Welcome to the second part of our Inspirational Interview with Joe Samalin, Senior Program Manager for Community Mobilisation & Community Development with Breakthrough, a global human rights organisation that works to challenge the culture of violence against women and girls Today he continues his interview about Breakthrough’s mission to prevent violence against women by transforming the norms and cultures that enable it.

All pictures courtesy of Breakthrough.


IMG_69466. On the grassroots level, what can college students and university alumni do to help stop violence against women happening at their universities/alma maters?

If just 10% of college alums reached out to their alma maters and asked questions about sexual violence on campus and what their school is doing about it and how they can help what a difference that might make. If first year students learned about this issue and came into that first year already knowing what questions to ask, what consent is, how to create a culture free from sexual violence, then that would be huge. If faculty included information about the issue in their syllabi; if parents got involved in tackling this issue — there’s so much potential.

For more specific ideas and suggestions on what alums can do, check out our Twitter chats on that and more at https://storify.com/breakthroughUS.

When those of us who have not experienced sexual assault do not step up to do what we can, the burden to do so often falls to those who have experienced it. Which is patently and grossly unfair and unjust, and unfortunately is the current state of things. Big shout out and tons of support to all the survivors who have worked for so hard and so long on this issue. We wish it was not necessary, and are working to make it so.


7. Fraternities and Football teams in U.S. universities have a reputation for sexist, sometimes misogynistic, behaviour and there have been many high profile cases of rape and sexual assault committed by fraternity members and athletes. Many people see these institutions as part of Rape Culture and a symbol of male entitlement. What do you think can and needs to be done to reach out to members of fraternities and male sports teams to get them to change their toxic attitudes and behaviour towards women?

Statistically there are higher rates of sexual violence in sports and fraternity settings. And yet, in my experience, most men in these spaces are against rape and sexual assault and do not commit overt acts of violence, although they often stay silent about it.

Breakthrough works directly with fraternities and sororities (“Greeks”) through our Campus Catalyst program. Working with Greeks, my first step is always to try and see past my own stereotypes of fraternity men. Only by starting there can I build the relationships necessary to support individuals and communities looking critically at their culture, holding themselves and each other accountable, and to collaborate with them towards the end of lasting change.

This is especially important because as I said earlier, Breakthrough’s campus work is about equipping Greeks to challenge sexual violence on their campus and beyond, and that kind of work takes a lot of time and effort. To see some of Breakthrough’s research fraternity men and our strategies for working with them, check out Our-Latest-Research-Fraternities-Can-Help-Challenge-Sexual-Assault


8. Good men who speak up and intervene when they witness their peers harass, assault, or attack a woman or girl are still very much in the minority. Many choose to remain silent. Based on your experience, how can activists and advocates reach out to and mobilise this silent majority to take action to stop the violence?

If I may, I would like to respectfully push back on the language of “good men”. For me there are not good men and bad men – we all exist on a spectrum of awareness, behavior and violence. All men – all people – can do more to end gender-based discrimination and violence. Over the last ten years or so there has been an explosion in the number of men and boys locally and globally who know about gender norms and gender-based violence, which is for the most part an awesome, awesome thing.

But there is more to do.

Breakthrough includes and engages men and boys through many of our programs. Some of our key strategies include meeting men where they are on those spectrums, recognising that working with men often takes a lot of time, and making sure that men who work on this issue also do our internal work around privilege, gender norms, homophobia, violence, and more.


9. In your considered opinion, what are the first steps that men and boys who are new to the anti-Violence Against Women movement can take to help communities end the violence for good?

In no particular order!

● Pat yourself on the back for doing a good thing, but not for too long. There is a lot of work to do, and real-life consequences every day, every hour, to us taking too long to do it.
● Recognise you are new to this, and most likely have a lot to (un)learn. Be humble and open to listening to others.
● Take the time to learn about male privilege, patriarchy, emotional intelligence. Think about your own stories of gender and masculinity, of violence, and how they shaped who you are now.
● Make sure that part of what you do involves learning from and working in partnership with women. A lot of boys and men new to this issue interact only with other men. That can be problematic, and is still something I struggle with myself.
● Have fun, and do not take yourself too seriously. Growing up I was taught that as a man I should always be in charge, and that I am responsible for, well, everything. Once I started to let that go (#WorkInProgress) my life and my work have gotten much, much better. Not always easier, but better.
● Find how to appropriately support survivors of violence early on and what resources exist to connect them to. Because people will disclose to you what they have experienced.
● Take care of yourself. This is not easy work, and you do not have to do it full time or professionally. Take breaks. Know your limits. Seek out and get support BEFORE you need it!


10. How can The Pixel Project’s fans and followers support and engage with Breakthrough’s efforts to end violence against women and girls?

Great question! Connect with Breakthrough on Twitter and Facebook, and keep up with all of our campaigns and more by joining the Breakthrough Generation.

Sign up for our October 15-16, 2015 Community Catalyst Training in NYC or future training, join our monthly Twitter chat on campus culture and sexual violence using #ChatBreak (first Thursday of every month at 2 pm EST), and also let us know what future chats should focus on.

If you know or are yourself a fraternity or sorority member, bring Breakthrough to your campus! And if you have any questions or ideas just reach out – we are always looking for more ways to work together with folks.

Breakthrough Catalysts