Movements to end sexual violence and intimate partner violence have established a long history of grassroots and institutional advocacy. Rooted in feminist practice and philosophies, this work increased the capacity to recognize, respond to, address, and prevent violence against women. Data gathered from the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS) suggests that all forms of interpersonal violence have a profound impact on a large number of people, both women and men, throughout the United States (NISVS, 2011). Continuing to build and expand this movement will allow us to increase our ability to address this widespread violence and work toward a just and equitable future.
Anti-violence organizations and programs have historically been established by and operated by and for women. By creating spaces where women exposed to intimate partner and sexual violence could find safety, support, and healing, founding members of these movements established effective practices and community-based activism. In the process of creating these needed spaces, some communities have been excluded or marginalized. For example, men and boys, as survivors of violence and activists/allies working to end violence, have not always felt welcomed in by anti-violence programs. In some cases, the caution about limiting the participation of men and boys is rooted in the feminist identity of an organization (Maier, 2008) or by the real experience of men trying to access these programs for the purpose of continuing to perpetrate violence against a partner. However, as the movement grew, more anti-violence programs recognized that in order to best meet the needs of the community and their own social change goals, it is necessary to draw a balance between the priorities of 1) honoring the history, principles, and gender-based social analysis upon which programs are built, and 2) building an inclusive organization with the capacity to move the mission of ending violence forward. As part of the growth of these movements, we’ve shifted in the way we understand prevention. Expanding beyond risk reduction as our main prevention strategy, we now embrace primary prevention strategies as well. Primary prevention involves changing the culture of violence, addressing the root causes of oppression, and creating spaces where violence is not tolerated. It is clear that working with men and boys is an important part of primary prevention efforts.
To reach an appropriate balance and to most effectively address some of the root causes of violence, anti-violence programs can increase their capacity to engage men in the work to end violence. Resources included in this collection, compiled by NSVRC and NRCDV staff, will help to inform programs about how they can begin to increase capacity to work with men and boys.