APRIL IS SEXUAL ASSAULT AWARENESS MONTH, and “Prevention is Possible” is the theme for 2016. The discourse around sexual violence has increasingly emphasized that the responsibility lies with the perpetrators; rather than focusing on what women can do to prevent rape and assault, we must look to men not to commit these acts. Let’s take a moment to get to know a few of the organizations working to address sexual assault and violence against women by encouraging men to foster respect and challenge notions of masculinity that promote sexual violence.
“A CALL TO MEN believes that preventing domestic and sexual violence is primarily the responsibility of men. Although historically it has been almost entirely women who have been at the forefront addressing this issue, we think it is essential that men play a primary role in the solution.”
A Call to Men identifies societal ideas about masculinity as the root cause of sexual violence. The organization educates men and boys about “the Man Box,” which contains the stereotypes about men that both limit their potential and foster disrespect toward women. Men are encouraged to acknowledge the pressures they face around manliness, to challenge socialized masculinity within themselves, and to speak out against harmful manifestations of traditional masculinity.
The organization provides both extensive training and brief workshops to engage men in thinking critically about gender norms, and to encourage proactive behaviors to resist a culture of violence against women. A Call to Men puts out “Breaking Out of the Man Box” DVDs and workbooks that individuals or organizations can use to challenge harmful notions of masculinity and their impact on behavior. The organization also accepts donations.
Check out co-founder Tony Porter’s TED talk above, where he discusses the Man Box as well as the personal experiences that led him to co-found A Call to Men.
“Our vision is for a masculinity that embodies the best qualities of being human. We believe that men are part of the solution and part of a future that is safe and equitable for all people.”
White Ribbon was founded in Ontario, Canada, and has grown into an international movement. Their name derives from their 1991 call for men to wear white ribbons as a pledge to combat violence against women.
The organization provides workshops for male students from middle school through college where they can learn about pressures and harsh realities facing both men and women. White Ribbon also provides training for teachers focused on making classrooms and schools gender-equitable.
In addition to its training sessions, White Ribbon is spearheading the “It Starts With You” campaign, which uses videos and social media to encourage fathers and other male authority figures to be positive role models for the boys in their lives.
White Ribbon’s online store contains t-shirts, ribbons, and a 140-page Education & Action Kit (PDF or print) that can be used to structure programming around healthy relationships. They also accept donations.
“A Walk a Mile in Her Shoes® Event is a playful opportunity for men to raise awareness in their community about the serious causes, effects and remediations to men’s sexualized violence against women.”
This campaign puts men front and center, recruiting them to participate in a mile-long walk wearing high heels. The method is silly and playful, but the meaning is serious. By calling on men to act, Walk a Mile in Her Shoes marches attest to the fact that violence against women is not just a women’s issue, and that men are as much a part of the problem as they need to be a part of the solution.
Walk a Mile in Her Shoes events are more than just parades with men in high heels. The events raise money for local programming to combat sexual violence and support victims. They are also designed to raise awareness in communities about the resources that are available to people. For example, a Baltimore walk on April 16th raised over $31,000 for the Greater Baltimore Medical Center’s forensic examination and domestic violence programs, which ensure that advocates and nurses are available 24/7 to help victims.
You can check out the Walk a Mile in Her Shoes calendar for upcoming events, or organize your own. Watch the video above for footage and interviews from the 2014 Walk a Mile in Her Shoes march held in Chambersburg, PA.
The vast majority of sexual violence incidents are perpetrated by men. Sexual assault is, therefore, every bit as much a men’s issue as a women’s issue. Organizations that focus on men are invaluable to the work of ending violence against women.