In Kenya, Program Changes Male Attitudes About Sexual Violence, Study Finds
In the slums of Nairobi, Kenya, where rape and violence against women are rampant, a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization called No Means No Worldwide is working to prevent sexual assault on girls and women. They have developed a short educational program for males age 15-22 to change attitudes that lead adolescent boys and young men to think that the assault or rape of their female peers is acceptable.
A study from the Stanford University School of Medicine has found that the program produced lasting improvements in teenage boys’ and young men’s attitudes toward women. The boys and men in the study were also more likely to try to stop violence against women after participating in the program. The study was published online June 9, 2015 in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence.
“The curriculum for these young men is centered on getting them to think about what kind of people they want to be,” said lead author Jennifer Keller, Ph.D., a Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University, a Research Professor at Palo Alto University and a board member at No Means No Worldwide.
“It’s about really getting them invested in why they need to step up and care about violence toward women: It affects their mothers, sisters and girlfriends.”
The study included 1,543 males, ages 15-22, 1,250 of whom received the intervention curriculum, called “Your Moment of Truth” in six two-hour sessions presented by No Means No Worldwide. The comparison group of 293 boys and men received Kenya’s usual two-hour life-skills class.
The researchers used anonymous surveys before and at three intervals after the classes to ask the participants in both groups about their attitudes toward women; their endorsement of rape myths; whether they had witnessed verbal harassment, physical threats or physical or sexual assault of women; and whether they had successfully intervened to stop such harassment, threats or assault.
At the start of the study, participants in both groups reported negative views of women and agreement with myths about sexual assault. After the classes, the experimental group had more positive views toward women and less belief in rape myths, and the improvement persisted four and a half and nine months after the class. The comparison group had unimproved or worsened attitudes toward women at the nine-month follow-up.
“It’s very exciting that this was done in Kenya, that even in this setting with high levels of violence toward women we were able to make such an impact,” Keller said.
The study’s success with a relatively young group of males dovetails with prior research showing that it is easier to change negative gender stereotypes in younger groups, she added. In the United States, efforts to improve young men’s attitudes often occur in college, but earlier intervention might work better, Keller said.
Boys in Nairobi, Kenya, participate in an educational program designed by the nonprofit No Means No Worldwide to help them reevaluate their attitudes about violence against women.
(Photo credit/copyright: Duthie Photography)