Two recent research articles shed light on the ways gender equity protects against sexual violence, both on an individual-level and at community- and societal-levels.
Male Adolescents’ Gender Attitudes and Violence: Implications for Youth Violence Prevention finds that young men who report more gender equitable attitudes, like not needing to hit another guy to get respect, are less likely to report engaging in multiple acts of violence, including dating violence. This study also finds that witnessing peers engaging in harmful or violent behaviors increases adolescent boys’ likelihood of engaging in violence themselves. Violence prevention programs outside the United States have been using a gender transformative approach and achieving success with reducing violence, and this study highlights the need for violence prevention in the U.S. to address gender equity and provide opportunities for young and adolescent boys to engage with gender transformative content.
Individual attitudes about gender equity affect violence, as do broader community- and societal-level structures. Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed state-level gender inequality and sexual violence rates across the United States. Gender inequality is measured by the Gender Inequality Index (GII), which examines community-level indicators of gender inequality such as labor participation, adolescent birth rate, and female representation in elected offices. The study analyzes each state’s GII with state-level sexual violence data from the 2012 NISVS.
Overall, states with higher gender inequality (unequal labor participation, higher adolescent birth rate, and less female representation in elected offices) also had higher prevalences of completed or attempted rape using physical force among women. However, states that had lower levels of gender inequality (more equal labor participation, lower adolescent birth rate, and more female representation in elected offices) had higher levels of non-contact unwanted sexual experiences, like verbal sexual harassment. This mimics the “Nordic paradox,” but studies have also found that while initial backlash to gender equity increases rates of sexual violence, this is short lived and gender equality decreases sexual violence in the long-run.
Both of these research articles have important implications for prevention. First, it highlights the need for prevention programs to focus on gender equity across the social ecological model. Promoting gender equitable attitudes at the individual level and promoting gender equitable norms at the societal level will have great impacts for preventing violence. Prevention practitioners should also be aware of potential complications and be prepared to address them. In the research on adolescent boys and gender equitable attitudes, study authors found that there was no affect on homophobic teasing, meaning that this harmful behavior has been so normalized that despite some adolescents having gender equitable attitudes, the risk of perpetrating or continuing to perpetrate bullying against LGBTQ+ people remained. Prevention practitioners should be aware not only of backlash to gender equity, but also know what harmful norms are already entrenched in a community and address and change those explicitly, too. This also ties to the need for sexual and intimate partner violence prevention programs to connect with other forms of violence, like youth violence, bullying, and homophobic violence, to maximize impact of prevention across many forms of harm.
Changing norms and attitudes around gender and equality are crucial to ending violence, and many communities are already involved in this work. Check out these resources from CALCASA’s national project PreventConnect that highlight addressing gender equity and gender transformative approaches to preventing sexual and intimate partner violence:
- Re-Envisioning Community Norms: Social norms change as a sexual and domestic violence prevention strategy
- Addressing Gender Inequality: Opportunities to empower and support girls
- Re-imagining Gender for a World Without Violence: Art and storytelling led by Black organizers
- Be Bold Not Bogus: Fostering New Masculinities and Preventing Sexual Violence with High School Age Youth
- Gender, Income, and Intimate Partner Violence Prevention
The NCAA Sport Science Institute recently released the second edition of their sexual violence prevention tool kit “An Athletics Tool Kit for a Healthy and Safe Culture.” This toolkit complements a previous version “Addressing Sexual Assault and Interpersonal Violence: Athletics’ Role in Support of Healthy and Safe Campuses.”
In the past few years, the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) has made significant contributions to sexual and intimate partner violence prevention by providing guidelines, toolkits, policies, curricula, and resources to support athletes, leadership, coaches, and athletic trainers. This new toolkit emphasizes the role everyone within an athletic department plays in preventing sexual and intimate partner violence on a campus and within communities.
“An Athletics Tool Kit for a Healthy and Safe Culture” centers the need for creating a campus culture free from violence which “values, respects and defends the dignity of all people and upholds the inherent value of each individual.” The NCAA identifies the intersections of violence and the spectrum on which it occurs, such as training coaches, athletes, leadership, and athletic staff on recognizing and stopping misogynistic, homophobic, marginalizing, and hostile language and identifying how this language contributes to violence on campus. It’s guidance and policies like this from the NCAA that moves the needle on prevention to a campus climate free of violence.
In addition to the sexual violence prevention education policy already in place, the NCAA recommends five core commitments for athletic departments to create a violence-free culture: 1. Leadership; 2. Collaboration; 3. Compliance and Accountability; 4. Education; and 5. Student-Athlete Engagement. It’s on everyone to prevent violence, and the NCAA tool kit makes that point clear, as well as providing clear and comprehensive checklists for each competency so athletic departments can monitor progress and identify next steps.
Having well-respected and wide-reaching organizations in the fight to end sexual violence makes our movement stronger. The continued leadership from NCAA solidifies the role sport has in preventing and ending sexual and intimate partner violence. This tool kit expands on that role and helps prevention practitioners and athletic departments cement their prevention practices to achieve our common goal: a culture without violence.
Download the “An Athletics Tool Kit for a Healthy and Safe Culture” and read more here.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) invites preventionists across multiple forms of violence to explore the new Connections Selector. This online tool visualizes what many in the field already know: many forms of violence are interconnected, share risk and protective factors, and interact with other forms of violence across the social-ecological model. The Connections Selector can help prevention practitioners identify prevention strategies based on which form(s) of violence they are addressing, which risk and protective factors they are modifying, and whether they are taking an individual, relationship, community, or societal approach to ending violence.
While most of the information on the Connections Selector was previously available on the Connecting the Dots document, this new tool provides a quick visual interpretation of the document and allows users to narrow down their search for modifiable risk factors. For example, a sexual violence prevention practitioner could want to also prevent teen dating violence, and they want these efforts to have a societal-level impact. The prevention practitioner can select the filter buttons for sexual violence and teen dating violence, scroll down to the societal level of the SEM, and see that harmful norms about masculinity and femininity is a shared risk factor for both sexual and teen dating violence. The practitioner can then plan strategies to address these harmful gender norms and prevent sexual violence and teen dating violence.
The Connections Selector is a fantastic way for sexual violence and intimate partner violence preventionists to see how working to address shared risk and protective factors across the social ecology impacts prevention for multiple forms of violence. This tool can also facilitate cross-sector collaboration by helping practitioners identify how their work intersects with other forms of violence and build connections with other violence prevention practitioners, such as those preventing suicide, bullying, or child abuse and neglect. Combining efforts, resources, and expertise from multiple disciplines and violence prevention topic areas elevates prevention to have a greater impact on creating safer, healthier, violence-free communities.
“Prevention is possible. Survivor’s voices are powerful. Together, we will end sexual violence.”
This year brought sexual violence, harassment, and harm to the center of our national conversations and media, thanks to the #MeToo movement and the strength and resiliency of survivors sharing their stories and seeking accountability for perpetrators. RALIANCE‘s newest publication Ending Sexual Violence in One Generation: A progress report for the United States 2018 summarizes this eventful year and explores implications for future prevention efforts.
The report highlights key moments from the past year across many sectors, including #MeToo advocacy and activism, media, government leadership and policy, prevention, and institutional engagement. Prevention advancements of the last year include bystander empowerment, early intervention for adolescents with problematic sexual behaviors, and promoting healthy masculinities, such as the work Black Women’s Blueprint shared on a recent web conference with CALCASA’s national project PreventConnect. The report also highlights CALCASA’s Cost and Consequences of Sexual Violence in California report.
The impacts of this year continue to reverberate through our communities. Heading into a new year full of its own challenges and successes, we must continue changing the conversation about sexual violence to one that supports survivors and centers prevention.
To read Ending Sexual Violence in Once Generation: A progress report for the United States 2018, click on this link.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) technical packages to prevent multiple forms of violence have been instrumental in advancing sexual and intimate partner violence prevention. The CDC recently released Violence Prevention in Practice, a new web-based resource to guide state and local health agencies and other key stakeholders in planning, implementing, and evaluating violence prevention efforts.
This resource guides users in creating comprehensive violence prevention efforts in alignment with strategies and approaches used in the CDC’s Division of Violence prevention technical packages. The resource sections include:
- Policy Efforts
- Strategies & Approaches
The resource is not linear, so practitioners can dive into whichever sections fit their current needs best. Concepts from the guide come to life in story highlights from across the country and across multiple forms of violence. For example, the Rhode Island Intimate Partner Violence Prevention Plan conducts statewide surveys and school-based assessments in their data-driven planning approach, which compliments the resource’s Needs Assessment section.
Providing examples of organizations’ success stories ties in to a central theme of Violence Prevention in Practice: centering community members’ needs and experiences in violence prevention efforts. There is also a strong theme of connecting violence prevention and health equity, as indicated by the Health Equity Consideration icon seen throughout the resource, and below.
The framework provided in this resource echoes and enhances what public health and violence prevention practitioners are already doing and what they already know. Additional resources, worksheets, and tip sheets are included in each section. Be sure to check out the Approach Search tool, where practitioners can find approaches to prevent violence depending on which strategy from the technical packages their community has identified as a priority for prevention.
To access Violence Prevention in Practice, click here.
“The fact that prevention strategies related to changing sexist and misogynistic language and behavior dominated Twitter discourse is promising…”
In the days after #MeToo started trending in October 2017, Twitter users responded with #HowIWillChange asking men to prevent sexual violence and support survivors. A new study in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence highlights the impacts of this trending hashtag.
Alyssa Harlow’s team with the Boston University School of Public Health studied nearly 1,500 #HowIWillChange tweets. Over half of the tweets had primary prevention messages and another third were calling on each other to intervene when they see violence or hear misogynistic jokes or statements, to support survivors, and to hold those who cause harm accountable.
Not only is this Twitter conversation capable of creating lasting cultural shifts and social norms change, but the prevention strategies shared with #HowIWillChange also provide an excellent jumping off point for advancing prevention education. For example, in addition to role modeling positive behaviors for children, parents can also talk with children of all ages about personal boundaries and healthy development. Or, those who said they would examine their male privilege as their #HowIWillChange action can also read up on how various forms of oppression (like racism, heterosexism, cissexism, etc.) contribute to high rates of violence, and they can be vocal activists for intersectionality and sexual violence prevention in their peer circles.
There were some tweets in opposition to #HowIWillChange and sexual violence prevention. These critiques illuminate which myths and misperceptions we can reframe and correct. Harnessing the momentum of Twitter trends can take our prevention efforts to new platforms and beyond our immediate communities. It is impossible to be comprehensive in our prevention efforts in 280 characters, so we must be strategic with Twitter and other social media. Berkeley Media Studies Group recently released two prevention communication guides–one with RALIANCE and one with the National Sexual Violence Resource Center–to help prevention practitioners craft effective, strategic prevention messages and communicate those messages with media outlets.