Current prevention strategies typically address women and girls as victims or potential victims and portray men as perpetrators or potential perpetrators. Often the focus is on how women and girls can avoid abuse by boyfriends or husbands or sexual assault by strangers or acquaintances. While this work is valuable, these are risk-reduction, not prevention strategies: they teach women and girls how to avoid victimization, but they don’t work to reduce the number of men who use violence.
We need more strategies that get to the roots of gender-based violence. Strategies that look closely at the roles and responsibilities of men and boys. Strategies that challenge cultural norms and the institutions that reinforce rape, battering, and sexist attitudes. Strategies that examine how gender-based violence connects with gender socialization—and strategies that offer healthy ways to raise boys and girls to be men and women.
Although most men are not violent toward women, many men have not been offered the opportunity to join prevention efforts. Many don’t recognize their own responsibility and ability to help. This needs to change. Men’s participation is essential if we are to progress from helping some people avoid violence to actually ending it.