Not in the headlines: Men working to end male violence
by Pat Shelly
A major news story this month is about a NFL football player who punched and knocked out his fiance, with a security camera video recording the brutal act. The player was eventually fired, but only after a huge protest about the initial reaction by the NFL to this violence off the field: the player was suspended for two games. These Twitter hashtags act as a short-hand summary of the trends in the news stories about this assault and about violence against women (VAW) that followed:
#RayRice #NFL #Abuse #DomesticViolence #DV #WhyIStayed #WhyILeft #VAW
Missing from most news feeds? This:
Lately, I have spent time reflecting on the 40+ years that the global End Violence against Women movement has existed (the first Speak-out on Rape in the U.S. was held in January 1971 in New York City). While women have made up a large majority of activists in this area, I know first hand that men are concerned about violence against women (VAW). Here are a few of the ways that men, and institutions led by men, have joined in this struggle. Perhaps these can generate some headlines, too.
United Nations: HeForShe
Last week, the United Nations launched a new initiative to address male attitudes and behavior toward women and girls. British actor Emma Watson, a U.N. Women Global Goodwill Ambassador, gave a speech to introduce the “HeForShe” campaign to enlist men and boys as advocates and allies in attaining gender equality. HeForShe is “a solidarity movement for gender equality that brings together one half of humanity in support of the other of humanity, for the entirety of humanity.”
Ban-Ki Moon, U.N. Secretary-General, is quoted on the HeForShe website: “Violence against women and girls is a global problem; it harms women, families, communities and societies. We can only stop it by working together. Women and men.”
In addition to ending male violence against women and girls, such equality includes human rights for women and girls around the world, freedom of women to self-determination and control over their own bodies, equal pay for equal work, access to education, an end to child marriage, and more. [See also U.N. Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, 1993].
The White House: It’s On Us
On September 19, 2014, the White House launched “It’s On Us” to address the epidemic of sexual assaults on college campuses. The campaign is a follow-up to Not Alone: The First Report of the White House Task Force to Protect Students From Sexual Assault issued in April 2014. One part of this plan is to engage men: “..one thing we know for sure: we need to engage men as allies in this cause. Most men are not perpetrators – and when we empower men to step in when someone’s in trouble, they become an important part of the solution.”
Men as Allies: Not a new phenomenon
In the 1980s, I was a staff member at Erie County’s rape crisis service, the Advocate Program at Crisis Services in Buffalo, New York. I worked with almost 50 volunteers who responded to calls from hospital emergency rooms 24 hours a day, and accompanied those who saw an arrest in their cases to courthouses.
We had men as volunteers, who were partnered with a woman to team together when answering calls and offering support to rape victim/survivors and their families in hospital emergency departments. These men – 10% of our volunteers – were especially helpful in negotiating the high emotions expressed by angry and blameful male partners or family members. In addition, these advocates were often the lead team member when dealing with any male victims/survivors (although there were few seen at the hospitals in the ’80’s). I saw the care and commitment that these men gave .
In 1994, then-U.S. Senator Joe Biden succeeded in shepherding the passage of the first Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), the first legislation to provide federal funds for new programs to address VAW. It has since been reauthorized by Congress, though not with some challenges: in 2013, some members of Congress objected to its expansion of jurisdiction to Native American tribal authorities when sexual assaults occurred on Native lands.
Many movements, many men
The emphasis in the 21st century has been on men taking responsibility for interpersonal and collective male violence against women. I have listed below just a few of the many organizations that focus on changing traditional roles and emotional restrictions that boys are still too often expected to grow into. Campaigns educate men that sex is only OK when fully verbalized consent is given by the partner – or in the words of the White Ribbon Campaign in Canada: to promote “Consistent, enthusiastic, real consent”; others instruct men on how to intervene when a woman is incapacitated by alcohol or other drug and may be in danger of being assaulted; and most have an underlying principle of valuing equality between men and women, while actively challenge male privilege.
These campaigns and the individual men who sustain them are not often in the headlines. No continuous media coverage over weeks or months is given to their efforts to change the world, one boy or one man or one village at a time. Maybe that can change.
Have you seen positive change in men accepting responsibility in changing destructive or violent behavior by men? Tell us about it – Leave a comment!
The 24-item Gender Equitable Men (GEM) Scale measures attitudes toward violence, sex, LGBT people, sharing household chores, and condom or other disease prevention use.
Lundgren, R. and Adams, M. 2014. “Safe Passages: Building on Cultural Traditions to Prevent Gender-Based Violence throughout the Life Course.” Anthropological Approaches to Gender-based Violence and Human Rights, Working Paper #304 of the Gender, Development, and Globalization Program of the Center for Gender in Global Context at Michigan State University. http://irh.org/resource-library/anthropological-approaches-gender-based-violence-human-rights/
It’s On Us http://itsonus.org
Men Stopping Violence http://www.menstoppingviolence.org/
Men against Domestic Violence http://www.dvsolutions.org/programs/menagainstdv.aspx
Men against Violence against Women http://mavaw.org/
The White Ribbon Campaign http://www.whiteribbon.ca/
HeForShe: “Gender Equality is Your Issue Too.” http://www.theguardian.com/film/video/2014/sep/22/emma-watson-gender-sexism-heforshe-un-speech-video
UNiTE to end violence against women http://www.un.org/en/women/endviolence/network.shtml