Engaging the Community to Prevent Partner Violence
Sexual and intimate partner violence impact all communities—they do not discriminate based on identity or experience. Similarly, people of all communities can play a role in preventing violence, creating a culture and a society in which violence is not acceptable. While often times the conversation around sexual violence is centered on female-identified individuals, it’s important that we talk to male-identified individuals as well. Preventing sexual violence (SV) requires us to address the gender norms in our society—expectations and assumptions that hurt individuals of all genders.
For male-identified people, norms around masculinity create a box which we are expected to fit in, limiting us from being our full, authentic selves. As so much of traditional masculinity is based on ideas of “macho” heterosexual men, often queer men are excluded from what we as a society see as “real men,” and are thus devalued. Groups that are devalued because they do not fit into this masculine box, because of gender, race, orientation, class, immigration status, or another form of identity, are easier for society to promote and inflict violence upon. The data backs this connection, showing significant violence and intolerance experienced by non-straight men. According to the Center for Disease Control’s Division of Violence Prevention, 26% of gay men and 37% of bisexual men have “experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner at some point in their lifetime” and four in ten gay men (40%) and nearly half of bisexual men (47%) have “experienced SV other than rape in their lifetime.” The prevalence of this violence is hard to handle, but there are many actions the LGBTQ community can take to prevent violence and to support survivors.
Addressing masculinity and engaging men in sexual violence prevention can have a number of positive impacts on the community. Prevention programs that address norms around masculinity can promote acceptance of relationships regardless of sexual orientation, challenging the homophobia that can often be found in media portrayals of men. By coming together to talk about masculinity, male-identified people can address the limitations placed upon them in relation to emotions, appearance, expression, and other aspects of identity which can have a negative impact on our individual and community health, safety, and well-being. Lifting expectations around masculinity, and helping male-identified people understand why engaging in this conversation is significant, is a step towards ending violence in our society. By engaging men, who often assume themselves to have no role in the conversation around sexual and intimate partner violence, we create the expectation that we all have to work to make violence unacceptable and all individuals respected. Recognizing that sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, and other forms of oppression based on identity contribute to violence, establishing norms around equality is directly related to preventing the violence in our communities. Community ownership of preventing sexual and intimate partner violence is key; by engaging men we are helping bring in more people into this responsibility.
Engaging Men work is also about challenging the norms around male-identified survivors of sexual and intimate partner violence. As a society we tell male-identified people that they cannot be weak, that they are never the victims. Often male-identified survivors feel an additional level of shame because they feel there is a conflict between their experience of violence and their understanding of their masculinity. By addressing norms, male-identified survivors will hopefully feel more comfortable reaching out and accessing services. The more we talk about the diversity of experiences for male-identified persons, including being a survivor of sexual and intimate partner violence, the more we make it acceptable for individuals to talk about their experience with violence. We are working to help men understand that accessing services of any kind, whether for violence, mental health, or otherwise, is not a challenge to their masculinity. Additionally, Engaging Men work will increase the awareness of resources in the community. Ideally, greater knowledge of the resources in the community will mean that those who are less likely to actively seek out the resources, such as male survivors or queer survivors, will be more likely to come across the information.
CAMP Rehoboth has become a partner organization of the Delaware Men’s Education Network (Delaware MEN), a program of the Delaware Coalition Against Domestic Violence, with the goal of introducing and expanding efforts to engage men in preventing sexual and intimate partner violence. As a partner organization, CAMP Rehoboth will work within the community, with the support of the network, to develop their own initiatives to engage men. Recognizing that this is an issue that takes a village, we hope the Rehoboth community will come together and discuss how men can prevent violence. The LGBTQ community in Rehoboth deserves services and support to prevent sexual and intimate partner violence. Delaware MEN will provide support for CAMP Rehoboth’s efforts and hopes to spread information on services for the Rehoboth community.
In Letters, Delaware MEN will continue to provide more information on what Sexual and Intimate Partner Violence looks like in LGBTQ relationships, ways in which we all can challenge harmful norms that allow sexual violence and intimate partner violence to occur, and working to find connections between the health services CAMP Rehoboth provides and the efforts sponsored by Delaware MEN. For more information on Delaware MEN, visit our website at delawaremen.org.
If you or someone you know is being abused, there are community resources available to you. Call a local 24-hour domestic violence hotline for a confidential place to get help or find resources: Northern Delaware: 302-762-6110 (bilingual) and Southern Delaware: 302-422-8058 or 302-745-9874 (bilingual). Call a local 24-hour sexual violence hotline for a confidential place to get help or find resources: Northern Delaware: 800-773-8570 and Southern Delaware: 800-262-9800.
Matt Leibowitz is the Engaging Men Project Coordinator for Delaware Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Email Matt Leibowitz