Working with men?
Research shows that a father's Involvement in children’s upbringing often results in improvements in children’s educational performance.
One in six young adults in the United Kingdom said they had been sexually abused before they reached the age of 16. Just who is carrying out these acts?
“There is a growing understanding that sexual abusers are likely to be people we know, and could well be people we care about...and many hold responsible positions in society.”
- Donald Findlater, Director, Stop it Now!
n eight out of ten cases, the abuser is known to the child – usually a family friend, neighbour, a member of the child’s family or someone working with children. Those who carry out such crimes range from perpetrators who see no problem with their acts to those who do see it as wrong and feel deeply unhappy about it. Most abusers are men, but women and children also abuse children. Some have been abused themselves, others come from violent or unhappy family backgrounds. Many struggle to meet their needs in consenting adult relationships.
Stop it Now! is a child sexual abuse prevention campaign, supported by a helpline. It works to prevent: perpetrators of sexual abuse offending; children from being victims of sexual abuse; and families from having their children harmed. It believes that the reasons behind why perpetrators commit sexual acts against children are many and varied, and that many abusers can be reformed. Donald Findlater, Director of Stop it Now! explained how important it is to understand what causes abusers to act. “Knowing how and why people sexually abuse children does not excuse their behaviour, but it helps us develop more effective strategies for prevention,” he said.
Increasingly, child sexual abuse is being recognised as a social issue, rather than a series of random, arbitrary acts. There are many roots to this social problem and Alan Greig, an independent consultant, considers the need for more positive expressions of masculinity to be one of them. He believes that the root cause of child sexual abuse will be targeted when sexual abuse is addressed as a social issue and unhealthy perceptions of masculinity are challenged.
“Current social norms and constructs of masculinity support aggressive sexual behaviour,” he said. “We need to understand and address the links between masculinity, sexuality, violence and patriarchy.”
He believes that sexual abuse is a product of learned behaviour, and we learn behaviour from the environments in which we are born – our families, communities and societies. “Sexual violence is a social problem, not just an individual pathology,” he said. He suggests the reform of social perceptions of masculinity at individual and societal levels. This includes working with men to affirm them positively.
“Social change for social justice must involve men.”
- Alan Greig, Consultant
The “positive masculinity” approach to working with men on ending child sexual abuse starts from the premise that men have a stake in challenging the patriarchal values of domination and aggression. This is not only for the sake of the women and girls in their lives but also for their own wellbeing and the wellbeing of humanity – such values harm them as boys and limit them as men.
Positive masculinity affirms men’s interests in the values of equality and dignity for all, irrespective of gender, and the practice of love and care for others that enact these values in their daily lives. The “positive masculinity” approach believes that men can work with women to end patriarchal practices and norms, and supports men’s efforts towards positive change. Examples of positive masculinity include fathers who are present and involved in their children’s lives and men who embrace relationships of dignity and equality in their intimate and family lives.
“By reframing masculinity, we can promote a more positive masculinity in our societies,” explained Greig. “Like women, men are made, not born.”
Oak has supported Stop it Now! in the past and is currently working with its parent organisation, the Lucy Faithfull Foundation. Oak aims to share learning from Lucy Faithfull’s work on sex abusers with partners around the world.
Source: Oak Foundation Annual Report
Year of publication: 2014