In part two of the interview, David continues his conversation on violence against women and girls as a social justice and human rights issue. He talks about the influence media has on our culture and the emerging movements that are developing to create change.
You can read part I of his interview here.
6. Violence against women and girls is a social justice and human rights issue that seems particularly insidious and difficult to eradicate because it is so often part of cultural institutions and the accepted social norm. How do you think prevention efforts directly address the role of culture in perpetuating violence against women and can these efforts change the cultures where this is the norm?
I think that it is important to recognize that preventing sexual and domestic violence are social justice and human rights issues, the solutions to violence go beyond increasing awareness and making individual changes. We need to find strategies that make changes on a community level. Indeed, preventing violence requires changing culture. One way to this is to emphasize what we stand for, not just define our work as being against violence against women. One part of this is creating a culture where equity and respect are honoured. For example, I love the way a group in the US used the recent release of the second Hunger Games film to have discussions about social justice (The same people using the Twilight movies as a springboard to discuss respect in relationships.) Current work to promote healthy relationship and sexual health are part of the process to create new culture.
I see sexual and domestic violence prevention as the work to create a culture without violence. In many ways prevention work is at its core about inspiring activists, building a movement, and creating policies, procedures and practices that fit our vision for a world without sexual and domestic violence.
7. How does prevention work address how the media often portrays being a man as synonymous with hyper-masculinity and the sexualisation of young girls and women in our society? What effect does this have on our youth and how they view each other and themselves?
There are many exciting prevention efforts that are working to challenge media portrayals that reinforce the conditions that contribute to violence against women. Here are a few examples of some exciting efforts, the SPARK Movement describes itself as a girl-fuelled activist movement to demand an end to the sexualisation of women and girls in media.” Check out these blogs challenging the images in Teen Vogue or talk from SPARK Movement-by Carmen Rios at the 2013 National Sexual Assault Conference about the campaign to get coaches to include sexual violence prevention as a response to the rapes in Steubenville. The Healthy Masculinity Action Project works to “build a new generation of male leaders who will model strength without violence and serve as positive change makers in society – taking their communities from awareness to action.”
8. Over the past couple years; we have seen countless headlines of sexual attacks, in many different forms, on young girls. Famous public figures arrested for rape, gangs trafficking vulnerable teenage girls for sexual exploitation and a number of high profile cases of young girls raped and murdered by family members and friends they trusted. How is prevention work addressing this? And how can local centres work with their communities to respond to this?
There seems to be another headline every week about a horrible incident. As long as such violence is seen in our culture as separate incidents, we are not going to get anywhere. The problem of sexual violence is much more than these individual incidents. Prevention efforts by local centres need to go beyond highlighting the problem, we need to articulate the policy and preventative solutions. I recommend people look at the report by the Berkeley Media Studies Group Case by Case that shows how advocates can make changes in the media coverage of child sexual abuse.
9. What role do you feel men and boys can play in ending violence against women and girls? And how does prevention work specifically engage men and boys?
Men and boys can play an important part of efforts to end violence against women, girls (and other men and boys.) I recently wrote a blog about President Obama’s remarks on what men need to do toward ending sexual violence. Obama said that “We’ve got to keep teaching young men in particular to show women the respect they deserve and to recognize sexual” violence and be outraged by it, and to do their part to stop it from happening in the first place. …I want every young man in America to feel some strong peer pressure in terms of how they are supposed to behave and treat women. “ By having men recognize that domestic violence and sexual assault are issues that men and boys must address, we can together work to find a solution.
While I think engaging men and boys is an important part of our work, it is not the only effort we need to take. We need to engage men and boys, and women and girls to be active in these efforts. We have to go beyond seeing males as potential perpetrators and females as potential victims, and recognize that all people regardless of their gender identity can be agents of change to prevent sexual violence and domestic violence.
10. Finally, in your considered opinion, how can we end violence against women today?
I was first introduced to the movement to end violence against women in the 1970s and starting doing work myself in 1982. From my perspective over 30 years, we have made tremendous progress but still have a long way to go. Today the topics of rape and domestic violence are much less taboo than when I started. In 1977 it was rare to find classroom presentations on rape. Today the Rape Prevention & Education programmes supports programmes throughout the country and territories. In 1977 faith communities did not address sexual and domestic violence; now we can see faith communities developing policies on responding to sexual violence and domestic violence. In 1977, there was little government action on this topic; now there is the Violence Against Women Act, research is funded,and prevention programmes exist throughout the world. In the early 1980’s I wanted to get counsellors for first year students to get training on sexual assault; now that is recognized as essential.
But the rates of rape and domestic violence are still high. Institutions are still slow to set policies to prevent sexual and domestic violence. Justice and respect for basic human rights continue to be denied throughout the world. As I have said many times “We often spend a lot of time describing the problem. We have to spend more time imagining the solution.” I see prevention work as imagining the solution. The change necessary to prevent sexual and domestic violence is long term work. The movement to end violence against women has made progress in the last 40 years, but the next 40 years will see even greater changes. Sexual and domestic violence activities are among those marvellous victories that contribute to changing our world to be safer and more respectful.