Toward Sustainable Culture Change
In order to change culture in a sustainable way we must build and grow social systems that can support this evolution. We cannot change a campus or community culture by merely instituting tougher consequences or a more effectively supportive response for victim/survivors, as important as those steps are.
Changing subcultures and community cultures involves normalizing prosocial behaviors, so that they are the accepted and expected standard that is talked about and promoted. In order to achieve normalization, we must change how individuals and group understand these widely misunderstood issues.
The task is to get beyond the choir and engage the majority. When non-stranger sexual misconduct and relational aggression are properly understood, the majority of people become intrinsically motivated to adopt and expect proper standards for ethical behaviors, more men and women see the relevance in lending their talents and influence for positive change, and all are better equipped to naturally respond with greater compassion for those who have been violated.
Targeting the Root Causes of Behaviors that Violate
There are multiple ways to work toward positive change on the issues of sexual assault and dating violence. Our focus is on equipping campuses with more effective primary prevention programs. Specifically, we design our programs to target what social psychology suggests are the root causes of harmful behaviors and the alternative seeds and roots that yield the prosocial behaviors necessary to prevent harm.
Experts in Messaging to Men
Engaging men to help prevent sexual violations and relational aggression is not the problem. There have always been a certain percentage of men who have helped to prevent harm to others. What we’re really talking about is engaging the majority of men and normalizing engagement so we can attract those with the social and cultural capital to make a real impact.
The Guy in the Back of the Room
It is easy to engage the choir. What we really need to do is reach the guy in the back of the room. Prevention education must reach the guy who doesn’t necessarily want to be there. Effective education bypasses the defenses of those who might typically be resistant to training on these types of issues.
Young men have no reason to be defensive when we approach them in the proper way.
Engagement and helpful levels of intervention are natural when we adequately equip young men to truly understand these issues in the proper way.
A Prioritized Focus
Our prevention education for men is designed to communicate only what is essential for building understanding and changing behavior, which means bypassing many topics that could create resistance or inspire debate.
Debates and lively discussions are useful educational practices for almost every topic, but not for the issues of sexual violations and relational aggression. Our task is to clarify and build deeper understanding. Participants can leave more polarized and entrenched in their own thinking than they were before, making that educational session counterproductive.
Effective education avoids distractions from the highest purpose of our efforts—to prevent behaviors that violate and increase prosocial behaviors that can prevent harm.
Practical and Realistic
Young people need and deserve clarification so they can understand these widely misunderstood issues. They must understand these issues in order to be able to recognize less-than-obvious situations that call for action.
When young men are properly equipped to recognize the wide array of problematic situations or opportunities for influence, they must be equipped to know what they can actually do. And those options must be realistic in the real-world of male culture and certain male subcultures. Idealistic interventions rarely make it out of the training room.
Theoretical basis and primary influences:
- Bandura’s Moral Disengagement Theory
- Bandura’s Social Cognitive Theory
- Choice Theory – Dr. William Glasser’s work on intrinsic motivation and education
- Dr. David Lisak’s work on non-stranger rape by college men
- Bancroft’s work with abusive men – Why Does He Do That? (2001)
- Dr. Jill Murray’s work on non-physical abuse in relationships
- Social Norms Approach
- Festinger’s Cognitive Dissonance Theory
- Transtheoretical Model of Behavior Change–Stages of Change Model
- Robert Fritz’s work on structural thinking and creating organizational change
- Self-Determination Theory (SDT) by Deci and Ryan
- Extensive reviews of the research literature on non-stranger rape and sexual assault perpetration and prevention, trauma, bystander intervention, dating violence/IPV, men and masculinity, etc.