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Orchowski, Lindsay M. (2019) – “Trouble in Paradigm” and the Social Norms Approach to Violence Prevention


Like feminism, violence prevention is a pursuit to be continually interrogated and advanced, rather than a doctrine that limits the researchers, practitioners, advocates, activists, and individuals doing the work. In their paradigmatic reconceptualization of the gender-transformative violence prevention approach, Lisa Brush and Elizabeth Miller create space to better address past exposure to violence as well as the role of masculine homophobia in gender violence, while also calling greater attention to everyday efforts to push back against gender conformity. Before commenting on these paradigmatic shifts, I must disclose that my position in this commentary is informed by my involvement in evaluations of interventions that apply the social norms approach (SNA) to violence prevention (Gidycz, Orchowski, & Berkowitz, 2011; Orchowski, Barnett, et al., 2018). I am a clinical psychologist who works predominantly with individuals who have experienced sexual trauma, a researcher with a focus on the development and evaluation of sexual assault prevention programs, and deeply curious about deciphering persuasive theoretical approaches for promoting change in individuals as well as larger systems. I am personally invested in identifying “what works” to reduce violence through rigorous program evaluation.

In this commentary, I speak to three points. First, I comment on the opportunity to bolster gender-transformative violence prevention grounded in the SNA by acknowledging and addressing the role of prior experiences of violence among participants. Second, I expand upon the proposal that combatting the acceptance of homophobic teasing and bullying can serve as an opportunity for unhinging the production, performance, and policing of heteronormative masculinities. Finally, I explore one of the topics bracketed by the authors: specifically, the notion that the mixed findings of some violence prevention approaches stem from a failure of implementation. Here, I attend specifically to the pragmatic shortcomings of implementing social norms marketing campaigns. Before delving into these points, I lend some additional discussion of research behind the SNA to violence prevention and discuss some of the ways that the SNA uses normative feedback to address risk and protective factors for violence.

-Excerpt from Text, p. 1672–73.


Orchowski, Lindsay M2019. “‘Trouble in Paradigm’ and the Social Norms Approach to Violence Prevention.” Violence Against Women 25(14):1672–81. doi:10.1177/1077801219872561.




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