In Britain, as in America, election season is beginning to get underway. We’ll hear candidates pontificate about everything from taxes to Ukraine to healthcare and all of the issues in between. Many will also reaffirm their commitments to “women’s” issues like domestic violence and sexual assault awareness. While it’s always good to hear politicians speak up about these underrepresented yet very pressing issues, it’s time to stop calling them “women’s issues”.
Yes, women are disproportionately affected by relationship and sexual violence. Yes, these issues are often pushed together with equally worthy causes such as reproductive rights and the wage gap. But it takes two to form an unhealthy relationship, and we need every single person, not just women, to be on board for the solutions.
Initiatives targeting young girls to make them aware of the dangers of unhealthy relationships are wonderful, but they only target half of the problem. When we call domestic violence or sexual assault a “women’s issue” we negate the responsibility of men. Women can talk about preventative measures until our voices are hoarse, but the best prevention is teaching young boys and men that abuse is never okay. We can’t end the cycle of violence until everyone understands that it is wrong.
In a society that teaches boys from a young age that there is a certain way to “be a man” and prizes masculinity above all, it is especially important that boys as well as girls are taught the dangers of unhealthy relationships. Every child needs to be taught that, regardless of gender, all people deserve respect. Programs like the ones that Tender runs teach boys and girls together about relationship violence so that everyone can be an ally.
If we continue to name domestic violence and sexual assault as “women’s issues”, then we’re truly placing the responsibility for the solutions solely on women, which is impossible. Instead, we need to consider these issues as human rights issues. By including boys and men in the conversation, we can change the conversation. Instead of thinking of ways women can avoid violence, we can start talking about how everyone can help create safe, healthy relationships. Although women are most often the direct victims of domestic violence, a world without relationship violence is a better world for everyone, regardless of gender.
by Nicole Coletti – Tender Intern