Violence prevention with men and boys: Notes on what we need

In engaging men and boys in preventing domestic and sexual violence, what do we need? In the following, I identify key ways forward, addressing both our overall approach in violence prevention and particular prevention strategies. I focus on primary prevention – on efforts to prevent the initial perpetration of domestic, family and sexual violence.


  • We need to increase the focus in violence prevention on challenging harmful forms of masculinity and engaging men in prevention.
    • A greater emphasis on engaging men and boys as part of violence prevention is visible in the second edition of Change the Story (2021). Will it be enacted in what is actually implemented?
    • This emphasis also is more visible in the latest Federal Government Action Plan, the National Plan to End Violence against Women and Children 2022-2032. Under prevention, one of the four pillars in the national plan, a focus on men and boys is one of the eight focus areas for action: “Support men and boys in developing healthy masculinities and positive, supportive relationships with their male peers” (107).
  • We need intensified and scaled up initiatives aimed at men and boys. There are promising initiatives, but the work is small and scattered
  • In primary prevention in general, and in engaging men and boys in particular, we need more attention to organisational and structural change, and not just to small-scale change.
    • This is signalled too in the 2nd edition of Change the Story. Among the gendered drivers, this document now refers to ‘male peer relations and cultures of masculinity’. That is, it emphasises the need for attention to organisations and institutions, not just informal relations.
  • We need focused attention to the masculinity-related drivers of domestic violence and sexual violence
    • Including in communications and social marketing campaigns, aimed at shifting social norms.
  • We need greater focus on masculinities and sexual violence.
    • Much violence prevention programming and policy has focused on domestic and family violence, neglecting sexual violence. There is, nevertheless, good guidance on prevention of sexual assault and sexual harassment. See e.g. my writeup on this, here, my chapter on engaging men and boys in preventing sexual violence, and a shorter piece on engaging men in the prevention of workplace sexual harassment here.
    • On the other hand, violence prevention initiatives in universities have focused far more on sexual violence than on domestic or partner violence.
  • We need to build capacity to engage men and boys.
  • We need greater attention to protective factors (the factors that make violence perpetration less likely), including those that foster gender-equitable identities and relations among men and boys. This work should be informed by scholarship on men’s pathways to gender-equitable and non-violent lives. See my chapter on this.
  • We need explicit standards for effective or best practice in work with men and boys:
  • We need more comprehensive efforts
    • Using multiple strategies in multiple settings with multiple audiences.
    • Involving substantial community engagement. I.e., where the work involves: partnering with community-based groups, conducting a collaborative needs assessment, jointly developing an implementation plan, etc.


  • We need a wider range of strategies, engaging a greater diversity of men
    • In terms of the different ways we can engage men and boys, and the settings through which we can do so, few are used.
    • Work with men and boys for primary prevention is mainly:
      • Educating boys in schools about respectful relationships and sexual consent
    • It is rarely:
      • Building egalitarian cultures in workplaces and sports
      • Using communications and social marketing to shift norms of masculine entitlement
      • Involving male community and religious leaders
      • Mobilising men alongside women in advocacy networks
      • Holding male policy-makers and male-dominated institutions and governments to account.
  • We need greater attention to community development and community mobilisation. And particularly to engaging and mobilising men.
    • Community mobilisation is a key strategy of violence prevention, particularly with men. See my conference presentation and notes here.
    • There are some promising instances of community mobilisation projects among men in Australia, such as this.
    • White Ribbon Australia should be doing far more of this, mobilising men and networks.
  • We need community-level strategies, that target modifiable characteristics of the community – structural, economic, political, cultural or environmental – to reduce the risk of violence perpetration and victimisation. (See my Briefing Paper on these.)
  • We need intensive intervention in violence-supportive settings and contexts. Including: Online, internet; Sporting clubs; Workplaces; Etc
  • Respectful relationships education in schools in Australia should have greater attention to masculinities. To specific ideologies of masculinity that feed into domestic and sexual violence, such as male sexual entitlement.
  • We need interventions into spaces of misogynist radicalisation
    • See my book chapter “Engaging Men Online: Using online media for violence prevention with men and boys”, pp. 497-498, here.