There may be no coincidences in life.

Andy Cavallaro started his new job as the first male executive director of the Community Safety Network just two months before the #MeToo movement stormed into the national consciousness a year ago.

Soon more men began coming to the table regarding the prevention of violence against women.

Although there have been many male volunteer advocates at the Community Safety Network over its 37-year history, Cavallaro is the first paid male staffer. The nonprofit agency provides support and a haven to those affected by domestic or sexual violence and stalking in Jackson Hole. Not surprisingly, the majority of those seeking help are women.

Cavallaro believes he was brought into the organization that has traditionally had an all-female staff for several reasons.

“One of those reasons was to help engage more men and boys to be included in the solution to domestic violence,” Cavallaro said.

Andy Cavalaro

Andy Cavallaro

Jim Auge, president of the Safety Network’s board of directors, told the News&Guide that the board never specifically sought a man for the position.

“Our only goal was to find the most qualified candidate,” Auge said. “As it turned out, Andy was deemed that candidate, and he accepted the job. One year later, we’re thrilled with the job he’s done.”

Cavallaro said that over the past year people have fairly constantly asked him about his job since he is — essentially — the only male on campus at the Community Safety Network.

“I cannot tell you how many times I have been asked, ‘How is your job at the women’s shelter?’ and ‘It must be challenging to be a man in that arena,’” Cavallaro said. “And my response is pretty similar: This is not a women’s issue. This is a human issue where men typically abuse women; men have to be a part of the remedy.”

Dr. Jackson Katz, co-founder of Mentors in Violence Protection, has come to speak to the Jackson community several times through the Community Safety Network, and Cavallaro subscribes to his philosophy regarding men and abuse.

“We need to view men not only as perpetrators or possible offenders, but as empowered bystanders who can confront abusive peers, be potential mentors and teach young boys about how to be men in ways that don’t involve degrading or abusing girls and women — or men,” Katz has said. “Gender violence and sexual violence are not women’s issues. They are human issues, and men need to change how we think, feel and act.”

A 2015 report from the United States Agency International Development found that the proactive engagement of men and boys as contributors to the prevention of gender-based violence is “becoming an increasingly common component of violence prevention efforts globally.”

As if to underscore that phenomenon of men’s engagement with gender violence prevention being alive and well here in Teton County, over Teton Pass in Driggs, Idaho, the executive director at the Family Safety Network also is a man.

The Family Safety Network hired former Arizona attorney Marc D’Amore three years ago. Though not a shelter, the organization offers free, confidential help for victims of domestic violence or sexual assault.

Beyond being male, D’Amore thinks the reason the board of directors of the Family Safety Network hired him was his background. Although not currently practicing he was a government lawyer with the Arizona attorney general’s office for 15 years before relocating to Teton Valley, Idaho, in 2015.

“I think that background was attractive to the board since we work so closely with the sheriff’s department and the prosecutor’s office here,” D’Amore said.

When D’Amore decided to look for something productive to do in his new state he saw a posting for the director position he now holds. He started researching domestic violence, sexual assault and rape crimes and statistical data, as well as other information about the work that agencies like the Family Safety Network do.

D’Amore reflected upon his own experiences going all the way back to high school and college and realized he had known a lot of women who had been victimized and how nonchalantly these types of crimes are treated in our country, he said.

“And then I saw the statistics the Department of Justice and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published that 1 in 4 women are victims of domestic violence and 1 in 5 are raped during their lifetime in this country; those statistics just staggered me,” D’Amore said. “I couldn’t think of a better way than to dedicate my time, energies and experience as a lawyer — and just as a person, responsible adult and citizen — to try to make a difference.”

D’Amore agrees with Cavallaro that the crimes both the Family Safety Network and Community Safety Network deal with are fundamental human rights issues.

“Women can’t solve the issues without having men at the table here,” D’Amore said.

Like D’Amore, Cavallaro — a husband and father of two — felt drawn to the Community Safety Network and its mission on a number of levels, both personal and professional.

According to a 2016 University of Washington-Tacoma study, what motivates men in gender-based violence prevention is an “emotional and personal connection to the issue of violence against women, a sense of connection with a community of individuals working to end violence, and/or an emerging understanding of violence as something structurally embedded and that compels immediate action.”

Before moving to Jackson 20 years ago Cavallaro worked in social services in Minnesota with at-risk youth and their families. While teaching at an alternative high school there he offered a class about sexuality and relationships.

“Many of the teenage girls and boys I worked with had experienced physical and/or sexual violence and were also perpetrators,” Cavallaro said. “My primary goal was to create space to discuss healthy relationships, healthy communication and most importantly, respect and empathy. Having a man in that role is important for young women — and all women — to know that not all men out there are abusive and violent.”

His experience as a small-business owner, an elected official (Teton County assessor) and a teacher has helped “immensely” with his position at the Community Safety Network, Cavallaro said. Additionally, he grew up in a violent and abusive household.

“My mom and family would have really benefited from the services CSN provides,” he said. “Organizations like this were not readily available to our family.”

After Cavallaro’s mother died this past summer he finally realized why his work is so important to him.

“I didn’t connect all the dots as to why my path led to this [CSN] until my mom was dying,” Cavallaro said. “It was pretty cool to connect it and confirm what I’m doing here.”

Teaching kids how to create the culture they want to be a part of is a large portion of the curriculum the Community Safety Network is working on with the Teton County School District. Cavallaro said he and his organization are trying to mentor and teach young men and boys to change their behavior and thought patterns.

“Instead of all that negative, unhealthy talk, bullying and sexist-abusive language, let’s take that energy and build something positive and support each other,” Cavallaro said. “This year we’re creating a custom curriculum to work with sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders around this culture of respect.”

Cavallaro has developed healthy, supporting relationships with several Community Safety Network clients and their children who have stayed on in the organization’s long-term housing facility. This was not something anybody, including the board of directors, really expected.

“Initially I think some of our clients were a little taken aback by me,” Cavallaro said, “but through those learning and growing experiences and these clients getting to know me and that I’m who I am — that I’m actually helpful — that’s been a really big positive for our organization and for our clients.”

Starr Sonne, the Community Safety Network’s director of client services, couldn’t agree more.

“Andy has successfully transcended his gender-specific first impressions by thoughtfully greeting and making introductions with our guests and visitors,” Sonne said.

“Andy serves to remind all of us that domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking are not ‘women’s issues,’ they are human issues. Andy, being a man, might just be the ticket for activating men in our community to stand up and protect human rights.”

Contact Jules Butler via valley@jhnewsandguide.com.

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