Ed Guider of Ballston knows firsthand the damage domestic violence can do to any family, at any time, in any place in the world.
My dad was an abuser, said Guider. "I came from a family of 10, and there were six boys, and all of us vowed to never be abusive. Violence affects everybody in all walks of life."
Guider has done more than live his life peacefully. He has rallied for public recognition and action against the shockingly high incidence of harassing and harming women, teens and the elderly. Three years ago, he founded the grassroots group Ballston Men Against Violence, with a goal of attracting 100 men, although women are also welcome to be part of the advocacy organization.
"We're here for the women and girls in this town," said Guider. "Most people are totally unaware, but it is happening."
The group has organized presentations at the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake library on topics frequently shrouded by doubt, fear or shame, including teen date rape and elder abuse. In order to draw people in, Guider is careful to keep the names of the sessions benign and unthreatening.
"If we say 'teen dating violence,' it will scare girls away," said Guider. "If we say 'elder abuse,' that intimidates people, so we say 'elder care.' We have to play with the language."
The men's group has already had a profound impact on the Ballston community. This month, the Ballston Town Board approved the hiring of a part-time security guard at Town Court, where many domestic cases appear.
"The courtroom is just a dangerous place," said Guider. "The town judges may be women, and the clerks, and research has shown that battered women who press charges are at a huge risk."
The group also plans to set up a "court watch" system to monitor the town's processing system for offenders.