Language:

Where Dads Can Help Prevent Sexual Violence

Preventing Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence through Responsible Fatherhood

In Celebration of Dads - A message for Fathers Day

We’re really excited to share with you some of the work that JDI has been doing to reach dads as agents for change to prevent sexual and domestic violence.

JDI has teamed up with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health on a responsible fatherhood project that reaches out to men through various community-based partner programs, such as social service agencies, probation programs, and the statewide Fathers and Family Network to encourage the fathers of young boys to both model and teach children healthy behavior.

We promote the overall goal of teaching boys about respect and equality in relationships by emphasizing emotional literacy and nonviolent parenting skills, as well as by encouraging fathers to model respectful behavior with children’s mothers. We emphasize the point that the safety of mothers and their children must always be the priority in our work to promote responsible fatherhood.

On a personal level, I approach this topic not only as an educator, organizer and anti-violence advocate but also as a father myself. What kind of world do I want to help create for my son, his friends and his future? How do I talk to him about my work and follow my own advice to talk to kids about these issues?

In my professional role, I draw from the conviction and philosophy of Jane Doe Inc. and our Men’s Initiative that patterns of male violence and abuse are not innate and that men can – and must – be active partners in stopping these cycles. I also believe deeply that there are overarching social norms that contribute to abuse as well as roles that men can play in helping to change these harmful aspects of our culture for their children and communities.

Promoting healthy masculinities is a concept that crosses race, cultural, sexual orientation and gender identity. Families come in all different kinds of configurations; our goal is to reach out to all fathers specifically because of the way male figures help shape children’s conception of masculinity. The truth is, boys who commit sexual violence tend to do so for the first time in adolescence. Which means that we who serve as role models in these young men’s lives have a primary role in prevention, starting from early boyhood.

In doing this work, we’ve found that, while the topic of healthy sexuality and sexual assault prevention is not easy to address in community programs, both fathers and facilitators of this work want to learn how to engage in this conversation. When we conduct workshops, we first ask fathers to consider their own values when it comes to healthy sexuality (See the Planned Parenthood Let's Be Honest curriculum). We then help fathers think about encouraging healthy sexuality in their own lives and that of their children.

An important part of this conversation is asking fathers to think about the “man box,” or the social rules that they as men are taught to play by in our culture. Think about how our individual “man boxes” limit our growth as people, and often encourage harmful or violent behavior. By talking about the ways that these socially-proscribed definitions of masculinity limit us, we stop thinking of men as part of the problem and instead start to think of men as part of the solution.

This Fathers Day, let’s think outside of our “man box” and consider how we can serve as a model of healthy masculinity to our loved ones. Engaging our kids in conversation about respect and healthy sexuality is one of the best ways we can help change our culture for the next generation.

This Fathers Day, let’s think outside of our “man box” and consider how we can serve as a model of healthy masculinity to our loved ones. Engaging our kids in conversation about respect and healthy sexuality is one of the best ways we can help change our culture for the next generation.