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Using 'Healthy Masculinity' to Curb Gender-Based Violence

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Healthy masculinity involves speaking out against abusive language and behaviors. (Adobe Stock)
Healthy masculinity involves speaking out against abusive language and behaviors. (Adobe Stock)
December 23, 2020

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- "Know better. Do better. Be better." That's the message violence-prevention advocates are hoping catches on among young men and boys in Ohio.

A new social-media campaign from the Ohio Men's Action Network is working toward establishing healthier definitions of masculinity and norms surrounding gender-based violence. Glenn Harris, assistant director of prevention for the Ohio Domestic Violence Network, said it starts with an understanding that simple biases can escalate violence.

"Violence just doesn't happen out of nowhere," he said. "It happens on a pyramid. Starting at the very lowest rungs are examples of sexist jokes, racist jokes, different biased comments and things against marginalized populations."

Harris said they're teaching men that they have an important role to play in preventing violence in their homes, in their relationships and their communities. He's hopeful this outreach will help curb the spike in domestic violence that typically occurs around the holidays, which could be exacerbated by the pandemic.

The campaign encourages men to speak up when they hear disrespectful gender-based language, stand up to abusive behavior and lead others by demonstrating respect in words and actions. Harris said they're trying to go outside the boundaries of their typical prevention work.

"It's having these challenging conversations that typically we've steered away from," he said, "and it's having those challenging conversations specifically with men and boys, understanding that a large amount of the perpetrators are young men and boys."

Harris said they're reaching out to young men through schools and universities, community partners and fatherhood organizations, where he described some of their messages as especially powerful.

"And we got a good response from men and fathers, who actually became conscious of their actions and their behavior, and what they're showing to the young people in their homes and in their community," he said. "So, fathers were being introspective in that way."

Disclosure: The Ohio Domestic Violence Network contributes to our fund for reporting on Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Mary Schuermann Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH