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Men must be part of the solution to gendered violence

  • 18 March 2021
Content warning: This article contains references to sexual violence. We are facing a national reckoning. Four years after the #MeToo movement, the justifiably enraged voices of women and girls are saying enough: experiences must be brought to light; the sexual assault and harassment must stop.

Separate allegations including those against Attorney-General Christian Porter and an accusation made by former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins have put the culture in our halls of power under the spotlight. Also recently, hundreds of young women have documented claims of sexual assault and rape against young men from some of the most prestigious schools. Over 70 pages of the most harrowing experiences are captured in black and white.

Much of the focus of public discourse is about women and girls who have experienced violence. This is progress — people who have experienced violence must be heard and supported. In the words of Australian of the Year Grace Tame, ‘it is so important for our nation, the whole world, in fact, to listen to survivors' stories’. We all have the right to be safe — at home, in the workplace and in our streets.

In spite of some commentary to the contrary, this is not about alcohol or being out late at night. Overwhelmingly, this is about the behaviour of men and boys. Not all of them — but too many.

There is not sufficient focus on the underlying drivers of sexual assault, harassment and other types of violence. Instead of people reverting to phrases like ‘boys will be boys’ to explain or excuse a hurtful comment or action, as a society we must do more to understand where these behaviours originate and work to prevent them. 

In 2017, Jesuit Social Services established The Men’s Project, to draw on our then 40-year history working with boys and men. Our work stems from a commitment to keep women, children and the broader community safe. We do this by intervening earlier to address the root causes of male violence and other harmful behaviour, supporting boys and men to be their best selves.

'If we want to improve the attitudes of young men, and ultimately create better worlds for everyone, we must support men and boys to break free of the Man Box and recognise how destructive rigid adherence to masculine stereotypes can be.'

We embarked on Australian-first research to understand what drives the attitudes and behaviours of boys and men.

This research, published as two