In 1in6’s work engaging men, we’ve learned that differing goals often compete with one another in ways that are sometimes counter-productive. We’ve found that those competing agendas can pose a real dilemma, especially when crafting a message targeting men about violence.
For example, emphasizing the fact that men are most often the perpetrators of domestic and sexual violence is an accurate and important element in educating people about the negative aspects of male privilege. Ironically, that message may simultaneously have the detrimental consequence of causing men to feel that they are being seen primarily as the cause, rather than the potential solution, to the problem. A natural default response for a man internalizing the message in that way would likely be defensiveness rather than engagement: one goal accomplished, one goal undermined.
As we think about the best way to get men involved to end domestic and sexual violence, we think about the success we’ve had when we highlight the ways an issue is most relevant to a man’s own life. The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (2010-2012) reported that about 1 in 6 men(17.1%) in the United States experienced some form of contact sexual violence during their lifetime. In addition, the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study showed that most men (62%) had at least one adverse childhood experience, including physical, sexual, and emotional abuse and violence in the home. So the reality is that trauma is the norm for men.
When we speak to that reality, we speak to men about their own experience. We’ve become convinced that honoring those experiences, while still acknowledging male privilege and the greater prevalence of sexual abuse and assault among women, is the best path to engaging men in the campaign to end violence of all kinds.
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