Now, I of course think that ending violence against women is a great cause. I think ending violence against everyone is an extremely important issue.
The presentation involved asking the young men in the audience to take a pledge to never participate in violence against women. But the message this young woman took from the presentation was hardly one of empowerment. Instead, she reported that she thought it was sexist and homophobic that only violence against women perpetrated by men was addressed. She felt that the school was sending a message that the school (and the larger society) are not willing to hear the concerns of men who experience violence or women who experience violence perpetrated by women. She felt that the school was labeling half of the students as potential perpetrators and the other half as waiting-to-be-victimized.
And we wonder why so many men feel like they have nowhere to go to seek help in an abusive situation and to heal from abuse.
I think the approaches this group is using definitely have validity and purpose. The message of men speaking out to end violence against women is very powerful. But the approach of having a school-wide assembly forcing students to join a cause is flawed -- particularly given that it is a non-voluntary, mixed-gender group. It's also questionable how much value there is in taking a pledge in a huge anonymous group. The pledge approach might work quite well if, say, a trusted adult male explained that the issue is very important to him personally and asked his small basketball team or youth group to take the pledge (while also affirming that focusing on violence against women by men does not mean this is the only kind of violence that needs to be taken seriously.) These young men could then ask their fathers, their neighbors, their brothers, and their male friends to also take the pledge.
A better approach in a school setting should probably be done in smaller settings than an assembly, and could involve talking about how violence against women and negative stereotypes of women are promoted in the media and examining the students' own prejudices. Tolerance.org has a lot of great resources on talking to students of various ages about issues pertaining to a specific group. There are units focusing on violence against women, but in a way that allows for more discussion, more personal thought, and can be done without sending the message that other violence is not to be taken seriously. More importantly, the units also highlight the achievements of whatever group of people are being discussed -- which is what really is effective in combating objectification and violence.