MVP: A foundation of social justice

From its inception, MVP has utilized both the philosophy and teaching tools of social justice education. In fact, the bystander approach itself has important roots in the social justice idea that everyone has a role to play in counteracting harassment, abuse and violence — especially members of groups with disproportionate power and privilege.

Social Justice

One of the enduring ideas of the Civil Rights Movement, and one of its most valuable gifts to subsequent generations of anti-racist whites and anti-sexist men, was the idea that silence in the face of injustice was tantamount to consent. Men who remain silent in a culture where rape, domestic violence, sexual abuse and sexual harassment are ubiquitous features of the social landscape are just as complicit as whites who fail to take a stand against racism. This simple but powerful insight is not only reinforced through analogies sprinkled throughout MVP trainings and printed materials; it is built into our programmatic DNA.

In recent years, a number of “bystander intervention” programs have emerged that emphasize the need for bystander “self-efficacy” and the development of skill-building for intervention. Skill-building definitely is a critical part of bystander training—and MVP arguably was the first program to teach bystander intervention skills, starting in the early 1990s.

Unfortunately, many gender violence prevention programs today focus on bystander behavior, but unlike MVP they do not explicitly discuss the gender, sexual and racial norms and structures of power that often underlie abusive acts and affect the likelihood of interventions.

Since its inception, MVP has featured lively and challenging interactive dialogues about sexism, gender and sexual norms, power and privilege. In MVP sessions, racially and ethnically diverse groups of young men and women discuss questions such as:

  • Is it ok for a group of men to make sexist and degrading comments about women if there are no women present?
  • Would it similarly be ok for a group of whites to make racist comments?
  • Why do some women blame other women for “putting themselves in the position” to be sexually victimized, instead of placing the responsibility squarely on the shoulders of perpetrators? How would a social justice-oriented approach handle this question?
  • Why do some men make it clear that they won’t accept sexist attitudes or abusive behavior from their peers, while others remain silent?
  • How is the silence of peers understood by abusers?
  • What are some of the informal policing mechanisms in male peer culture that keep young men from speaking out about these issues? In female culture?
  • What message is conveyed to victims when an abuser’s friends don’t confront him?
  • Why do some male and heterosexually identified people physically assault members of LGBTQ communities?
  • Does the accompanying silence on the part of some of their peers—male and female—legitimize the abuse?

The lively dialogues always return to the heart of the MVP mission: what everyone can do both to interrupt and challenge abusive behavior, and to undermine its social legitimacy.

To learn more about the MVP Model or schedule a training session, please contact us.