Violence against women is typically pegged as a “women’s issue”. Yes, it affects women, but it is absolutely crucial that is no longer portrayed in this light. Categorizing violence against women, rape, and sexual assault as a women’s issue feeds into the notion that women alone hold the key to solving violence against women. The we-are-the-ones-getting-hurt-but-we-are-also-the-ones-who-should-fix-it mentality has needs to be laid to rest. This sort of attitude about violence against women was never intentional, but likely arose as a side effect of burning passion to empower our gender and do something about this culturally devastating event.
Men are the problem. And they are also the solution. Violence against women is a social issue; it affects men, women, children and families. We live in a patriarchal society where sexual assault and rape is at the fault of a girl for wearing a skirt. Men typically do not share the same experiences as women when it comes to rape and sexual assault. Growing up as a male in a patriarchal society is drastically different than what we experience as women. As with other controversial issues, we as public health professionals understand the difficulty of gaining support from populations who have not experienced the issue firsthand. In order to fully engage men in the process of ending violence against women, they need to first develop an understanding of the endemic issue.
The video below gives a truly mind blowing and accurate depiction of what the world would be like if men were subjected to the sexual violence and harassment that women are today. This eleven minute clip is more than your typical “role reversal” video. It was made in France by a French filmmaker who successfully captures the obscenity of sexism, fear, and sexual harassment.
A single video isn’t going to change violence overnight, but a transformative piece such as this can serve as a conversation starter. Without a doubt this film touches on several significant barriers to more successful violence prevention. Public health interventions, programming, and research need to divulge deeper into the male population with regards to violence against women. We need to channel resources and funding into partnering with men. Fortunately, there are already a few innovative organizations such as Men Can Stop Rape, nonprofit dedicated to reshaping the culture of masculinity preventing violence against women.
We are the stakeholders here. We hold the power to turn violence against women into a cultural problem instead of just a woman’s issue. As public health professionals and as women, we hold the tools to expand violence prevention and education to everyone, regardless of gender.