16 Ways The Men Can Help Stop Online Violence Against Women

Social Media Logotype BackgroundWith the rise of social media and smartphones in the last decade or so, Facebooking, tweeting, pinning, blogging, and vlogging have become a default part of many people’s professional, personal and social lives. Communities are no longer limited to face-to-face interactions, but also flourish online in the form of Facebook pages, Twitter followers, YouTube subscribers and blogger networks.

Through these online communities, the Internet has become a conduit for the free-flow of ideas, opinions, thoughts, beliefs and values. As online communities become more ubiquitous and entrenched in our lives, the boundaries have long-ago blurred between our offline behaviour and online conduct and in many cases, the Internet acts to amplify anti-social, criminal and bigoted behaviour because of the anonymity it gives to participants and commentators who frequently engage in hurtful behaviour with impunity.

In the case of Violence Against Women (VAW), the Internet and social media has given misogyny an incredibly visible platform with almost no controls in place to check their behaviour towards women and girls online. As Laura Bates, the founder of The Everyday Sexism Project, says:

The internet is a fertile breeding ground for misogyny – you only have to look at the murky bottom waters of Reddit and 4Chan to see the true extent to which it allows violent attitudes towards women to proliferate. But, crucially, it also provides a conduit that enables many who hold those views to attack and abuse women and girls, from what they rightly perceive to be an incredibly secure position.

Indeed, from Anita Sarkeesian to the Steubenville rape case, cyber VAW has been on the rise over the past decade, with the most recent high-profile case being the horrendous Twitter attacks on feminist campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez after her success in getting the Bank of England to include a woman on a UK currency note.

Anti-VAW activists and nonprofits and online women’s rights communities are now fighting back with campaigns aimed at getting social media networks, governments and law enforcement agencies to take cyber VAW seriously and to take action to prevent and stop it. As with all aspects of stopping VAW, support of men and boys is crucial to this fight and in this “16 for 16” article, we present 16 ways in which men can help stop cyber VAW

Introduction by Regina Yau; Written by Rashad Brathwaite and Regina Yau; Edited by Jerica Nonell and Regina Yau.


Men Helping Stop Cyber VAW – Tip #1: Acknowledge the violence. There are 3 important ways in which men need to effectively acknowledge cyber violence against women. The first step is to be aware of and accept the fact that it definitely exists. The second step is to acknowledge that in the rough-and-tumble on online interaction, women and girls face a different, more extreme, and more insidious kind of backlash than men including a disproportionate number of threats of physical violence, name-calling, reputation assasination, death threats, sexual assault threats and rape threats. The third step is to publicly recognise cyber VAW when it happens and to intervene.

Men Helping Stop Cyber VAW – Tip #2: Educate yourself. The first step towards effective online bystander intervention is developing the ability to recognise the signs and manifestations of cyber VAW within online communities. These run the gamut from rape joke Facebook pages to mass misogynistic trolling in the comments section of opinion pieces written by women. Check out online resources that provide information online online bullying and cyber VAW, including What Men Can Do. Knowing what cyber VAW looks like will enable you to take timely action to intervene to stop the violence.

tnc_logoMen Helping Stop Cyber VAW – Tip #3: Educate the next generation. One of the most effective ways of helping stop cyber VAW is to educate the next generation of boys and youth about the issue and to equip them to deal with it. For example: That’s Not Cool is a public education campaign that raises awareness about teen dating violence by sharing examples of unhealthy, controlling, and abusive behavior. The campaign teaches youth risk factors for “textual harassment,” “pic pressure,” and other signs of unhealthy relationship behavior. “That’s Not Cool” also provides resources and information on ways to intervene if a young person has a friend, family member, or acquaintance who is being verbally, emotionally, or sexually harassed via technology.

Men Helping Stop Cyber VAW – Tip #4: Educate your peers. When engaging online with your male peers, friends and co-workers, look for opportunities to steer the conversation towards discussing why cyber VAW is not acceptable. These opportunities can include talking to them when you see them exhibit disrespectful or bullying behaviour towards women and girls in the online community; or when discussing high profile cases of male celebrities committing VAW. You can also invite your male peers to join you on liking anti-VAW Facebook pages, following anti-VAW Twitter accounts and participating in online discussions about the importance of stopping VAW.

Men Helping Stop Cyber VAW – Tip #5: Lead by example. Make sure that your website, blog, social media profiles, and behaviour in forums, comments sections and chatrooms are free from any form of misogynistic behaviour including mansplaining, dismissing women’s opinions, sharing tasteless VAW jokes that blame the victim, sexist name-calling, putting up pictures extolling the ‘virtues’ of the rape and battery of women etc. Be self-aware about your own behaviour and treat women and girls as equals when engaging in online discussions or interactions with them. Step up to intervene when you see cyber VAW happening.

Men Helping Stop Cyber VAW – Tip #6: Make Amends When You Make a Mistake. As an ally, you will make mistakes. Anything new that is being internalised has a learning curve, and learning to question societal norms certainly is no exception. Being an ally involves constantly learning and re-learning, constantly questioning your own attitudes and language. If you find that a view you hold or a post that you have shared is problematic, apologise. If you are called out on problematic behaviour, listen. Do not become defensive or feel as if you are being attacked when called out – it is the only way that you can learn and change.

Men Helping Stop Cyber VAW – Tip #7: Call ’em out! People who perpetuate cyber VAW need to be called out on their behaviour IMMEDIATELY because many aggressors and trolls are empowered by the silence of bystanders and the protection of online anonymity. Make sure that they know that what they are doing is wrong. Even if you are the only voice saying so, your intervention may get them to reconsider their behaviour. Even if the the perpetrator declares that he means no harm, it is important to disrupt incidences of cyber VAW while it is happening by.publicly and calmly pointing out that cyber VAW has hurtful consequences for the victim, and reflects badly on the perpetrator.

Men Helping Stop Cyber VAW – Tip #8: Be Specific. When you engage cyber VAW perpetrator about their behaviour, be specific about the exact behaviour that you are addressing, be it name-calling, victim-blaming, death threats, or rape threats. Having to defend their specific behaviour and tactic may cause some attackers to rethink what they are saying to try and having to think through their actions could trigger a change in their attitudes towards women online. Ask them questions you would like them to ask themselves: Would you issue this threat if it was a man expressing the same opinion?

Safety in NumbersMen Helping Stop Cyber VAW – Tip #9: Safety in numbers. When attempting to call out the behaviour of a group of cyber VAW perpetrators or any other type of cyber bullies, form a group yourself. Talk privately to other members of the forum, page or community about what is happening and get their support to back each other up when facing down aggressive and misogynistic groups. Similarly, when you see someone courageously taking a cyber VAW perpetrator to task, chime in. This action has 3 effects: it lets the person know that someone else agrees with them; it signals to the victim that the community will not stand for the treatment she is receiving; and it lets the perpetrator(s) know that more than one person is calling out their behaviour.

Men Helping Stop Cyber VAW – Tip #10: Use that button! Most social media sites have policies against bullying and hate language by allowing for comments, threads, and users to be flagged as offensive. If engaging the cyber VAW perpetrator is impossible either because he repeats his behaviour or you are facing an entire community that actively commits cyber VAW, use the reporting tools that most social media networks set up to enable communities to report hate language and bullying to get the perpetrator removed for repeat offenses.

Men Helping Stop Cyber VAW – Tip #11: Reach Out. If you witness cyber VAW, remember to reach out to the target of the attack after you have intervened to stop the perpetrator. Provide support and engage with her to develop the best course of action. Find out how she wants to handle the situation and how she would like you to help. Online communities can easily make someone feel isolated when they are being attacked, so your outreach will help her to realise that there are people in the community who will not stand for cyber VAW and sexism and who are willing to step in to help.

Men Helping Stop Cyber VAW – Tip #12: Take it offline. If reporting cyber VAW to social media network administrators, forum moderators or website owners do not yield any action and the cyber VAW continues to escalate, begin documenting the violence with screencaps and contact an agency, nonprofit or grassroots campaign specialising in stopping cyber VAW and cyber bullying with the evidence. They will be able to assist you or advice you regarding the next steps with taking action to hold the perpetrators or the site accountable for their actions. In certain cases of cyber VAW that can be localised to a country or city, report the case to the relevant authorities such as the police. With governments and law enforcement agencies in many countries such as Canada, the UK and The Philippines starting to recognise cyber VAW as a crime, there are now increasing avenues to getting help to stop cyber VAW.

Men Helping Stop Cyber VAW – Tip #13: Create safe spaces. Whether you are a blogger, website owner, forum moderator, Facebook page administrator or are responsible for any online community, make sure you work with your fellow moderators/administrators to have a zero tolerance approach to cyber VAW and cyber bullying of any form. Make sure you are upfront with your policy on acceptable behaviour. Many major websites do this by stating on top of their comments sections or “about” sections of their websites and profile pages that while everyone is welcome, they will not tolerate bigoted, sexist, violent or disrespectful behaviour of any sort and they enforce it by moderating comments and banning those who violate their rules.

Men Helping Stop Cyber VAW – Tip #14: Size does not matter.  If an organisation, celebrity or company makes misogynistic, violent, and hateful remarks towards women and girls online, or refuses to moderate cyber VAW on their show, website and social media channels, organise or join a campaign that hits them where it hurts – their profits. This approach has been done successfully several times. The latest example is that of the #FacebookRape campaign organised by Laura Bates (founder of The Everyday Sexism Project), Jaclyn Friedman (Women, Action, and the Media) and Soraya Chemaly a prominent feminist writer. In summer 2013, they and over 100 anti-Violence Against Women organisations (including The Pixel Project) mounted the #FBrape campaign to get companies to withdraw advertising from Facebook until Facebook agreed to take cyber VAW on their social network seriously.

Men Helping Stop Cyber VAW – Tip #15: Share Your Knowledge.  One of the greatest features of the internet and social media is its ability to spread information at a rapid pace. As an ally, you have the opportunity to spread the knowledge that you gain to people who are not necessarily looking for the same information. Make your awareness viral! When you find a good article or video that puts online violence in perspective, tweet it, blog about it, share it!

Men Helping Stop Cyber VAW – Tip #16: Be a virtual volunteer. Online anti-VAW nonprofits and organisations, such as The Pixel Project, are always looking for more people to get involved in the movement to end VAW. Whether you decide to volunteer with an online support service for survivors of VAW, or with a non-profit that specifically fights cyber VAW and cyber bullying, adding your voice to their ranks and allows for more information to be published faster, reaching more people. If for no other reason, your experiences and your insights are unique and valuable.

Standing Up To Stop Violence Against Women – 16 Anti-Violence Against Women Male Role Models 2013

header-malerolemodels-2013Violence Against Women has always been perceived as a “women’s issue” because of the focus on the institutionalised and normalised violence specifically faced by women and girls in cultures and communities worldwide. When most people think about charities, nonprofits, social enterprises, activists, grassroots leaders and celebrities who work to end VAW, they automatically think about women because women are the focus, and therefore the most visible voices and faces, of the anti-VAW movement.

In recent years however, this paradigm is slowly shifting to recognise that while men constitute the majority of the perpetrators of VAW, they are also key allies to stopping the violence. VAW may have always been seen as a “women’s issue” but it is a human rights issue which impacts everyone in the community regardless of gender. When good non-violent men stand up to say NO to VAW and to take action to prevent, intervene and stop the violent conduct of their male peers, they become internal agents of change through role modelling positive male behaviour as an antidote to the toxic masculinity that drives the patriarchal social structures that create and maintain gender inequality.

At The Pixel Project, one of the major tenets of our vision and mission is to get men and boys on board the movement to end VAW. In line with that mission, we have always worked with men on our campaigns and projects, be they our YouTube Music Ambassador, AHMIR, the mystery Celebrity Male Role Models who gave their time and energy to take part in our upcoming Celebrity Male Role Model Pixel Reveal campaign; or the male volunteers who have contributed to getting our campaigns off the ground.

In recognition of the tremendous work that genuine male allies have done as members of the anti-VAW movement and movement for gender equality, we are proud to present our first annual list of 16 male role models that working worldwide to help end VAW.

It truly is time to stop violence against women. Together.

Note: Information for all role model profiles is sourced via online research and is based on one or more news sources or articles. The main articles/reports from which these profiles have been sourced can be directly accessed via the hyperlinked titles. Please do click through to learn more about these male allies.

Written by Jerica Nonell and Regina Yau; Curated and edited by Regina Yau and Carol Olson.


Anti-VAW Role Model 1: Patrick Stewart – United Kingdom

patrick stewartThough best known for his role in Star Trek, Patrick Stewart is now equally well-known for his activism to stop violence against women. Stewart has repeatedly spoken out publicly about his traumatic childhood watching his mother suffer from domestic violence and the consequences it had on him as a child and later, as an adult man. Stewarts powerful speeches and statements about the importance of speaking out to stop violence against women and children, as well as pointing out the importance of helping abusers reform, have gone viral. He believes that it is impossible for domestic violence to disappear without everyone lending their voices to the cause. Since 2007, Stewart has worked with Refuge, a registered UK charity that provides legal and psychological support to women and children that are survivors of domestic violence. The charity supports more than 1,000 domestic violence survivors.

Anti-VAW Role Model 2: Fahran Akhtar – India

farhan akhtarFahran Akhtar is an active actor, writer, producer, director, and activist from Mumbai, India.  He is best known for his 2001 film, “Dil Chahta Hai.” In March of 2013, Akhtar publicly joined the fight for gender equality by creating a social campaign known as Men Against Rape and Discrimination, or MARD. This organisation works to change the minds and behavior of men, in hopes to instill respect towards women and make a profound and lasting change to the society in which we live. Ahktar was moved to begin this campaign after learning about a deadly sexual assault on a female lawyer in Mumbai, and has promoted this campaign through Twitter, as well as during move premieres. Through his efforts, any notable men have joined the cause, including actor Mahesh Babu and cricket player Sachin Tandulkar.

Anti-VAW Male Role Model 3: Dr. Denis Mukwege – Democratic Republic of Congo

Denis MukwegeDoctor Denis Mukwege Mukengere is the founder of the Panzi Hospital in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Unlike other hospitals around the world, Panzi Hospital is renowned for its treatment of women with severe gynecological problems, especially when related to sexual violence. Since Panzi’s inception in 1998, he continues to work as the medical director. He has been awarded many accolades for his work, included UN Human Rights Prize in 2008 and African of the Year in 2009. Alongside his work at the hospital, Dr. Mukwege has spoken with the United Nations General Assembly about the rights of women and sexual violence, and raises awareness via in his travels in Eastern DRC.

Anti-VAW Male Role Model 4: Joshua Bailey – United States of America

Joshua BaileyJoshua Bailey is the co-founder & CEO of The Gray Haven, a non-profit organisation that provides hope and restoration to victims of human trafficking through comprehensive services. Based in Richmond, Virginia, The Gray Haven is the first organisation in Virginia to provide holistic aftercare services and a supportive community specifically for victims of human trafficking. Bailey guest lectures at universities and provides technical assistance and training for professionals in law enforcement, healthcare, mental health, and social services, as well as speaking in churches and other venues about the issue of human trafficking and modern day slavery.

Anti-VAW Role Model 5: Nazir Afzal – United Kingdom

Nazir AfzalIn 2001, Nazir Afzal became England’s first Muslim chief prosecutor, a position that allows him the status of the United Kingdom’s most senior Muslim lawyer. Afzal’s most famous case involved prosecuting one of Princess Diana’s stalkers, but his passion lies with cases involving honour killings and forced marriage, especially when the cases involve minority women. He set up a national hotline to help women and girls that are at risk of forced marriage – one in which the United States hopes to duplicate. Currently, he is working to make forced marriage a punishable crime. One of Afzal’s largest successes involves prosecuting nine men for raping and trafficking girls, charging the men with a variety of sentences, ranging from 12 to 19 years in prison.

Anti-VAW Role Model 6: Kalyan Shrestha – Nepal

KalyanShresthaKalyan Shrestha began his career in 1977 as a Judicial Officer in Nepal, working his way towards becoming the first Executive Director of National Judicial Academy in 2004. As of 2005, he became a Supreme Court Justice, a role in which he occupies today. His work in the Supreme Court revolves around improving his country with pronouncements surrounding human rights, gender justice, and juvenile justice, to name a few. Shrestha’s many accomplishments include maintaining the privacy of specialised cases, as well as removing discriminatory legal provisions. His work within the Supreme Court has immensely improved the atmosphere surrounding Nepal and will leave a lasting impression on those that follow in his footsteps.

Anti-VAW Role Model 7: Todd Minerson – Canada

ToddMinersonTodd Minerson is the Executive Director of the White Ribbon Campaign, the world’s largest movement of men and boys working to end violence against women in their communities. Minerson has spent the last 14 years working to get men on board the cause to end violence against women and to educate boys about gender equality. The work that he does include delivering workshops on engaging men in ending violence against women for the UN, as well as working with governments and agencies in Brazil, Austria, Turkey, Cape Verde, and Sri Lanka. He was also one of the co-chairs of the Global Symposium on Engaging Men and Boys in Gender Equality in Rio de Janeiro.

Anti-VAW Male Role Model 8: Pham Anh Khoa – Vietnam

Pham Anh KhoaPham Anh Khoa is a Vietnamese rock star who uses his fame and talents for the betterment of society. Unlike many other artistes, Khoa doesn’t write songs that degrade and demean the women in his life. Instead, his songs contain messages of healthy relationships. His passion for gender equality is not limited to just his music. He actively speaks out against gender-based violence as the Goodwill Ambassador for the Soul Nation campaign which seeks to prevent violence against women. As the campaign’s celebrity spokesperson, he attends interviews on the campaign’s behalf and performing at concerts that promote their message of gender equality. More recently, Khoa has participated in a UN Women event for youth clubs called Da Nang Youth Union.

Anti-VAW Male Role Model 9: Emmanuel Ochora – Uganda

EmmanuelOchoraEmmanuel Ochora is a Ugandan male ally focused working to address women’s reproductive health problems and gender-based violence. He co-founded a youth-led NGO by the name of Gulu Youth for Action (GYFA) that works to increases awareness regarding the aforementioned causes and supports girls’ education by working with health and education officials within the government. HIV/AIDS programmes that focus on gender equality and youth are coordinated through GYFA and Ochora. A unique aspect of GYFA is that it doesn’t solely use its resources for policy changes and behind-the-scene duties, but expands its reach by involving youth with education and drama. By providing an artistic outlet for youth, GYFA has the ability to reach and engage more youth – especially boys, a demographic that needs to be reached in order to achieve gender equality.

Anti-VAW Male Role Model 10: Lieutenant General David Morrison – Australia

David-MorrisonAustralia’s Chief of Army, Lieutenant General David Morrison, is a White Ribbon campaign ambassador who is instrumental in getting the Australian army working with the White Ribbon campaign to educate Australian men in the armed forces about gender equality and men’s role in stopping violence against women. In a partnership agreement between White Ribbon and Army, Lieutenant General Morrison has agreed to Duntroon and the Army Recruit Training Centre participating in the White Ribbon workplace accreditation pilot project. When it was discovered that some soldiers were going online to distribute offensive and abusive materials about women in the Australian army, he went on public record on YouTube, stating that women are respected, equal and integral members of the Australian army and “if you don’t like it, then get out!”

Anti-VAW Male Role Model 11: Tura Lewai – Fiji

TuralewaiTura Lewai is a Fujian advocate who works with young people to work towards gender equality. Lewai works as the Gender and Arts Officer for the Foundation of the South Pacific People International, in which he engages men and boys to end gender violence. Lewai started a programme known as “Stepping Stones” to find the link between gender inequality and HIV, as well as how to educate young people and split the statistic. “Stepping Stones” uses theatre and music to communicate key messages about stopping  violence against women to local communities as part of kickstarting changes in behavior and attitudes surrounding sexual violence. Aside from running “Stepping Stones”, Lewai also promotes ending violence against women throughout other countries in the Pacific.

Anti-VAW Male Role Model 12: David Schwimmer – United States of America

david schwimmerDavid Schwimmer, the actor best known for his role as Ross Geller in the TV show, “Friends”, is a director and board member for a California-based nonprofit called The Rape Foundation, which works with victims of date and child rape. His work with the Foundation includes pushing for legislation to ban drugs that are commonly used in date rape, such as Rohypnol and GHB. The work that he did with the Rape Foundation inspired him to direct the movie “Trust” about the dangers of the online predators who groom underaged girls for sexual abuse. In 2011, Schwimmer screened “Trust” with Children 1st on World Day for Prevention of Child Abuse and Violence against Children.

Anti-VAW Male Role Model 13: Adisa Jelani Andwele – Barbados

Adisa Jelani AndweleAdisa Jelani Andwele is a Barbadian-born New Yorker who spreads his message of gender equality and anti-violence against women through his poems and music. Andwele is a Spokesperson on Peace and Poverty Eradication for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, a UN Women Partner for Peace for the Caribbean, and works with the Say NO – UNiTE to End Violence Against Women campaign by promoting Caribbean artists. Outside of working with all of these amazing organisations, Andwele has set up humanitarian projects throughout the Caribbean and West Africa.

Anti-VAW Male Role Model 14: Joachim Ostertag – Canada

Joachim_Ostertag--homeJoachim Ostertag is the brain’s behind the activist campaign Change the Cycle. The work of this organisation is to bicycle across Canada to speak to men of all walks of life about changing their views on gender. By visiting these communities and seeing where the disconnect lies, Ostertag is able to communicate and dissolve the sexist beliefs that many of these men hold. When he finds the communities themselves to be lacking in resources, he raises funds for better services that will allow equality to begin to take form. Ostertag believes that, despite the sexist beliefs perpetuated by pop culture, men want change. They long for a society where they have healthier relationships with the women in their lives, as well as with each other.

Anti-VAW Male Role Model 15: Dragan Bozanic – Serbia

Dragan Bozanic PhotoDragan Bozanic works for the Provincial Secretariat for Economy, Employment, and Gender Equality of the Serbian government as an advisor to help government institutions improve their responses to violence against women. In the last four years, he has coordinated, together with his colleagues, the implementation of the Strategy for Protection Against Domestic Violence and Other Forms of Gender-Based Violence in Vojvodina. The focus of his work is capacity building of line institutions to deliver integrated and efficient responses to violence against women, as well as raising awareness on the unacceptability of violence. Bozanic also works within local communities to strengthen ties and understand their own gender inequality issues.

Anti-VAW Male Role Model 16: Alan Morrison – United Kingdom and Bangladesh

alan morrisonBritish consul Alan Morrison splits his time between the United Kingdom and Bangladesh, fighting the deep-rooted institution of forced marriage. Morrison stays in contact with law enforcement and schools of all ages in order to be contacted with information regarding missing British-born Bangladeshi girls that may have been stranded in Bangladesh. His job is to locate and speak to every missing girl to give them the opportunity to leave with him. For the girls who choose to do so, Morrison provides them with complete protection during their flight home and afterwards, helps them reclaim their lives in the UK, to return to education, and have a future that means something to them.