Engaging Men To Address And Prevent Gender-based Violence On Campus

Written by: Dr. Emily Colpitts and Dr. Jesmen Mendoza

Current Context

  • Few post-secondary institutions (PSIs) in Canada currently have core anti-violence programming that focuses on men and masculinities

  • There is little acknowledgement in PSIs’ sexual violence policies of the gendered nature of perpetration and of the importance of engaging men in a variety of ways (e.g., preventative measures, tertiary interventions)

  • There is a dearth of evidence-based approaches and rigorous evaluation of prevention programming on masculinities and the efficacy of sanctions and intervention measures.

Working with men to address and prevent violence in a good way means:

  • Challenging norms and assumptions about masculinity and sexuality rather than reproducing them

  • Adopting more than just an educational approach to working with men to address and prevent violence

  • Being grounded in a feminist analysis of gendered power relations. This work is deeply personal but it’s important not to lose sight of the political

  • Committing to intersectional analysis and praxis that recognizes men’s varied experiences with privilege, oppression, and violence

  • Being trauma-informed. Assume that there are survivors in the room, whether your work focuses on the prevention or on engaging with respondents and those who have been found to cause harm

  • Recognizing that this is vulnerable work and requires a skilled and trained facilitator

  • Avoiding the impulse to rush to feel-good allyship and active bystanding and creating space for the uncomfortable work of taking accountability

Next Steps

For policymakers:

  • Provide funding for research on engaging men through preventative measures to tertiary interventions, and for the evaluation of existing anti-violence programming to develop evidence-based approaches

For researchers:

  • Identify promising practices from existing programming and interventions with men and masculinities at PSIs and in the broader community

  • Apply skills to rigorously evaluate programming to contribute to the development of evidence-based approaches

  • Create opportunities to network with other researchers in this area by applying for connection grants, etc.

For PSI administrators: 

  • Acknowledge the gendered nature of perpetration. If our anti-violence efforts aren’t addressing men and masculinities, they’re not getting at the roots of the issue.

  • Invest in faculty and student research on engaging men in anti-violence efforts

  • Create a comprehensive memorandum of understanding with community partners who have the expertise to do this work in a good way. For tips on meaningful collaboration, see this blog post. Examples of collaborative programs include ManMade and MENding.

  • Consider offering disciplinary counselling as a meaningful sanction and measure for those who have been found to cause harm. Institutional structures, procedures, and protocols can help minimize any ethical concerns that a trained and skilled clinician might have on offering such involuntary treatment.

For frontline workers:

  • Scan your existing prevention and education materials. Do they address men and masculinities? If so, do they challenge masculine norms or reinforce them? If not, is there an opportunity to incorporate critical masculinities content?

  • Advocate for institutional funding and support for anti-violence programming on men and masculinities

  • Use available opportunities to create dialogue. If you only have an hour-long workshop, consider incorporating a small group activity to get men talking to one another about these issues. Sometimes knowing that other men have similar questions, anxieties, or interest in these topics can create space for ongoing conversation beyond the workshop

For students: 

  • Students can be leaders in this work. Check out the student-led Healthier Masculinities program at UBC as one example.

  • Don’t underestimate your ability to influence your peers. Consider using existing anti-violence campaigns or programming on campus to start a conversation about these issues.

  • Advocate for anti-violence programming focused on men and masculinities to be a core part of your PSI’s response


Suggested Citation: Colpitts, Emily. and Mendoza, Jesmen. (2020, October). Engaging Men to Address and Prevent Gender-Based Violence on Campus. Courage to Act.

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Emily Colpitts

Emily Colpitts is a SSHRC postdoctoral fellow at McGill University. Her current research focuses on the relationship between rising anti-feminist and alt-right backlash and efforts to address violence and promote social justice on Canadian campuses. She is also a member of the Collective Board at Toronto Rape Crisis Centre/Multicultural Women Against Rape.

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Dr. Jesmen Mendoza

Dr. Jesmen Mendoza has been registered with the College of Psychologists of Ontario since 2008. He has provided counselling and psychotherapy since 1999 on a range of issues and in a variety of settings. He is located at Ryerson University’s Centre for Student Development and Counselling where he provides therapy to university students, training to psychology practicum students and consultation to faculty and staff on tricky issues. Prior to Ryerson, he has provided service in a number of social service and criminal justice settings and applies an integrated, inclusive and positive psychology approach to all of the clinical and community work he delivers.

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