“From this day forward I promise to be part of the solution in ending violence against women.”
This simple pledge – a mere 17 words – represents a bold call to action. Indeed, over 17 million women in the United States have experienced attempted or completed rape and countless more have been physically, sexually, and emotionally abused in their relationships. This pledge raises the voices of a growing population who have a huge role and a key responsibility in ending violence against women: Men.
White Ribbon Day in Massachusetts is an annual campaign taking place Thursday March 7 at the State House in Boston. Organized by the Men’s Initiative of Jane Doe, Inc. (the MA Coalition Against Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence), White Ribbon Day is part of an international movement to engage men as active parts of the solution to the global pandemic of violence against women. But why the focus on men, you may ask?
Because violence against women is a men’s issue. Men commit violence, men experience violence, men respond to violence, and masculinity can perpetuate violence. The vast majority of violence against women is most appropriately described as men’s violence against women. This is not to say that all men commit violence (in fact, most men do not), but most cases of violence against women are perpetrated by men. While victims of sexual and relationship violence are often women, men and children are hugely impacted by men’s violence as well. In addition, men have close personal relationships with women (and other men) who have experienced sexual violence or abuse.
The social construction of masculinity often idealizes being tough, strong, aggressive, in control, and sexually experienced. These traits, while not intrinsically negative, can create a masculine culture that fosters male authority, unhealthy relationships, and abundant violence. While many men do not actively endorse violence, the White Ribbon campaign creates a platform for all men to become actively involved in ending it. The campaign promotes positive masculinity, safety and respect, and accountability among men to “raise the bar” as fathers, sons, brothers, friends, classmates, colleagues, partners, and global citizens.
So this Thursday – and every day – wear your white ribbon by taking the pledge, sparking a conversation, speaking out against violence, and leading by example. To learn more about the White Ribbon campaign worldwide, and other ways to be part of the solution, please visit www.whiteribbon.com.
The issue of sexual violence is particularly relevant to college campuses. It is estimated that 20-25% of college females will experience attempted or completed rape during their time on campus. At EverFi, we are deeply committed to addressing this critical threat to student wellness and success. Through population-level prevention platforms and research on high-impact programs and policies, EverFi is working with our campus partners to help create safe, healthy, and positive learning environments for students.