Thursday, October 16, 2008

Intimate Partner Violence Challenges Interventions and Solutions: Part 4

This is the fourth in a series of posts about what I learned at the all-day workshop sponsored by the Mayo Clinic Intimate Partner Violence Education and Prevention Committee.

The fourth session was given by Frank Jewell of Men As Peacemakers and was titled How to Get Men Involved in the Cause.

The first screen in the presentation captured the essence of Jewell's message

Sexual and Domestic Violence and What We Can Do to Prevent it.

He pointed out that only a few of the attendees at this workshop were men and that the under representation of men in the prevention of sexual and IPV violence isn't unique to this workshop, it is systematic. This non-involvement is a choice men make and that choice by most men to do nothing is a core problem when it comes to prevention.

He also talked about how often men are absent in descriptions of acts of violence committed by men. This contributes to non-violent men failing to see 390,000 to 3 million sexual assaults per year as being a men's issue as well as a women's issue.

Jewell highlighted the Minnesota Dept. of Health study which found that sexual violence cost $8 billion in 2005 with a cost per assault of $184,000 for children and $139,000 for adults. This cost is 3 times the cost of drunk driving, but the public efforts to get people to not commit sex crimes or IPV crimes doesn't begin to match the effort to stop people from drinking and driving.

Prevention: a systematic process that promotes healthy environments and behaviors and reduces the likelihood or frequency of an injury or traumatization.

Jewell showed a tree graphic which showed at the root of the tree the contrasting belief systems for violence and non-violence, respectively. The trunk of the tree are the contributors to violence and non-violence. The branches contain the violent and non-violent actions. This graphic is titled Ending Violence Against Native Women From the Roots Up and was created by Sacred Circle, National Resource Center to End Violence Against Native Women.

This graphic highlights how violence is more than a loss of control on the part of the violent. Their violence is rooted in their belief systems and they need support to flourish.

The support or opposition to violence can be seen in our norms. Behaviors that get taken for granted or ignored are given indirect support. Five norms underlie sexual violence.

1. Violence is acceptable
2. Male gender roles/norms
3. Female gender roles/norms
4. Power - power "over"
5. Private matter

For anyone who claims that number 1 on this is wrong and that violence is not acceptable, look who gets lectured about proper behavior after a rape is reported. The normal response is to scold women for anything from walking alone to flirting and then saying no.

These norms are powerful because of their pervasiveness and how often these norms are allowed to go unquestioned. Jewell pointed out that one narrative in professional wrestling has the audience, including children, cheering when men act out violence toward women.

It is also seen in the violence and physical abuse of women by men that is considered a normal part of pornography where male violence is rewarded rather than discouraged. This skewing of pornography toward violence against women explains why viewing pornography can decrease empathy for rape victims, increase victim blaming, increase anger at women who refuse to act out pornographic fantasies, and increase interest in coercing partners into unwanted sex acts.

There is a spectrum of prevention that goes beyond the prevention that health care provider can do through screenings.

Methods -- The Spectrum is comprised of six interrelated action levels: (1) strengthening individual knowledge and skills, (2) promoting community education, (3) educating providers, (4) fostering coalitions and networks, (5) changing organizational practices, and (6) influencing policy and legislation. Activities at each of these levels have the potential to support each other and promote overall community health and safety.

Jewell pointed out that we know prevention works and can see this in a variety of areas so there is no reason to assume that preventing sexual and domestic violence is a futile effort.

The problem I see with sexual and domestic violence prevention efforts is that most of what is packaged as violence prevention is not prevention at all but either scare tactics/victim blaming or it is teaching evasion (don't walk alone) as a substitute for genuine prevention.

PSAs which put the responsibility for rape onto the victim or the victim's parents take the responsibility off the perpetrators. This victim-centric prevention reinforces the norms which make sexual and domestic violence so pervasive and explains why so many rapists and abusers feel they did nothing wrong.

A Queensland PSA (hat tip to reader joonzmoons) designed to prevent binge drinking rewinds from a girl about to be raped back through the party where she drank to the moment her parents gave her a case of beer to take to party. This PSA does nothing to help prevent rape because it doesn't show the rapists as the cause of the rape.

However, the approach of this PSA could have been a genuine prevention message if it opened with a young man being sentenced to prison for committing rape and rewinding back to the moment where his dad gave him beer and told him it would help him get the girl he wanted to stop saying no.

This failure to focus prevention efforts on those who are in the groups most likely to commit sexual and domestic violence extends to research where there are studies which look at the sexualization of girls but parallel studies are not done about the sexualization of boys.

Jewell is a former sex educator and he talked about our society's reluctance to deal with positive, respectful sexuality so that violent porn often serves as the defacto sex educator. This in turn helps to normalize sexual harm and helps create a sexually toxic society.

It is unreasonable to expect that people will change their behavior easily when so many forces in the social, cultural, and physical environment conspire against such change -- Institute of Medicine

Jewell talked about how to counter the normalization of cruelty and sexual harm by boys against girls. One of the problems is that boys who get out of that box of expectations are often subject to emotional and physical violence from other boys. If boys who don't want to coerce girls are treated by other boys like they are disgusting for giving up too soon that contributes to violence. The same goes for boys who are harassed for not controlling their girlfriends.

Men can help change this so that boys who reject gendered violence have direct support for that choice. The pressure from other boys and men should be respectful and it should be toward non-violence.

The last part of this session was on what men can do to help prevent sexual and domestic violence. There are activities men can be involved in across the spectrum of prevention. It isn't enough for non-violent men to be silent opponents of sexual violence and domestic violence.

Effective prevention requires action. One obvious and simple action that men in health care can do is to attend workshops related to sexual and domestic violence the next time they are offered. Another is for men to speak up against messages which reinforce violence to help de-normalize violence against women.

If this seems dangerous for men that is an important realization and it is a reason that the Minnesota Men's Action Network: Alliance to Prevent Sexual and Domestic Violence is such an important group. For more information go to their website.

My next post will be on the last session of the day which was given by a doctor and IPV survivor.

Here's part 1, part 2 and part 3, if you missed them.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 9:54 AM   1 comments links to this post


At October 16, 2008 11:12 AM, Blogger JENNIFER DREW said...

Very true it is the construction of what is supposedly 'real men's and boys' behaviour' which has to be challenged. Yet even daring to mention those taboo words men, masculinities or boys, is immediately seen as men-hating. Instead it is far easier to continue blaming women and girls for men's and boys' violent behaviours. Male violence is never an isolated case, because as always, it happens due to men's socialisation and other men believing, often rightly, that if they deviate from the narrow heterosexist, misogynstic role, they too will be 'feminised' and blamed, just as women and girls continue to be.

Jackson Katz is another pro-feminist US activist who speaks out constantly about men being 'bystanders' instead of actively speaking out about men's violence to women. Men must stand up and be counted because by being 'bystanders' it ensures male violence against women continues to be the 'norm' and women will continue to be oppressed and victimised. Is this what we really want? A world wherein women and girls continue to be subordinated to men as a group.

Let's start by refusing to use passive phrases such as 'violence against women is a problem and instead use active phrases where in the perpetrators are named. Such as 'male violence against women is a problem. Not too difficult was it - but still it is seen as blaming all men which is why such words must not be used.


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