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    April 2014

    Engaging Men to Prevent Sexual Violence

    photo: male and female student talking at a party

    Men are an integral part of moving campus culture away from tolerance of sexual violence. While most men do not commit acts of violence, males perpetrate the majority of sexual assaults on women and other men. An institution’s sexual violence prevention program should focus not only on reducing women’s risk of becoming victims, but also on encouraging men to stand up against sexual violence. President Obama emphasized this in his recent call to action against student sexual assault.

    Challenging men to take an active role in preventing sexual violence involves changing attitudes, dispelling rape myths, and altering deeply rooted social norms. Men act in a hypermasculine and sexually aggressive manner to gain approval from their male peers, not to impress women, research suggests. Men who witness abusive behavior often stay silent or mask their discomfort out of fear they will be ostracized, ridiculed, or emasculated. Yet studies show these fears are unfounded; most men overestimate their peers’ acceptance of abusive behavior toward women.

    Prevention Efforts

    Prevention efforts need to help men correct these mistaken beliefs. Specifically, training programs should teach men:

    • About healthy sexual relationships
    • How to identify sexism and sexist behavior
    • To intervene when they see abusive behavior

    These programs should also offer men a safe space to discuss the pressure of trying to live up to an ideal that favors sexual aggression and consider how it can perpetuate violence.

    Most important, as educational institutions continue to look for ways to prevent sexual violence, they should treat men as partners, not potential perpetrators. By emphasizing the positive role men can play, colleges can motivate them to participate in the institution’s prevention efforts.


    Men Can Stop Rape mobilizes men to act as allies in sexual violence prevention through workshops, training, and other initiatives.

    A Call to Men offers training and education aimed at shifting social norms that excuse sexual violence and promote a healthy and respectful definition of manhood.

    Valparaiso University Sigma Phi Epsilon Safe House engages fraternity members through education and a commitment to maintain a sexual abuse-free environment.

    University of Maine Male Athletes Against Violence is a peer education program composed of varsity male athletes who raise awareness on issues surrounding men, masculinity, and violence.

    Training Bystanders to Prevent Sexual Assaults suggests bystander intervention training resources from EduRisk and other organizations.


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