In working with men to address violence against women and girls, it is crucial that men are seen as part of the solution. This strategy will help diminish men’s defensiveness and hostility for being blamed for the behaviour of some men. By recognizing differences among men at the individual level: men who are perpetrators, men who have experienced abuse, men who are champions in speaking and taking action against violence and all the different men in between, there is a greater opportunity to open discussion with men on the roots and causes of violence against women and the discriminatory attitudes that perpetuate it.
Why are some men reluctant to become engaged in violence prevention work?
Messages and images that vilify men and stereotype them as aggressors will do little to engage them in this work. A study conducted by the US-based Family Violence Prevention Fund (Garin 2000) found:
13 percent of the 1,000 men interviewed identified their reluctance to get involved in violence prevention activities because of their perception that they had been vilified and were seen as part of the problem, rather than the solution;
13 percent of men said they didn’t know how to help; and
21 percent of men said that they did not actively support efforts to end domestic violence because “no one has asked them to get involved”.
To read a brief case study on the research (a national survey and focus groups) that was conducted with men to inform the development of an intervention for boys, see Coaching Boys Into Men.
How can men be engaged as part of the solution/programme?
Create safe spaces and single-sex discussion groups for men where they can learn more about the issue, ask questions without being judged or feeling ignorant, where they can participate without feeling threatened by expressing their concern for ‘women’s issues’, and can reflect on their own attitudes about women and violence;
Use male facilitators in settings where this is preferred and ensure that whether a man or a woman, the person is trained and qualified;
Do not use language that leaves men feeling blamed for things they have not done or for things they were taught to do;
Openly acknowledge with the group that men are often grouped together and blamed for the actions of some without the recognition of their diverse beliefs and behaviours;
Use the mass media to reinforce non-violent norms and foster attitudes among men and the public at large that violence against women is not acceptable, that ‘real men’ do not exert violence, and women are equal; and
Work at the community level with various educational, outreach and mobilization strategies to influence social norms and create an enabling environment for men and boys to reject traditional stereotypes of manhood and use of violence.