret, other tragedies made her realize her voice had to be heard. “It made me realize I don’t need to be hiding, that I need to use my voice and to expose, you know, what, how this happens, and what happens and how that there is freedom.”
Proceeds from Thursday’s event will benefit the Naples Shelter for Abused Women and Children, including their Options Shoppe, which was hit hard by Hurricane Ian.
“We have 11 entry points, and water came in through every door,” said Paul Kallenberg, general manager for the shelter’s Options Shoppe.
WINK News anchor Corey Lazar emceed the event. He says it’s a way for men in the community to realize how much power they have to help bring change.
“I think one of the biggest things that men can do is continue to educate themselves, to continue to look within themselves and ask do I need to change something? And I think if we all have that type of attitude, a lot could come out of that,” Lazar said.
Carpenter couldn’t agree more. “If we can save one life, you know, it’s very important that we all speak up.”