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Culture is no excuse for violence

Culture plays a huge role in shaping how people view gender roles, gender norms, and relationships. For example, in some cultures domestic violence may be seen as normal; divorce may be seen as a taboo; or rape may be seen as consensual if it’s between a married couple. This can impact how people understand healthy and unhealthy relationships and determine whether or not victims/survivors seek out help.

Time and time again culture is used to excuse abusive behaviors between partners and within the family unit, leading to a practice of intergenerational violence. Women and girls are especially vulnerable since many cultures hold patriarchal values and toxic ideals of masculinity. But what is culture and why has it persisted as a justification for abuse in so many communities?

Culture is defined by Merriam-Webster as "the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group" and "the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution or organization". In other words, culture is used to represent an identity or a multitude of identities and its associated beliefs and behaviors.

For immigrant and refugee families, following the traditions of their ethnic culture shows respect for their ancestry and helps memorialize their heritage. Displacement or resettlement in a new country can limit traditional practices and make immigrant/refugee families feel like they are losing their ancestry. Resettlement will inevitably alter one's cultural beliefs and practices, but it will also open doors to new ideas as communities adjust to their new surroundings. Traditionally patriarchal practices will also be challenged, including ideals of masculinity and practices that diminish or harm women. Merriam-Webster also defines culture as

"the integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief and behavior that depend upon the capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge to succeeding generations".

This means that culture is constantly changing, accumulating, and being molded as it is passed on from generation to generation and from place to place. Culture is NOT static. Gender roles and gender norms can change. Violence, abuse, and toxic masculinity can be unnormalized.

In honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM) 2022, WISE is calling our supporters to help us bring awareness to the harm misusing culture can have on developing healthy relationships. Culture is a beautiful and unique part of who we are. It should not be used as a means to justify toxic masculinity, patriarchal values, domestic violence, intimate partner violence, or other forms of relationship abuse.

WISE staff share how misusing culture impacts domestic violence and gender-based violence in their communities


How to participate

An infographic of the steps to participate in DVAM
  1. Take a photo of yourself with the palm of your hand raised towards the camera.

  2. Write a caption based on this year’s theme. You can share a story or a statement on the impact of domestic violence or gender-based violence and your culture.

  3. Optional: Edit the caption onto your image.

  4. Post your photo and caption to your social media. Before you post be sure to

    1. Include the campaign hashtags: #EndDomesticViolence #DVAM #IntergenerationalViolence #DomesticViolenceAwarenessMonth

    2. Tag WISE at @womenofwise (Facebook and Instagram) or @womenofwisemn (Twitter and LinkedIn) so we can share your post!

  5. Optional: If you don’t have a social media account or prefer not to post on your personal account, you can send your photo and caption to and we will post on your behalf.

You can use the following blurb on your social media post or write your own:

“Domestic violence in the name of culture is an excuse to uphold toxic masculinity and promote #IntergenerationalViolence. Culture is never an excuse! #DomesticViolenceAwarenessMonth #EndDomesticViolence


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