Men can stop rape

The US organisation that aims to mobilise men to stop violence against women

Men Can Stop Rape's history begins in 1997 with the founding of the organization. No-one knew what to expect – whether it would flourish or fade. A decade later in 2007, Men Can Stop Rape (MCSR) was named the United States winner in the Changemaker’s competition to identify the world's most innovative domestic violence prevention programs, sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Clearly, MCSR has flourished.

And so has the movement to mobilize men for preventing violence against women. By this we mean all men. For too long, domestic and sexual violence have been thought of as women’s issues. This means only half the population has been shouldering the responsibility for fostering safer relationships. Increasingly, though, violence against women is being viewed as a public health issue that has long term negative impacts on our families, schools, churches, and worksites.

In other words, we are all living with the harmful consequences of this abuse, whether it happens to people we know or to strangers. Increasingly, males of all ages are recognizing that there will be no long term solution until they join with women as allies. They understand they can and must play a positive role in creating a culture free from violence against women.

MCSR’s multi-component Strength Campaign offers agencies, organizations, and schools a coherent, integrated, and holistic approach that mobilizes men to take up their positive role and become role models for healthy masculinity in their communities. The programs and services that comprise the Strength Campaign range from direct service youth mentoring to capacity-building for professionals, localized service-learning projects to global social marketing ventures. With each target audience, the messages conveyed highlight personal responsibility and the willingness and desire to make healthy choices. For MCSR, strength is more connected to the heart and mind than muscles and might.

In 2001 MCSR launched Strength Mediaworks, the innovative, multi-faceted public education component of the campaign. It has inspired men around the world to declare "My Strength is Not for Hurting." From bus shelters in Washington, DC to a public health clinic in South Africa, posters from the Strength Mediaworks have reached hundreds of thousands of people with their captivating visuals and conversational tone. The media materials target young men with provocative and inspiring images and messages that role model how men can be strong without overpowering others or using violence in relationships.

The Men of Strength (MOST) Club, designed to complement Mediaworks and serve as the school-based mentoring component of the Strength Campaign, is grounded in the knowledge that conducting a single workshop with a group of male youth will be insufficient. In order to see lasting change a greater commitment must be made. Employing a 16-week curriculum profiled by the National Crime Prevention Council as one of our nation’s most promising “50 Strategies to Prevent Violent Domestic Crime,” the MOST Club inspires members to build and embrace individualized definitions of manhood in ways that promote health, safety, and equality for all young men and women. We sustain the Club well beyond 16-weeks, though. In some schools, the MOST Club has been operating for six years. The young men we work with have gone onto present at national conferences, appear on radio and TV shows, and participate in Liz Claiborne Inc.’s Teen Dating Violence Prevention Task Force.

We also recognize that our Men of Strength Club members must become leaders for change in their schools. Community Strength Projects allow members to translate curriculum lessons into public action and peer education. Under the guidance of adult facilitators, Club members develop, execute, and evaluate the success of their own projects. Perennial favorites such as Building Community Strength Day and Sexual Assault Awareness Month’s “30 Days of Strength” unite a wide cross-section of students, parents, educators, administrators, business leaders, and interested citizens for awareness-raising experiences.

Of course we recognize that building the capacity of educators and professionals to mobilize young men is essential, and so Strength Trainings make up the final component of the Strength Campaign. MCSR has trained more than 10,000 youth-serving professionals in the United States and across the world, working with high schools, colleges, government agencies, the military, and nonprofit organizations. Professionals explore the guiding frameworks that shape our approach, learn effective ways to overcome the challenges to engaging men, and strategize about positive ways to involve men in preventing violence against women.

If we use strategies like the Strength Campaign to create ways that support men’s involvement in preventing sexual and domestic abuse, then women’s burden will be shared. If men challenge and support each other to become better sons, better fathers, better partners, not only will women and children benefit. The world will be better off.

Pat McGann is Communications Director of Men Can Stop Rape. Steve Glaude is Executive Director