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Coping with Resistance and Backlash

Prevention work often aims to disrupt the way things are—challenging established hierarchies of gender and power, shifting norms and behaviours, or changing laws or policies. The process of social change is hard and unpredictable, and those working on violence prevention commonly face resistance or backlash. Resistance can range from denying or minimising the problem to aggressive opposition. It is most common from people who benefit from the status quo. In violence prevention and gender-equality work, this often involves men who claim they are being unfairly accused of violence, who argue that men also face violence (‘What about men?’), and who assert that women can also be violent.

While some resistance may be inevitable, there are many strategies that can be used to pre-empt, monitor for, and reduce backlash, as well as to ensure that violence does not escalate. This could include carefully framing messaging on the programme and its benefits to different groups, acknowledging pain and the difficulty of change, building partnerships early on with key stakeholders, and addressing efforts specifically to those likely to resist.

This page highlights resources on resistance and backlash, including examples of how groups have creatively handled such tensions.

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