Step 6: Understanding Cultural Values as an Asset
Every culture has values that oppose gender-based violence and values that support it. As prevention advocates, we need to identify and learn to work within of the values of the communities we want to engage.
For example, when working with groups of Latino men in Boston, Dr. Fernando Mederos found that men responded to such core values as respect. As a result, Instead of talking about sexual abuse during the first stages of a conversation with men, he frames the issues in terms of sexual disrespect; instead of talking about gender equality, he examines mutual respect in relationships. Latino men are more willing to be engaged with this approach and, once trust has been established, they are more open to tackling the issue of gender equality.
Using approaches like this, we can turn the cultural values of different groups into assets in preventing gender-based violence and sources of healing and support. At the same time, we should never accept culture as a justification for family violence and abuse.
Delivering the Right Message
Because the field is relatively new, there are not many models for cross-cultural work with men on preventing gender-based violence. However, we can draw some lessons from batterer intervention programs (BIPs) like Dr. Mederos’s that are engaging men of color.
Many professionals agree that effective batterer intervention for men of color needs to be based on the values those men consider core to their culture. And the way we deliver prevention messages can make a huge difference in whether they will be heard.
The following case study illustrates the point:
A Vietnamese-American civic group partnered with a local BIP and invited the staff to do a presentation during the group’s monthly Health Day informational session. Health Days tended to be well attended by men and women, young and old. The organizers titled the presentation “Let’s Talk about Domestic Violence.” Nobody came. Not a single person.
Although family was central to many Vietnamese people, the community wasn’t ready to focus on domestic violence. The presenters tried again a couple of months later, but this time the topic was “Let’s Talk About Healthy Families.” The usual crowd showed up and engaged in a lively conversation that included examples of family violence.
Many activists and practitioners have similar stories. The way the message is framed is key to outreach success. Some might see this as manipulative, but it isn’t as long as the title accurately portrays the presentation. In this case, it did: the participants talked about healthy family dynamics based on respectful, nonviolent interactions.
Using the Right Messenger
Another key issue when building alliances with diverse communities is deciding on the messenger. In the example above, the presentation was a collaboration between the two organizations, and the staff from the civic association had a strong role. They worked with the BIP to educate themselves and were full partners during the presentation.
This collaboration was so successful it continued for many years. Working together, both organizations developed creative ways to integrate messages against domestic violence into many of the civic association’s services. In the process, the BIP learned invaluable lessons about doing grassroots work with the Vietnamese-American community.
- What values in your cultural or social group support gender-based violence, and which ones reject it?
- What are some values of cultures different from yours that may support gender-based violence? Which ones might reject it?
- How can you learn about the values of the group you want to engage?
- How can you work toward common goals with people who hold different values?
- In the case study above, why do you think no one came to the first presentation?
- Is changing the title of the presentation the only solution in this situation?
Share your responses and see what other people are saying about working with different cultural values.
Read what others say about the effects of cultural values on gender-based violence.
The following organizations provide examples of value-based prevention work:
Read more about what intervention programs can teach prevention and the importance of working with men in their own environments.
Last modified 2004-10-20 01:41 PM