The MVP Playbook consists of a series of real-life school and social scenarios ranging from sexual harassment to a potential rape involving alcohol. During interactive sessions, the MVP staff uses the Playbook to spark discussions that convey concrete options for non-abusive men and empowered women to interrupt, confront, and prevent violence by their friends, peers, or teammates. By focusing on bystander behavior, MVP reduces the defensiveness and hopelessness that many men and women often feel when discussing men’s violence against women. Program participants develop leadership skills and learn to mentor and educate younger boys and girls on these issues. MVP aims to construct a new vision of a society that does not equate strength in men with dominance over women.
The Playbook and its various scenarios lead to highly interactive discussions about real‐life situations that most attendees have experienced, or at least known about, in their families, circles of friends, home, or on or off‐base communities. The discussions are typically animated and fast moving. It is not unheard of for a group to spend an entire 90‐minute session discussing the a scenario. The Playbook scenarios, which utilize sports terminology for easy reference, are designed to be as realistic as possible. For example, the first scenario called “Slapshot,” sets this scene:
You are an R.A. and a sophomore. A guy pushes and then slaps his partner at a party, she’s a resident from your residence hall, but not your floor. People are upset but don’t do anything. She’s not a close friend, but the two of you know each other.
After reading the scenario, another participant will read the “Train of Thought,” which is a type of mental checklist that bystanders in these situations go through:
If nobody else is stepping in, why should I? … It could get ugly … He could turn on me … Besides, if she didn’t like that sort of treatment, and she stays with him, why should I get involved? … Is it any of my business? … But if I don’t do something, I am saying it’s okay for a guy to abuse a woman … Do I have a special responsibility because I’m an RA? … What should I do in this situation?
The “Train of Thought” is followed on each page by a list of practical and realistic “Options” for intervention:
“Nothing – it’s none of my business…Get a bunch of people to contain the boyfriend…Talk to the woman and let her know I am willing to help…Report the incident to fellow RA’s or my RD.”
The “Train of Thought” is adapted from the Habits of Thought model developed by a key advisor to the college student-athlete version of MVP, Dr. Ronald Slaby of the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Slaby’s model (1994) provides a basis for understanding the behavior of victims, perpetrators, and bystanders. He suggests that behavior is the outcome of social experiences, including personal experiences with violence and those transmitted by media, interacting with habits of thought (i.e., beliefs, impulsive and reflective tendencies, and problem-solving skills).
The great benefit of implementing the MVP approach on the issue of violence against women is that rather than focusing on the men as actual or potential perpetrators, it focuses on them in their role as potential bystanders. This shift in emphasis greatly reduces the participants’ defensiveness. It also allows MVP to emphasize one of its key points: that when male or female bystanders don’t speak up or take action in the face of other men’s abusive behavior toward women, that inaction constitutes implicit consent to such behavior.