RCASA’s Tuesday Promising Programs: Men Can Stop Rape

In Sexual Assault Awareness on November 2, 2010 at 8:00 am

Men Can Stop Rape (MCSR) is an international organization that mobilizes men to use their strength for creating cultures free from violence, especially men’s violence against women. Since its inception in 1997, MCSR has led the call to redefine masculinity and male strength as part of preventing men’s violence against women.

Men Can Stop Rape’s youth development program, the Men of Strength Club, is the country’s premier primary violence prevention program for mobilizing young men to prevent sexual and dating violence. The Men of Strength Club, or MOST Club, provides young men with a structured and supportive space to build individualized definitions of masculinity that promote healthy relationships.

MOST Club aims to:

  • Provide young men with a safe, supportive space to connect with male peers
  • Promote an understanding of the ways in which traditional masculinity contributes to sexual assault and other forms of men’s violence against women
  • Expose young men to healthier, nonviolent models/visions of manhood
  • Build young men’s capacity to become peer leaders and allies with women
  • Serve as a hub for social justice activism and nonviolence

The Club employs a 22-week curriculum profiled by the National Crime Prevention Council as one of our nation’s most promising “50 Strategies to Prevent Violent Domestic Crimes.”

In 2003 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identified MOST Club as among the top four gender violence prevention programs in the country and initiated a two-year study to evaluate the Club’s impact. As a result of ongoing membership, MOST Club members report feeling more responsible and connected to their schools, families, and communities.

Now in its tenth year, MOST Club’s middle school and high school curriculum are taught in over 100 schools in over 10 states.

Why engage men in the fight to end violence against women and girls?

There is evidence that working with men to promote gender equality in health can yield positive results.

The World Health Assembly, at its meeting in Geneva in 1996, adopted a resolution declaring violence a leading worldwide public health problem. Across the many different types of violence delineated by WHO, including self-directed, interpersonal and collective violence, between men and against women, men are overwhelmingly found in the role of the perpetrators. Male violence is a learned behavior and men are socialized in much of the world to be violent. Men’s use of violence is in itself usually part of an affirmation of male norms and masculinities, in addition to being part of a power structure in which men with more power (e.g. older boys and men, men in dominant social classes) subjugate younger boys and men with violence.

Violence and its acceptance, is central to the operation and maintenance of relations of inequality. Nowhere is this clearer than in the unequal relations of power between men and women. Male violence is used to produce and reproduce the subordination of women, and patriarchal norms and practices create the conditions that condone and even encourage men’s violence against women. Tackling men’s violence is an essential component of any effort that seeks to create greater gender equality.

It is therefore evident why we need to reach out to, and work with men and boys in policies and programs to end violence against women and girls. While it is necessary to continue working in women-specific programs to end violence,  some of the disadvantages of focusing only on women include:

  • There is a “silent” majority of men who are against violence especially violence against women. Working with men as partners will help to identify these allies in the fight against this problem
  • There is an ever increasing number of men who are explicitly  working hard to end violence against women and promote gender equality
  • The behaviors and values of men and boys affect the health and well-being of others (girls, boys, women and other men) in their lives
  • Leaving men and boys out of efforts to end violence separates them from the solutions to violence, reaffirms gender norms around male violence and leaves the burden of addressing violence squarely on women’s shoulders
  • Addressing and challenging male violence with multiple partners – including men who use violence and those that oppose it – can help to better delineate the root causes of male violence
  • Working with men on this problem is an important strategy to address the effects of violence on families. It has an important positive effect on families and children’s health through their role as fathers and partners

Research with men and boys in various settings worldwide has shown how unequal gender norms influence how men interact with their intimate partners and in many other arenas, including preventing the transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, using contraceptives, physical violence (both against women and other men), domestic chores, parenting and men’s health-seeking behavior. There is evidence that working with men to promote gender equality in health can yield positive results.

Specific changes in behavior that have been confirmed in evaluated programs with men and boys on violence and gender socialization included, decreased self-reported use of physical, sexual and psychological violence in intimate relationships.

One of the most important things that men can do is to challenge other men who exhibit sexist and rape-supportive attitudes.  The research indicates that men overestimate other men’s sexism.  If you challenge the sexism, you will find that there is more support for you from other men than you might imagine.

An empowerment/education model of rape prevention consists of approaches and strategies that deal with the root causes of the problem instead of being satisfied with the superficial band-aid solutions. In this sense this model aims at changing those structures and eliminating those factors and beliefs that promote violence. Adopting this model means that we, women and men, all work to change a number of attitudes and beliefs; beliefs not only relating specifically to sexual violence, but also to other forms of interpersonal violence and violation, all forms of discrimination, sex role stereotyping and sexual conservatism.

Men and women need to challenge the patriarchal power relations which promote and are maintained by violence, and promote alternative constructions of masculinity, gender and selfhood which foster non-violence and gender justice.


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