Sexual and Domestic Violence: Whose Problem Is It Anyway?
The federal Violence Against Women Act of 2005 states that “nearly 1/3 of American women report physical and sexual abuse by a husband or boyfriend at some point in their lives”. The U.S. Department of Justice indicates that “1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men reported experiencing an attempted or completed rape at some time in their lives”. The perpetrators of these assaults are almost always men. It is time for well meaning men to acknowledge that this is a male problem.
For the past 30 years, women have done courageous work running rape crisis centers, battered women’s agencies, 24 hour hotlines and safe houses. They have led the way in working with policy makers across the country to revise and reform the institutional responses to sexual violence, including assault and harassment, as well as reforming the public and private response to domestic violence-related crimes. They have advocated prevention approaches through community awareness and educational programs in multiple sectors of society. Some men have been involved in these efforts as advocates, concerned citizens, or community professionals. The vast majority of men, however, have been passive bystanders to the violence and the precursors to violence around them, while a staggering number of men have been beating and raping women and children. It is time for well meaning men to act!
Men are in a particularly unique position to help change the environment in which sexual and domestic violence occurs. As men, we are often involved in policy making decisions in the public and private sector that create or inadvertently support dangerous social standards that are simply perceived as “normal” male behavior. Men are often engaged in, or witness, interactions in locker rooms, at hunting camps, or in office cubicles that support notions of women’s sexual objectification and social subordination. Having participated in these interactions personally, men are uniquely qualified to call them into question and challenge other men, helping dispel the myths and reveal the consequences of these all too common exchanges. Men’s unique responsibility in ending men’s violence is not only associated with these personal exchanges, or the extent to which men control major institutions in the culture, but also because men commit over 90% of these offenses.
A broad and diverse network of men is needed to align with the voices and historically groundbreaking activities of women to prevent sexual and domestic violence. Minnesota needs: 1) Men who will promote fair and safe relationships. 2) Men who create and support healthy, joyful, sexuality. 3) Men who will promote organizational practices and public policies that respect the dignity of every human being, not as sexualized objects or social subordinates to use, exploit, or disregard, but as persons with inalienable rights to choose the opportunities and circumstances of their lives.
The MN Men’s Action Network was initiated by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) to build a public/private prevention effort that promotes male leadership. To this end, a collaborative effort between the MDH, Men As Peacemakers in Duluth and the Gender Violence Institute in Clearwater has been created to develop a network of men and male leaders involved in primary prevention practices. Current efforts are being supported by MDH, the Bush Foundation and the MN Department of Public Safety
What Men Can Do
We Can Help
Men are in a particularly unique position to help change the social norms that create the environment in which sexual and domestic violence occurs. Since men commit over 90% of the violence, we need men to help with the solution. A broad network of men is needed to align with the voices and historically groundbreaking activities of women to prevent violence. Our communities, friends, and families need:
- Men with the strength, concern, and commitment to prevent sexual and domestic violence.
- Men who will promote fair and safe relationships.
- Men who create and support healthy sexuality.
- Men who will promote organizational practices and institutional policies that respect the dignity of every human being, not as sexualized objects to use, exploit, and discard, but as persons with inalienable rights and opportunities to choose the circumstances of their lives.
The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) has chosen to make the prevention of sexual violence a priority and to build a public/private prevention effort that promotes male leadership. To this end, a collaborative effort between the MDH, Men As Peacemakers in Duluth and the Gender Violence Institute in Clearwater has been created to develop a network of men and male leaders involved in primary prevention practices.
The Minnesota Men´s Action Network provides presentations, training and technical assistance to groups, campuses and communities to raise the awareness, and ultimately the collective will, to make the organizational practices and public policy changes that are required to impact the social norms that contribute to sexual and domestic violence. We work in partnership with women to make the changes necessary for our communities to become safe for all people.
Why Men And Boys?
Sexual Violence: Whose Problem Is It Anyway?
Top Ten Reasons from the Family Violence Prevention Fund
- Most men do not agree with men’s violence, yet do nothing to challenge or stop it – these men need to be mobilized to prevent violence.
- Some men are already working to prevent violence but lack support; many more would like to get involved but don’t know how.
- Many women want men to step up and take a stand against violence.
- Men commit most of the violence – it is up to them to stop it
- Men are not born violent-they become violent as a result of beliefs and norms about what it means to be a man. Work with men and boys can change these beliefs and norms and support men in rejecting violence
- Men have the potential to stop violence. Not only can they choose to not perpetrate acts of violence, they can choose to challenge the attitudes and assumptions that support gender-based violence.
- Gender-based violence continues despite years of antiviolence work. The missing piece is effective violence prevention work with men. (For statistics on violence in the United States, see Get the Facts.)
- Men experience violence too-many are survivors but few get the support they need to heal from their experience. (See RAINN Statistics for data on men experiencing sexual assault.)
- Men and boys listen to their peers-we need to mobilize men and boys to spread the violence prevention message in their families, workplaces, and communities.
- Decision makers and opinion leaders are mostly men-we need to work with them to get the political, financial, and moral support necessary to prevent gender-based violence.
Teens as Victims:
- 1 in 5 teens who regularly socialize on the Internet have encountered a stranger who requested cybersex
- 83% of high school girls have been pinched, sexually touched or grabbed against their will by their peers
- 2/3 of births to teenage girls are fathered by adult men age 20 and older.
Adults as Victims:
- Among college students nationwide, between 20% and 25% of women reported experiencing completed or attempted rape (Fisher, Cullen, and Turner 2000)
- Among adults nationwide:
- More than 300,000 women (0.3%) and over 90,000 men (0.1%) reported being raped in the previous 12 months
- One in six women (17%) and one in thirty-three men (3%) reported experiencing an attempted or completed rape at some time in their lives
- Rape usually occurs more than once. Among adults who report being raped, women experienced 2.9 rapes and men experienced 1.2 rapes in the previous year (Tjaden and Thoennes 2000)
Other disturbing facts:
- 2/3 of college men report that they would consider raping a woman if they think they could get away with it
- Only 2% of all rapists are convicted and imprisoned
Sexual assault and abuse is any unwanted, non-consensual, manipulated or coerced form of sexual activity. They include a wide range of behaviors, such as:
- Having your pants pulled down by someone against your wishes, or having them grab your crotch
- Having sex with someone who is too drunk to make clear decisions
- A teacher or coach having sexual contact with a student
- Forcing someone to do sexual things or look at sexual material that makes them feel uncomfortable
How We Can Stop These Problems
Primary prevention means taking action before the onset of symptoms.Prevention is a systematic process that promotes healthy behaviors and environments and reduces the likelihood or frequency of an incident, condition, or illness occurring.
The Minnesota Men’s Action Network was formed to get men involved in the prevention of sexual violence.
Men can help other men take action before the problem starts.
The Prevention Institute has developed some exciting new ways of thinking about prevention. Above is a graphic way of envisioning prevention that the Institute developed.
For a detailed description of the spectrum go here.
Like the light spectrum all of the bands are important to the whole and support each other. There is, however, greater power in some of the bands than others. The institute found that “changing organizational practices” and “influencing policy and legislation” had the greatest impact on changing environmental contributors.
In the 1970’s, almost no one used child safety seats – kids climbing around in the car was the norm. Persistent educational campaigns did not get people to use child safety seats. Only after hospitals set up organizational practices in which new parents needed a car seat to leave the hospital with the baby and states began passing laws that mandated child safety seats did most parent begin to use them. Today it is the norm that children sit in safety seats in the car.
How We Can Help
How We Can Help
The Minnesota Men’s Action Network is a collaboration between the Minnesota Department of Health, the Gender Violence Institute and Men As Peacemakers. We are able to offer organizations and communities a variety of supports to get men involved in the prevention of sexual violence.
- Community Forums – We have a workshop style presentation about sexual violence, prevention and getting men involved that lasts between 3 and 4 hours depending on number of participants and components.
- Presentations – We have a variety of lecture style presentations related to prevention, sexual violence, violence against women, and organizing men.
- Meeting facilitation – We are available to assist communities, who are interested in starting prevention initiatives focused on men, to organize and facilitate meetings
- Technical Assistance – We can offer communities technical assistance in developing there own prevention initiatives.
- Grant writing assistance
- Community organizing training and assistance
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Interview with Chuck Derry, Ed Heisler, and Newfoundland Men
Advocacy Focus Group Report
2008 Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women Press Conference Femicide Report
“Adolescent Girls in the United States Sex Trade,” an ongoing study partly sponsored by the Women’s Funding Network
Flood, Where Men Stand – Men’s roles in ending violence against women 2010
Letter to the Editor
Letter to your Legislator
Cragun’s Resort recieves “Clean Hotel” Certificate
Community can learn to prevent abuse
Men must stand up and change
If you want to find out more about what men are doing around the country and the world check out these links.
- Men Can Stop Rape is a Washington DC based organization with a very interesting Men of Strength campaign
- The Family Violence Prevention Fund has developed a playbook call “Coaching Men to Boys.”
- The California and Minnesota Coalitions against Sexual Assault have great information and resources
- XYonline is a website focused on men, masculinities, and gender politics. A space for the exploration of issues of gender and sexuality, the daily issues of men’s and women’s lives, and practical discussion of personal and social change
- Jackson Katz is an author and anti-violence educator
- The CDC offers a vast array of facts and information about sexual violence
- For interesting information about sexuality and other health topics check our the website Go Ask Alice
- Georgia Tech has some great information on prevention and getting men involved
- Men Against Sexual Violence (MASV) initiative that began in July of 2001 with the ambitious goal to gather pledge support from one million of Pennsylvania’s male residents has quickly grown in only three short years to take on a life of its own. Efforts to include men in Pennsylvania’s anti-sexual violence movement have ranged from awareness campaigns locally in communities around the state, to rallies and pledge signing events at many of our commonwealth’s colleges and universities
- The The Sexual Violence Prevention Program of the Minnesota Department of Health offers great information and tools for prevention work
- The A Call to Men: organizing men to end violence against women
- The Family Violence Prevention Fund has an excellent Toolkit for Working with Men and Boys, which includes a 10 lesson work plan.
- Choose Respect offers resources for parents about healthy relationship building.
- Status of Women & Girls in Minnesota Research Overview courtesy of University of MN Humphrey Institute’s Center on Women & Public Policy,
in partnership with the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota.
- A Youth Perspective on Family Violence courtesy of MPR via United Front.