Police Scotland's 'Don't be that guy' campaign against male violence should help men understand their power – Susan Dalgety

Graham Goulden could not be clearer. “Violence is a man’s issue” he declares in a video on Police Scotland’s new campaign website, That Guy.
Men may not realise how afraid of them many women can be (Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA WireMen may not realise how afraid of them many women can be (Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire
Men may not realise how afraid of them many women can be (Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

A former police officer of 30 years, including eight in Glasgow’s world-renowned Violence Reduction Unit, Goulden now works across the world, training men in leadership.

And he has thrown his weight behind Police Scotland’s latest efforts to reduce sexual violence against women and girls.

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“We can’t ignore the fact that the vast majority of violence is committed by men against men,” he says on the campaign website, “but when it comes to things like sexual violence, domestic abuse, women vastly make up the majority of our victim group.”

And he has a powerful message for men, “You know, nobody is entitled to sex. Not because you’re nice, not because you’re dominant. And definitely not because simply you’re a man.”

His message is amplified in a startling new video released by the campaign earlier this week, where a series of young male actors, carefully chosen to represent the boy next door, look straight at the camera and ask, “ever called a girl ‘doll’?”, “stared at a woman on a bus?” or “said to your mate, ‘I’d do that’?”

It confronts men for behaving badly, for sending unsolicited nudes through social media or guilt-tripping women into thinking they owe men something (sex) simply because they bought her a drink or paid her a compliment.

It ends with a challenge. “Most guys don’t look in the mirror and see a problem but it’s staring us in the face. Sexual violence begins long before you think it does. #DontBeThatGuy.”

Police Scotland have already received huge praise for the campaign – rightly so. Psychologist and campaigner Dr Jessica Taylor, whose book ‘Why women are blamed for everything’ was published recently, tweeted her support. “This is real, preventative, perp-focused messaging, and I am here for it,” she said.

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Don't Be That Guy: Police Scotland launches new campaign to tackle male sexual e...

And the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, encouraged all men to watch the film, adding “… then encourage your sons, fathers, brothers and friends to do likewise”.

The campaign’s focus on the perpetrators of sexual violence – men – rather than the victims – women and girls – comes as a huge relief, particularly in the wake of the Metropolitan Police’s clumsy response to the death of Sarah Everard.

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Sarah was kidnapped, raped then murdered by a serving police officer, yet the Met’s immediate reaction was to lecture women about how to protect themselves. Their advice on how to stay safe was farcical. Women were told to “shout or wave a bus down” if they were approached by a lone police officer, or call 999.

And this tone deaf, but sadly all too typical tactic was reinforced by North Yorkshire Police Commissioner, Philip Allott. His initial response to the safety issues exposed by Sarah’s murder was that women should be more “streetwise”. Allott was forced to resign on Thursday after a vote of no confidence in his leadership, but attitudes like his still prevail, and not just in the police.

For generations, the onus has been on women to prevent sexual attacks, to ward off predatory men as if we were careless sirens, responsible for our own fate. We are warned not to dress provocatively, whatever that means. We are told not to walk alone at night, not to drink too much, not to flirt. Our very existence, it seems, provokes violence, which is why it such a relief to hear Graham Goulden and Police Scotland state clearly that sexual violence is the responsibility of men.

This approach is not new. The charity White Ribbon UK, founded in 2005 by Chris Green OBE, works with men and boys to end violence against women.

Leading international development agencies have, in recent years, switched their focus from teaching women how to avoid sexual violence, to working with men and boys to challenge their behaviour and change attitudes.

The respected American NGO Care, which works in 104 countries, has pioneered this male-first approach in Europe, as well as in sub-Saharan Africa, through schemes such as their Be a Man club in Kosovo.

But welcome though Police Scotland’s campaign is, it is only modest progress. Our society requires significant cultural change if we are to end male violence against women.

As a 2015 report by USAID on its experience of working with men points out, social constructions of sex – gender stereotypes – usually confer a higher social value on men than women, and male violence is born of this privilege.

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Perhaps the most brutal manifestation of that privilege is the contemporary porn industry. I have written before about the urgent need to better regulate it, and was heartened that Graham Goulden acknowledges the role it plays in perpetuating sexual violence.

“Pornography is the biggest sex mis-educator we have out there… it’s violent, it’s misogynistic. Men win, women lose,” he says. “I am not saying pornography causes violence, but it’s a contributory factor. It defines relationships in many ways… it just reinforces the message that men are entitled to women’s bodies.”

No doubt some men will get defensive about Police Scotland’s campaign, arguing – rightly – that the majority of men are not sexually violent. But the truth is that women and girls fear men.

Men don’t fully understand how their physical strength, their masculinity, can repel a woman just as it can attract her, nor do they properly appreciate how much their blokey banter can intimidate women.

Any effort to help men understand the power of their sex is welcome. But it is up to men to change how they behave. Women have had enough.

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