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Some Deflection of Responsibility

Jul 5, 2023

Today’s blog post (last of the series) looks at some ways people may deflect responsibility to fight gender-based violence.

Note: pseudonyms have been used.

Whilst male students showed a genuine interest in wanting to support women in relation to gender-based violence, deflection of responsibility was frequently rediverted onto institutions and other groups of people they felt were better equipped to prevent and tackle this issue. Some of the men repeatedly undermined the extent to which their individual actions can have a meaningful impact on tackling the issue, feelings of helplessness echoed throughout discussions.

“I kind of helplessly scratch my head as to what I would suggest to help it other than just be a little bit more vigilant.” – Mark
“From what I’ve heard … there’s usually no solution to it.” – Jamie
“There are structures that are too powerful for us to individually overcome, and it’s really incredibly frustrating, actually.” – George

In undermining their ability to tackle this issue, responsibility was largely deflected onto nightclubs, pubs, and universities. George believes it to be “ridiculous” that his university does not cooperate with local bars and clubs because it is ‘their’ students that go to them. In saying this, however, George overlooks the role he may play as a student attending the club.

Furthermore, male and female participants associated male sexual violence, harassment and abuse against women in universities to be a partial result of lad culture existing on campuses.

“The whole idea of going out and pulling someone it’s almost like a game, isn’t it?” – Dylan
“When you see a group of lads out, they definitely seem to sort of encourage each other don’t they?” – David

Despite some men questioning their perspectives of lad culture, as highlighted by the above statements, male participants repeatedly associated male sexual violence, harassment and abuse with ‘lads’ – ‘other’ men – omitting where they sat in relation to it in the process.

This is not the first time a study has found men to deflect responsibility away from themselves in relation to this issue. When interviewing male sports team members at an English university, Burrell (2021) found men were generally oblivious to how their own actions could reinforce rape culture. Furthermore, research has found participants of educational workshops and courses about consensual sexual relations to often assume that they and everyone else doing the course are ‘good’ and that the ‘bad’ people are elsewhere (Messner, 2016). However, this assumption undermines how people may be unintentionally contributing to a rape-supportive environment through their behaviours such as sharing a sexist joke. Therefore, the fact that men are repeatedly being found to deflect responsibility demonstrates a need to better educate men (and women) that rigid distinctions between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ men do not exist, rather men (and women) sit on a spectrum of behaving in a way that supports or opposes rape culture.

This finding is significant because our centre recognise that we all hold some responsibility in fighting gender-based violence. As a result, we have a training session (active bystander training) and a specific workshop (how to prevent sexual violence) that explores how to be an active bystander!

“This workshop is the most requested by the young people after their first session with us. This is inspiring because it shows how much the new generation wants to learn on how to bring about positive change and help their communities! It is also great to show them how little it takes to change something for the better: being an active bystander doesn’t mean being literally superman/superwoman, it takes as little as checking-in with a person, showing empathy and concern, reporting to a trusted adult or the police. Everyone can play a role in preventing sexual violence from happening, no matter how small their actions might seem to them or the public” – East and West Dunbartonshire prevention worker

We acknowledge that in any given situation where you may suspect something is not quite right, feelings of uncertainty may arise. That’s why we always ensure to highlight multiple ways someone can help without getting physically involved alongside adopting a non-judgemental approach (we are all learning).
Ending gender-based violence starts with all of us.

If you’d like to know more about our workshops, call our centre on 0141 552 3201 and ask for the Rosey project or email us at:

Burrell, S. R. (2021) ‘‘Cause we’re all just part of the system really’: Complicity and resistance in young sportsmen’s responses to violence against women prevention campaigns in England’, Sociological Research Online, p. 136078042110494. doi: 10.1177/13607804211049463.
Messner, M. A. (2016) ‘Bad men, good men, bystanders: Who is the rapist?’, Gender & Society, 30(1), pp. 57–66. doi: 10.1177/0891243215608781.