There is a robust discussion about the value of using “Myths and Facts” for violence against women prevention in the Prevent-Connect Email Group. Clearly we want our audiences to have accurate information about sexual violence and domestic violence. But what is the best strategy to do that?
When I look at surveys conducted by the Family Violence Prevention Fund and see changes in classroom presentations, I recognize that many of the myths from yesterday are not as strongly held as toady. With Rape Myth Acceptance scales, many practitioners find pre-test scores to be very high. I attribute this to the success of rape and domestic violence awareness and prevention efforts.
Frameworks Institute suggests that “order matters” – if we restate a myth many member of the audience may take that information as reinforcement of the myth. One study compared using a “Myth and Facts” sheet vs. a “Fact” sheet about flu vaccinations. The use of the Myths and Facts sheet led some people to believe the myths as facts. Another study suggested that warning people about false claims may actually reinforce the falsehood.
I asked about this question on a social marketing email group. One person shared how in a tobacco prevention effort did dispel myths such as “Tobacco is cool” but they did not restate the myth; instead the campaign provided an alternative message: “Tobacco is foul.” Another person described how they tested using a myth and fact approach for drug prevention and STI prevention efforts. In the testing they found that young people generally stop reading once they have read the myth acting as if they have just received confirmation or reinforcement of their existing beliefs/attitudes. Of course, these are not examples about violence against women.
How do we use these lessons in sexual violence and domestic violence prevention? Do classroom exercise that have students discuss why a myth is true actually serve to reinforce the myth? Personally, I like structuring prevention work so we catch people doing things right. Let’s set up our discussions and activities to promote the frame we want. There is a place to learn good critical analysis but that takes time and we need the appropriate environment.
What do you think?