How can we help to prevent gender-based violence?
The responsibility of preventing violence against women is too often placed on women themselves. Messages that tell women to adapt their behaviour to keep themselves safe are not only ineffective and exhausting but perpetuate misguided and harmful beliefs that victims are to blame for what happens to them.
Real prevention starts with challenging the harmful attitudes and behaviours that underpin gender-based violence. This is not just an issue of violence against women, but a problem of violence by men. Let's start looking at men's actions, including how they can hold each other to account and prevent abuse.
Changing deep-rooted attitudes and behaviours in our society can feel overwhelming and impossible, but even small, everyday actions can make a big difference. Here are five ways we can all help to prevent gender-based violence and support those who experience it:
1. Recognise the problem
Attitudes and behaviours that might be passed off as trivial or 'just a joke', such as wolf-whistling, can leave women feeling vulnerable or intimidated and contribute to a culture that permits or excuses violence against women. The first step in prevention is to recognise the problem and the impact it has. Speak with the women in your life about their experiences as a way to learn more.
Free, enthusiastic consent is mandatory, every time. This means making sure there is an active “yes” and not just listening for a "no". Adopt enthusiastic consent in your life and talk about it - with your partners, your friends, and your children.
3. Listen to survivors
How often have you heard people say things like "he wouldn't do that", "they're making it up", or "where's the evidence"? By believing myths around false reporting, we not only deny that sexual violence is a problem but allow it to continue, with impunity for perpetrators. Take people seriously when they report sexual harassment, assault, or rape.
4. Challenge 'victim-blaming'
The only person to blame for sexual violence is the perpetrator. It doesn't matter what the survivor was wearing, if they were drinking, or how they behaved. Challenge harmful attitudes and comments, support survivors by believing them, and hold perpetrators to account.
5. Positive role models
Find people that inspire you and challenge harmful attitudes. This can be friends, family, celebrities, or influencers. Better yet, be a positive role model for others. There are lots of ways you can create change - start conversations, request training at your work, signpost people to support services - such as the Rape Crisis Centres or Women's Aid.
Police Scotland's 'Don't Be That Guy' campaign challenges men to take the lead on making women's lives safer by examining their own attitudes and behaviour at home, at work, and among friends.
The men in the video describe behaviours that are often passed off as insignificant, but contribute to a culture that normalises and permits violence against women.
“Most guys don’t look in the mirror and see a problem. But it’s staring us in the face. Sexual violence begins long before you think it does."
The #DearDaddy campaign sends a message to fathers and would-be fathers everywhere, urging them to help protect their daughters by showing zero tolerance to rape culture.
The video is narrated by one man's unborn daughter, who lists the possible things that could happen throughout her lifetime at the hands of men and ends with the powerful line - "I will be born a girl, please do everything you can so that won't be the greatest danger of all."
The Best Men Can Be
This advertising campaign by Gilette looks at how men can hold each other accountable, eliminate excuses for bad behavior, and create positive change that benefits everyone - including addressing harmful attitudes and behaviours that allow or condone violence.
Rigid gender norms (i.e. stereotypes) that say what is and is not acceptable for people based on their identity contribute to gender inequality and are harmful to everyone - including men.