Countering traditional behaviors that contribute to the cultures of sexual and domestic violence is a key element of any effort to prevent violence in a lasting, comprehensive way. Rape Culture describes a setting where rape is widespread and normalized due to societal attitudes about gender and sexuality. This setting is reinforced by behaviors that allow abuse and the imbalance of power to continue so that the powerful can continue to prey on those in need.
We need to focus on the culture that allows sexual violence to happen and commit to change that leads to ending gender-based violence. Culture change to end sexual violence in one generation means shifting views and behaviors around gender and sexuality, it means community action and programing that fosters wholesome values that eliminate the views that maintain gender-based violence. Social norms and fundamental systemic change can happen with prevention programming, policy change, and the right messaging.
We can advocate for policies that reinforce and require fundamental changes, and with all of these aspects pursued -prevention,policy, and messaging- simultaneously we can end sexual violence in one generation.
Sexual violence is preventable through collaborations of community members and examples set by influential role models at multiple levels of society—in our homes, neighborhoods, schools, faith settings, sports teams, workplaces, and other settings.
We all play a role in preventing sexual violence and establishing behaviors of respect, safety, equality, and helping others. Because everyone contributes to society, everyone can do things to create a more positive social environment. Corporations, celebrities, athletes, and community and industry leaders can be particularly instrumental in creating and spreading the types of positive changes that are required to end sexual violence in one generation.
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It is important, but not sufficient, to educate people about the issues surrounding sexual and domestic violence and to recommend action steps to make positive changes. It is important that policies reinforce and require positive large-scale behavioral changes. Policies to support victims/survivors, can make treatment accessible for people who may be inclined to cause harm and strengthen prevention efforts. These types of changes are critical to any comprehensive plan that seeks to end sexual violence in one generation. Strong federal leadership that is focused on ending sexual and domestic violence can help generate policy solutions, including enhanced laws and expanded funding to support services for survivors and advanced prevention solutions.
It is important that the conversations around sexual and domestic violence have the correct framework, one that challenges stereotypes and prejudices. Media – including entertainment and news channels – help shape the national conversation about gender-based violence. These platforms have the ability to tell more complete stories that enhance the public’s understanding of sexual and domestic violence and break down misconceptions and myths. These frameworks can lead to changes in the way we approach conversations around sexual and domestic violence, incorporate prevention, and ultimately lead to ending sexual violence in one generation.