Different forms of violence go hand-in-hand and exist on a sliding scale. Everyday violence, like sexist jokes and comments, can be linked with more severe forms of violence. This is why we need to begin by stopping the normalisation of violence and abuse, and broadening our perspective of what violence is.
Men’s violence against women – particularly intimate partner violence and sexualised violence – is a major public health problem globally and a violation of women’s human rights. Global estimates published by the World Health Organisation (WHO) indicate that about one in three women (35%) worldwide will experience physical and/or sexualised violence in their lifetime.
Men are highly overrepresented as perpetrators of all forms of violence – be it towards other men, children, women, or non-binary people. In Swedish society as well, the overwhelming majority of all violence is committed by men and adolescent boys – in the home, on the street, in restaurants, at sports arenas, at work and at school. National statistics show that the majority of people suspected of assault in 2018 were men (79%). The figures for rape and sexual assault show that 98% of suspects are men.
In addition to the harm and fear it causes, men’s violence also costs society many billions of SEK per year (National Centre for Knowledge on Men's Violence against Women [NCK} 2010, NCK report 2010:2).
This violence targets all genders and ages, but young women and non-binary people are particularly at risk of sexual crime and intimate partner violence, while young men run the greatest risk of physical assault in public by an unknown assailant. In Sweden, those who are suspected of physically assaulting a woman with whom they had previously had a relationship, are almost always men. (Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention 2019, 2018, 2012)
Men’s violence can be stopped and prevented. In order to do so, it is important that we understand that violence is a learned behaviour, because this means that people can learn not to be violent. Measures to prevent violence must address social norms, as these have a significant impact on our behaviours. There is a great body of knowledge today about how important it is to identify and consider risk factors and protective factors – factors that constitute a risk of, or protect people from, problematic or violent behaviours.
To prevent violence, we must work with measures that we know work, and which are supported by research. Our work to prevent violence is based on three central transformative ideas:
Increasing awareness and knowledge about violence.
Challenging gender norms with a focus on stereotypical norms of masculinity.
Acting as active bystanders.
Men’s violence is both the cause and the effect of an unequal society where men have more power and privileges. Our work is therefore rooted in a feminist analysis and carried out in close cooperation with women’s movements.
MÄN is working on several projects to prevent and counteract men’s violence, for example through conversations and challenging gender norms with boys and men. We also do so through political advocacy in collaboration with many women’s organisations. Read more about our violence-prevention and norm-changing work here.
Sweden has a 10-year national strategy (2017–2026) to prevent and combat men’s violence against women. It includes measures to enhance support and protection to women who have been subjected to violence, initiatives to prevent violence in same-sex relationships and measures to counteract destructive masculinity and honour thinking. The strategy also sets a focus on men’s participation and responsibility for stopping violence. When the strategy was presented, it was a paradigm shift towards clearly emphasising the importance of preventive measures – without sacrificing the support and protection for the victims.
The national strategy also highlights the need for initiatives to combat prostitution and human trafficking for sexual purposes. The Swedish Sex Purchase Act from 1999 criminalises the purchase, but not the sale, of sexual services. The law clearly places the responsibility and guilt on the purchaser, which has had a strong normative impact in Sweden.
Since 2018, Sweden also has legislation on sexualised violence that focuses on mutual consent. The consent law states that sex must be voluntary; if it is not voluntary, then it is illegal. Consent to sex includes a responsibility to ensure that the person or people participating in a sexual situation with an individual, really want to have sex.
MÄN takes a unilateral approach to pornography, prostitution and sexualised violence. We see it as one of our most important missions to create constructive, non-judgemental conversations with boys and men about sexuality and consent, with the aim of preventing sexism and violence in order to promote equality. In one of MÄN’s projects, we focus on how porn affects young men. If there are safe spaces for adolescent boys to reflect on this with each other and other adults, we can expand the perception of what porn is and problematize things that can be seen in mainstream porn. Read more here.