Where Men Stand: Men’s roles in ending violence against women

The report, Where Men Stand: Men' s roles in ending violence against women was launched in Australia on November 25th, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and the focus of the White Ribbon Campaign. The report is a stocktake, a reckoning, of where men are at when it comes to violence against women. The report focuses on four key dimensions of men’s relations to violence against women. (See below for the full report, in PDF.)

Men’s use of violence

The report Where Men Stand starts with the use of violence itself. We know that most men do not practise violence against women, at least in its bluntest forms. But we don’t really how many men have used a range of forms of violence against a woman. More widely, we don’t know how many men use the non-physical behaviours which can harm a partner or ex-partner: routine insults and psychological abuse, monitoring and controlling a partner’s movements, or dominating everyday decision-making. In turn, we do not know what proportions of men routinely treat their wives and partners with respect, offer intimacy and support, and behave fairly and accountably.

Men’s attitudes towards violence

The report Where Men Stand then looks at men’s attitudes towards violence.

Most men believe that violence against women is unacceptable. Most men reject common myths about domestic violence. However, a substantial minority, over a third, believe dodgy ideas like rape results from men not being able to control a need for sex. And men are still too willing to believe that women lie and make up false accusations of violence.

There’s a powerful link between violence against women and sexism. The research shows that men with the worst attitudes, the most violence-supportive attitudes, are those with the most conservative or sexist attitudes towards gender and gender roles.

Men’s responses when violence occurs

The report Where Men Stand then looks at men’s immediate responses when violence occurs. Most men say that they are willing to intervene in situations of domestic violence, although sometimes, their interventions may not be very helpful.

The fact is, a silent majority of men disapproves of violence, but does little to prevent it, while significant numbers of men excuse or justify violence against women. The silence, and encouragement, of male bystanders allows other men’s violence against women to continue.

Men’s involvement in preventing violence against women

Finally, Where Men Stand looks at what role men can and do play in reducing and preventing this violence. Men’s involvement in efforts to end violence against women is increasing. There are several elements to this;

  • A growing number of men are being public advocates for violence prevention, particularly through the White Ribbon Campaign.
  • Men and boys are increasingly the targets of education and other forms of intervention, particularly in schools.
  • Men’s involvement in violence prevention is on state and Federal governments’ agendas.
  • Finally, violence prevention efforts among men do work – if they’re done well. There is a growing evidence base, suggesting that well-designed interventions can shift violence-related attitudes and behaviours.

Again, let’s not see all this through rose-coloured glasses. There are other aspects to this which are more sobering. Only small numbers of men are involved in violence prevention in active and ongoing ways. Some efforts are ineffective or tokenistic. And there’s an energetic backlash to efforts to address violence against women, being pushed by anti-feminist men’s groups.

The report looks at what’s inspired men to get involved in violence prevention advocacy. But it also looks at the challenges, the barriers to everyday men taking steps to help reduce and prevent violence against women.

Raise the bar

I want to end by emphasising that we must raise the bar for what it means to be a ‘decent bloke’, a ‘nice guy’. To stop violence against women, well-meaning men must do more than merely avoid perpetrating the grossest forms of physical or sexual violence themselves. Men must strive for equitable and respectful relationships. They must challenge the violence of other men. And they must work to undermine the social and cultural supports for violence against women which are part of communities throughout Australia – the sexist and violence-supportive norms, the callous behaviours, and the gender inequalities which feed violence against women.

Citation: Flood, Michael. (2010). Where Men Stand: Men’s roles in ending violence against women. Sydney: White Ribbon Prevention Research Series, No. 2.

It is time for men to join with women in building a world of non-violence and gender justice.