QUENTIN WALCOTT

ACTIVIST, ALLY AND EDUCATOR

Quentin is an anti-violence activist and educator. As a specialist in engaging men and boys in ending violence against women, Quentin works in New York City as Co-Executive Director of CONNECT. CONNECT is a non-profit organisation dedicated to promoting gender justice, as well as preventing interpersonal violence – the violence that occurs between individuals, either within family and intimate relationships or within communities.

CONNECT uses a uniquely intersectional approach to tackle domestic violence and violence against women. A primary focus is to engage men in communities, many of whom had been heavily affected by structural, community violence, domestic violence and sexual violence themselves. Part of CONNECT's philosophy is to move bystanders, men and boys, and even abusive partners into allies and activists against all forms of violence.

“This is not just a woman’s issue. I see it as a men’s issue. That’s our approach. Men are committing most of the violence, and we see it as their issue and ultimately a community issue. Our work with men is a strategy, to keep women and children safe and to transform the attitudes and belief systems of men.
Working with men means redefining manhood and debunking rigid gender roles that say that men have to be head of the household. Being a hyper-masculine person is hard to live up to. Men are socialised to be the breadwinners, to be in control. And it perpetuates further violence. We are constantly being critical of and exploring our notions of manhood. I want to get to a point where a man can be very comfortable with his partner being more financially capable or being in a position to really contribute to the family without it hurting the man’s feelings or being a challenge to his manhood.”

To address the fact that domestic violence often goes under-reported, especially in marginalised communities, CONNECT works with other social justice and health initiatives and connects violence against women and girls to the larger continuum to include intimate partner and domestic violence issues. This means that the violence is addressed through a multi-pronged approach. 

Quentin has been involved in community activism since he was a student. At that early stage, he was introduced to the inequality that existed between men and women by seeing the men who worked in predominantly female occupied spaces being propelled into leadership positions at the expense of qualified women and not being accountable to the women they worked with:

“I saw a lot of how dynamics between men and women worked. Just even in the organisations I was involved with or started, there were mainly women and in many of the cases there were men in leadership… I definitely saw how men had privilege and how I personally benefitted from that. That was an awakening for me.”

Quentin started working on violence against women 19 years ago when he took a job at a summer camp. The camp was attended by youth from the poorer areas of New York who struggled with a lack of resources and were acting out. He took that experience into his next job at a preventative agency connected to the child welfare system, where he ran groups for young men whose parents had cases within that system:

“My job was to prevent children from placement into the child welfare system. I was effective, but the youth kept coming back. So I started asking different questions and it turned out that they were witnessing domestic violence in the home. We were getting cases of child abuse and neglect, but the majority of the cases were also domestic violence cases. The change we could make was limited because young people don’t have the power to change their material conditions – so they were acting out in school and camp, making poor decisions in their communities, many getting involved in gang violence, because what they got from the gangs they weren’t getting from home. Gang leaders asked the same questions that we did as human service workers, ‘are you hungry, do you have a place to stay, do you have money?' This is what we’re competing with, but at a different cost. Then with the young women who involved themselves with gangs, a lot of the gang initiation was sexual violence. Domestic and family violence prevention was also gang violence prevention. Dealing with young people was our way of dealing with other social issues in the communities.”

Quentin also wanted to work with the adults who were creating these harsh environments for their children. Over the next two years, Quentin received extra training in the area of domestic violence so he could come at the work with a different lens. He also started voluntarily running intervention programs with men. His work at CONNECT is an extension of what he learned at that time.

Quentin is conscious of the history of gender equality, and of the structured lack of appreciation for women’s contribution to relationships, households, communities, workplaces, and societies. But he believes that change is possible, especially if we work together:

“I believe in allies and shared leadership: men and women working together, adults and youth working together, elders and youth working together. I share leadership at CONNECT with a woman, who is white, and a generation older than I am. I believe in this work that the most marginalised should have a seat at the table, at the very beginning of the discussion and that they give leadership and direction to the ways we prevent violence. I think that can help move us forward. In the United States, the struggle was always civil rights, but the ultimate goal was human rights. I wouldn’t do the work if I didn’t believe that we can not only reach equality, justice, and liberation, but to go even beyond that.”