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Nebraska Coalition Meme Activity

November 24th, 2015

We End Violence had a great time presenting at the Nebraska Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence’s 2015 Conference. Director, Jeff Bucholtz and We End Violence collaborator, Tyler Osterhaus engaged participants in a morning full of media literacy activities, including creating our very own memes as an exercise in utilizing new media to challenge unhealthy messages about masculinities in pop culture.

The idea is to use memes to disrupt harmful messages that normalize domestic and sexual violence and to utilize media to tell new stories that promote affirmative consent and healthy relationships.

Check out all the cool memes created by our attendees from the recent Nebraska conference:

We End Violence – Nebraska Coalition Memes

To find out more about how We End Violence can engage your community email us at info@weendviolence.com

We End Violence is Honored for Our Work

June 25th, 2015
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Laurent Claquin, Head of Kering Americas, Marie-Claire Daveau, Kering Chief Sustainability Officer and Head of International Institutional Relations, Carol Mosely and Jeff Bucholtz, co-directors of We End Violence

We are proud to announce that we were selected as the 2015 Social Entrepreneur of the Americas by the Kering Foundation.

Launched in 2009, the Kering Corporate Foundation combats violence against women. It supports NGOs and social entrepreneurs, and helps raise awareness on violence against women.

Marie-Claire Daveu, Kering Chief Sustainability Officer and Head of International Institutional Relations, said “The Kering Foundation is proud to support We End Violence: our jury was impressed by the strong expertise, leadership and strategic vision of its two founders, Carol Mosely and Jeff Bucholtz.”

The Kering Foundation says this about us: We End Violence provides an innovative model to raise awareness and change behaviors leading to gender-based violence. The organization is committed to creating a culture where it is safe for survivors of sexual violence to share their stories and heal; to change the cultural myths and norms of discrimination; to encourage men to see their role in preventing violence; and to build alliances that will empower more people to speak out.

“We formed We End Violence to push forward the movement to end gender-based violence. We welcome the support and involvement of the Kering Foundation in reaching that goal” said Carol Mosely, co-director.

We are honored and grateful to be recognized for our hard work and dedication to sexual violence prevention.

We want to work with you to help prevent sexual violence in your community. For more information about our services and products, please visit our website or send us an email.

Most importantly, we want to thank all of our clients for your support. We can only make change if we work together, and having the opportunity to work with all of you is our greatest achievement.

Thank you.

Fear: Why sexual violence is a social justice issue

March 3rd, 2015

The young woman said she was living in fear. She was chatting with me in a matter-of-fact way. She wasn’t in crisis and not particularly distressed.

She told me she didn’t become aware of living in fear until she was 16. She was a child of privilege and she knew it. She was white, her parents were educated, had good jobs, and they loved her very much. She grew up feeling safe, secure. It was when it was time for her to go out in the world that she began realizing all the ways she had been told to be afraid. This realization happened because of all the things she couldn’t do, all the places she couldn’t go.

She said, “Not because it was forbidden, but because it was too dangerous, and girls get hurt when they do those things, go to those places. Girls get raped. Since I’ve been in college, I have learned enough to know that my level of fear probably doesn’t come close to that of people of color or queer people, but still, it has constrained my life.”

She had never been sexually assaulted or in an abusive relationship. She had never been stalked. She had been taught that she was responsible for avoiding all those violations. She had been taught to be afraid. And that fear permeated her life.

This is why sexual violence is a social justice issue. Sexual violence is a social problem, a human problem. It limits the ability of people to live fully, to contribute to our world, to feel safe.

The majority of sexual violence is committed against the most vulnerable in our society: people with disabilities, young people, people who don’t fit a stereotypical gender norm, women. These groups are the most vulnerable because of systems embedded in our society that dictate who should be in charge, how we should all behave, and who is not worthy of respect. All people are not all equally at risk.

Being sexually assaulted is not merely a matter of bad luck, or behaving badly, or doing something stupid. It is not caused by miscommunication. It is power-based, and gender-based. Using a social justice approach allows us to recognize that women are more likely to be violated than men and to use that knowledge to seek solutions without excluding male victims or ignoring female perpetrators.

Sexual violence is committed primarily by one individual against another individual and that fact leads us to treat it as an individual crime. It steers us toward thinking it is bad people who do this and if we punish them, we have reacted appropriately and we are taking care of the problem. Yes, it is quite often a criminal issue, and yes, we need to react, and continue to try to find appropriate reactions. But, the criminal justice system is designed to follow, not lead. Reaction doesn’t solve the problem, and it certainly doesn’t prevent it.

By looking at gendered violence as a social justice issue, we don’t get trapped looking for individual solutions. Although they can seem well-meaning, ideas for individual preventions are an integral part of the oppression. This is what the young woman realized. This is how she had been taught to be afraid. Social justice means a better world for everyone. The messages she received have a companion piece—messages that tell young men they should never be afraid, they should take charge, and they aren’t men if they don’t follow those rules. The system of oppression constrains their lives, too. We are all constrained by the message that some of us should be in control and some of us should be controlled.

We will end sexual violence by understanding why it happens, and how it is a part of a larger system that includes many other forms of oppression. This is the goal and the promise of social justice: freedom from fear.

 

______________________________

Carol Mosely, Director
We End Violence

Creating a Culture of Consent: Portraying Rape Culture in How to Get Away with Murder

February 23rd, 2015

*This post discusses the How to Get Away with Murder episode 01.13 aired on February 19th, 2015. It mentions various kinds of assault. If you think this will upset you, please do not read any further.*

In an episode that covered just some points of the multi-headed Hydra that is rape culture including: incest, female perpetrators, false accusations, and child assault, I was frustrated, saddened, and pleasantly surprised. It was an hour that tried to show multiple shades of gray that can be involved in sexual assault and rape culture and was hard to watch at times. The added surprise of the nod to consent at the end of the episode made the medicine go down easier.

Shonda Rimes is not known for treading lightly on controversy, and this ep was no different. Admittedly, I was angry the court trial plot was concluded by disproving a sexual assault allegation made by a male patient and levied at his female nurse. Despite the gender swapping, I got upset. As if switching the traditional gendered expectations of assault would make a difference in how the accuser’s false allegation came across to viewers. When this situation is portrayed in the media, it can often give life to the worn out argument that people who accuse others of assault are only doing it for attention, money, or defamation of the accused, etc. I’m tired of it. For the most part, it’s rarely true, and casts doubt upon the multitudes who do step forward to tell their stories. Yes, it happens, but no more so than with any other crime. We don’t doubt people when they’ve been robbed, we shouldn’t doubt survivors when they say they’ve been assaulted.

Threaded throughout the episode was another story line about assault. The viewer learns that the main character, Annalise Keating, played by Viola Davis, was molested by her uncle as a child. She blames her mother, Ophelia Hartness, played by Cicely Tyson, for not protecting her, which caused a deep rift between them. Ophelia argues that that’s just what happens, “men take things” and reveals to Annalise a list of assaults that have occurred within their family. It’s crushing to see how the persistence of rape culture normalizes assault to the point where women assume and accept they will get hurt, just for being female.

Especially striking is the difference and expectations between the two. Ophelia assumes and accepts that it’s human nature that men will hurt and that women will get hurt. It’s been her experience, and many generations back experience, and she sees no reason for why it would change or how it could be any other way. Annalise refuses to accept rape as her payment for being female, and is shocked to learn about the brutal history in her family which is dropped by Ophelia like an atomic bomb into their argument. She also bristles against her mother’s assertion that women’s roles are that of creators while men are the destroyers. She tries to disprove her mother’s argument of essentialism by highlighting her own lack of nurturing characteristics to Ophelia who doesn’t agree and won’t listen.

Their relationship is rife with hurt, distrust, and borders being abusive. It explains so much about what we know of Annalise’s marriage to her now-dead husband, and about Annalise herself, her secrets, her brusqueness, her way of being in the world. Later, she and her mother reach an understanding when she learns that Ophelia protected Annalise as best she could. It’s a heart wrenching scene, but it leaves me with hope. In the short amount of time between her mother’s generation and her own, Annalise has moved past her mother’s acceptance of rape culture and strict binary definition of gender and can see that something better is possible.

Another sign of hope in the hour comes at the very end. A sober Connor is putting his very drunk on-off-on again love interest Oliver to bed. Oliver tries to seduce Connor, and while Connor has expressed his interest in Oliver before, he refuses his advances, promising that it would be better when they’re both sober. It’s an important scene and gives reassurance that despite Ophelia’s pronouncement, we are able to move past our base natures to create a culture of respect and consent. You can take off your drunk boyfriend’s shoes, say thanks but not now, kiss him, and walk away.

We are all affected by this culture but we have other options besides hurt and get hurt. Like Annalise, we can go beyond rape culture and work on creating something better.

—–
Meredith Donin, Manager
We End Violence

Affirmative Consent Education Moves Us Forward

February 2nd, 2015

This concept is giving a lot of people a lot of trouble.

“It goes against human nature,” a man told me while we were having dinner with several others. The new California law requiring affirmative consent on college campuses was being discussed. Just as he said that, a waitress arrived at our table and asked him if he would like a refill on his ice tea. He said yes. She poured the tea.

I stared at him.

“What?” he said.

I asked, “If the waitress had walked away without pouring your tea, how would you feel?”

“I’d be annoyed. I’d be confused.”

“What if you had said no and she poured it anyway?”

“I’d be annoyed. I’d be confused.”

“Yeah, that’s how most of us would feel. It would be annoying because you wanted, or didn’t want, more tea. It would be confusing because it was such an easy transaction, and her disregard for your choice makes no sense.”

Consent is not complicated. The word ‘no’ is one of the first words—one of the first concepts—that humans learn. That happens around age two. We all ask for and receive consent every day in a myriad of ways. Why is it different when it’s about sex?

Human nature? Well, yes. Not asking for consent for sexual activity is a cultural practice, a cultural system that has been instilled into human nature. It is rooted in entitlement: sex with women was the right of men and there was no reason to ask; consent was irrelevant.

We’ve evolved from our prehistoric days in almost every other way, but this one. Who does this benefit? Answer: the sexual predators among us. The belief that someone is owed sex has become ubiquitous and benefits all perpetrators, regardless of gender.

The man I had dinner with does not believe he is entitled to sex with women, but he perceived that this cultural practice benefited him because, as we discovered later in the conversation, he didn’t know how to ask for consent, and he dreaded being told no.

The time has come to connect the dots. No one is entitled to sex with another. Asking for consent is only difficult because we’ve made it difficult. Affirmative consent is redundant and the apparently necessary use of the qualifying adjective in this phrase is a testament to the confusion that surrounds this issue.

What’s the difference between affirmative and negative consent? One means yes and the other means no. It is currently necessary to use the word affirmative in order to counter the standard rapists’ argument that if she didn’t say no, or didn’t say it the right way, then it wasn’t their fault.

This argument has worked effectively for a long time to keep rapists out of jail and most of the rest of us uncertain about what defines sexual assault. Early in my career, I was asked by an administrator to try to do a better job of teaching young women how to say no. This was a well-meaning request based in the belief that the young men committing these assaults just don’t understand and it was the responsibility of the young women to help them understand.

But lack of understanding is not the problem and here’s a simple example to prove it: a sign on a Texas A&M fraternity house last year (a Yale fraternity did it a year before) that read “No means Yes and Yes means Anal”. Of course the fraternity guys did it to be outrageous and this kind of backlash is not surprising. But still, it shows why we need to be very, very clear that yes means yes and everything else means no so the predators and perpetrators among us know that the rest of us aren’t accepting this argument any more.

I hope we are in a cultural transition as we talk about affirmative consent and as we connect the dots between perpetrators and entitlement and the majority of us who just haven’t thought it through. That dinner conversation was a positive sign, as are the jokes in our popular culture about asking for consent for sexual activity, exaggerating how silly and awkward it can be. We’re working through the newness and someday asking for consent for sex will be as easy as asking for more tea.

 


Carol Headshot

Carol Mosely, Director
We End Violence

The “We” in We End Violence

September 17th, 2014

Carol Mosely and Jeffrey Bucholtz started We End Violence in 2008 to develop and present innovative and creative sexual violence prevention education. We End Violence is a continuation of their collaboration which began 14 years ago at the University of California at Santa Barbara.

Jeff and I began working together at a time of transition in the field of sexual assault prevention. Of course, the past 60 years has been a period of transition, but, it seems to me that around 1999, there was an even bigger shift. Years of activism and education had succeeded in widely establishing some awareness of the problem. Large numbers of people knew that sexual violence occurs, probably a lot; and were introduced to the concept that their assumptions about how and why assault happens were wrong. It was no longer a completely taboo subject, and new students weren’t shocked that they would be getting a presentation, a rape talk from the rape lady.

Finally, it was time for the next step and time to move beyond Myths and Facts. The majority of students believed that rape is wrong, but they couldn’t define it. And they certainly didn’t think it had anything to do with them. They thought it was sad and awful, but they would never be raped, or rape anyone, and there was nothing that they could do. It was a downer subject and they were glad that the talk would be short. For the survivors in the audience, these talks broke the silence for them in a small way, and let them know there was someone to talk to, but it didn’t help connect them to their fellow students.

At the time, our collaboration was a perfect fit for discovering what would work. Jeff brought a student perspective, a male presence, and lots of energy. I had years of experience, the long view of where we were headed, and—at last—the recognition that women couldn’t end this violence without men being involved.

The truth about why sexual violence occurs is simple but obfuscated by centuries of cultural beliefs and misinformation about gender and sex. Our job as prevention educators is to drag it into view. Turn the prism. Point out the picture in the picture. There is no rule or guide for how to do that; no guarantee that everything you try will work.

The Penis Registry got their attention, although it was much more amusing to the women than the men. It did make everyone curious. It shifted the focus from the survivor to the perpetrator without requiring a boring explanation about what it was designed to do and why. It addressed, in a humorous way, the fallacy of blaming a body part for a serious crime and made it clear that blaming men is not the goal or the solution. It gave them a way to talk about sexual violence in an everyday conversation.

This is how it worked: the student activists set up a table in a high-traffic area with a big sign that read Penis Registry. When the curious approached, they were told that anyone can register a penis, you don’t have to physically present a penis in order to register. This first step began the discussion of what is sexual violence. Those who wanted to register took a True/False quiz which had some penis-related questions but also basic questions about sexual violence. When they passed the quiz, they got a certificate, short and humorous but factual.

Many people did not stick around long enough to take the quiz or engage in much discussion, but those who did were transformed in their thinking and left with language they might use someday to help someone else’s understanding.

For some presentations, we put the word “slut” up on the screen in giant letters. It was unexpected, and elicited a roar of laughter and phones aimed at the screen taking photographs. Perfect response. We were not trying to make them be quiet and listen to us because we are the experts. We were trying to lead them to think about this problem in a different way.

So, why is the word “slut” up on the screen in giant letters? After the laughter subsided and the photos were sent, we explained. A word used commonly by college students but difficult for them to define. It’s gendered; about women and sex even when used toward a man. “Slut” is used as a joke and a weapon. It’s a powerful word that can have a serious negative impact on a woman’s life. It means she deserves what she got, that raping her isn’t really rape. It means she’s silenced, and if she does talk about it, she’ll get no support.

Did all the students in the audience get all that? Probably not. But most of them began to think about the word as they never had before.

The challenge for violence prevention educators is not finding ways to tell people what we know. The challenge is helping them interpret and articulate what they already know and then helping them move forward. We have done most of our work with college students and others of college age, such as military personnel, but the strategy has been successful with groups from junior high to my aunt’s cocktail parties.

Our collaboration has worked well because of our synergistic creativity. That is lucky, and we feel fortunate. What is not left to chance is our commitment to approach this as a woman and a man working together. Because, while it is important for men to hear from other men, at the heart of these problems is the reluctance, or refusal, of some men to listen to women. The “we” in We End Violence doesn’t mean Jeff and me. It means all of us, and it means women and men working together.


Carol Mosely, Director
We End Violence

The Backlash Has Begun

August 19th, 2014

This enormous, amazing, and long-needed attention to sexual assaults on college campuses is making–and will continue to make–our world a better place. The national public attention to this problem is recent but the work that led us here has been going on for decades. It has been a difficult journey to get to this point and no change of this magnitude comes without resistance. Resistance was predictable, some is understandable, but we need to move forward with the momentum we’ve earned towards positive, effective change.

Backlash is actually a sign of progress. It happens every time there is a substantial shift that appears to threaten common beliefs. For activists and educators, backlash is an opportunity to improve our teaching. It’s the common beliefs about sexual violence that are hurting us all.

The fact that sexual violence is a gendered issue contributes to the confusion for many people and fuels the backlash for some. A colleague once said to me “You believe all men are guilty,” an assumption made because I worked with survivors who were predominantly female and assaulted by males. I know many other advocates have heard statements like that, or were affected by the unspoken assumption of misandry which dismissed their knowledge and commitment. We’ve made some progress, but that belief has not entirely vanished.

It is true that the majority of the perpetrators are male and the majority of victims are female and that is an important fact to consider as we look for causes and solutions. However, that is just a part of the story of gender and violence, and stopping there leaves some men feeling accused and some women feeling confused. Almost all women have men in their lives they trust and love. Almost all women know that every man is not a rapist. Stopping there keeps us from adequately recognizing female perpetrators and male victims and contributes to making those who don’t conform to these two genders invisible.

There is much more to the story of gender and violence. For example, societal expectations for boys and men to be masculine can push them into strict roles and behaviors that are unhealthy for them and the people around them. Think about the words used to bully boys and men–pussy, wimp, mama’s boy. These are gendered words and they reflect and support beliefs and attitudes that can lead to violation.

Aspects of the current backlash come out of that limited interpretation of gendered violence as a gender war between men and women. While sexual violence is a societal problem, the particulars are what affect individuals, which is why other forms of backlash are so intensely personal and can sometimes become legal struggles. Just as the Clerys reacted to the horrible assault and murder of their college-student daughter by working to have federal legislation enacted, many students today are suing their schools for not abiding by Title IX regulations. On the other side, some parents believe their offspring are falsely accused of assault. In turn, they will fight by opposing the systems and the movement they hold responsible, specifically through the system of adjudication which jeopardizes young men who face the possibility of expulsion from a college. And so, we’ve turned to the legal system for support and legislation to fix the social issue of sexual violence, lawsuit by lawsuit.

The legal approach is in some ways necessary. It is necessary that we figure out how to hold sexual predators accountable and do it in a way that also respects survivors. The way that we’ve changed the response to these violations via the law, policies and procedures is one mark of our progress. However, the problem of sexual violence cannot be solved through mastering the nuances of rules, regulations and statutes, or winning lawsuits—if only it were that easy. We all know the underlying issue goes far deeper than that. While changing law is an important step, it is still a reactive one, and only a part of the puzzle.

The biggest proven impact on both prevention and response is comprehensive education. Comprehensive education will build a wider and deeper understanding of these issues in our communities. It does not require people to read the statutes or understand the precise letter of the law. It is education that makes what appears to be complicated simple, cuts through the misconceptions and ignorance about sexual violence, and helps people to better understand the intent, meaning, and implementation of the law.

Sexual violence is gendered violence and it affects all genders. Knowledge and understanding of the problem will help all genders. Jurors will make more informed decisions on whether the law was broken. Parents will be able to talk to their children about consent. Asking for consent for sexual activity will not be considered weird, but merely something one does. Survivors will be more confident of being believed and receiving help. The sexual predators among us will be more easily recognized, and, as recent studies have shown, their peers will feel more comfortable telling them that their behavior is unacceptable and try to prevent future instances of violence.

Backlash shows us how far we’ve come and also gives us some direction for where to go next. Let’s move past emphasis and resources devoted to lawsuits and put our energy toward better understanding and solutions.

 

 


Carol Mosely, Director
We End Violence

 

 

A Leap Forward in Understanding Confidentiality and Reporting

May 15th, 2014

Sexual assault is unlike any other crime. Survivors need—and deserve—help from those who have studied the issue and received training in how to help victims most effectively. One of the most integral components to a survivor’s well-being is confidentiality. The White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault agrees, and their report offers an excellent explanation as to why this is the case: “if victims don’t have a confidential place to go, or think a school will launch a full-scale investigation against their wishes, many will stay silent.” In addition, “insensitive or judgmental questions can compound a victim’s distress.” Some victims require “time and privacy to sort through their next steps.” As such, campuses should “give survivors the help they need to reclaim their educations” such as “a confidential place to turn for advice and support.” We agree.

Many campus advocates have struggled to maintain and protect their ability to offer confidentiality. It should be a relief to everyone on all sides of that struggle to read the Department of Education’s clarification that yes, advocates are confidential resources. Confidentiality has been an issue partly due to the confusing collection of laws governing sexual assault and sexual harassment on campuses. It is also due to the widespread lack of understanding of the unique nature of this crime.

For centuries, the word rape was only whispered. Sexual violence was never openly discussed, rarely acknowledged as a problem, and then only as a sad and inevitable happening to a certain kind of woman. What most people knew was whatever they garnered from these whispers and furtive looks. Unfortunately, what most people know today is not at all accurate either, particularly those beliefs about survivors based on assumptions about how one would react if sexually assaulted.

In recent decades, activists and educators have worked to bring the subject of sexual violence out of the shadows and have public discussion of the realities of assault, increase public knowledge of the widespread problem, and support for survivors. The current national attention to the problem in the military and on college campuses is the result of that work.

Along with the advance in understanding of confidentiality comes encouraging progress in understanding the complexities of reporting. Ignorance about the unique nature of this crime was again a factor in the laws and policies—and interpretations of those laws and policies—used on campuses and in the military regarding reporting. And again the assumptions about how survivors feel, or should feel, contributed.

Many people believe that if they were assaulted, if a righteous crime has been committed, of course they would report it. The reality is quite different. When it actually happens, most people don’t report it. Survivors raped or assaulted by an acquaintance often don’t know what to call it due to the stereotypes and lack of education surrounding sexual assault. It can take some time for them to come to terms with what happened. Those that do tell someone, or report to authorities, are many times not believed and not supported.

A common assumption is that the only way to stop these crimes is to catch and punish the perpetrators, and victims of the crime have a duty to report to make that happen. But it’s not that simple.These cases rarely go forward to a conviction, not least because juries are comprised of people who have no understanding of the problem or knowledge with which to evaluate a case. Sexual assault is a societal problem, and we should not expect the survivor to solve it. We must all work to solve it and improving the criminal justice response is only a part of the solution.

The language in the Task Force report shifts the concept of reporting from the legal sense of the term to the sense of telling someone who can help with the survivor’s healing process, and now that someone can be confidential. It is widely understood by advocates and law enforcement that victims who are given time and informed support are much more likely to ultimately go forward with an official report and the criminal justice process. A campus must still take official action, but it is clear that the campus’ action can be apart from the individual case. We believe that prevention education is still the best action of all for learning communities to take in creating supportive, healthy places for their staff and students.

The language and explanations of the report are a huge leap forward for activists, educators and institutions. They offer hope that someday soon the need for confidentiality will not be as great because everyone will better know how to support survivors. And someday soon after that, sexual assault will be a rare occurrence.

 


Carol Mosely, Director
We End Violence

Bystander Training Good, but Not the Answer

May 6th, 2014

Bystander training is one way, but not the only way, to prevent sexual assaults on college campuses. This was among the comments made by Annie E. Clark, founder of End Rape on Campus, when she was a guest last Wednesday morning (April 30th, 2014) on the On Point radio show with Tom Ashbrook. The topic of discussion was the report released Tuesday (April 29th, 2014) by the White House Task Force to protect students from sexual assault.

Clark expressed a note of caution when another guest, Inge-Lise Ameer, senior associate dean of Dartmouth College, touted bystander intervention as the most promising practice in prevention. In Hall’s opinion, it is more important to focus on primary prevention, stopping sexual violence long before it starts, rather than intervention in a public moment of violence that has witnesses.

The comments on the On Point website during and after the segment illustrate why simple bystander intervention is limited. The lack of basic understanding about sexual assault is obvious among the commentators, as it is among the general population of college students. This is a fundamental problem when asking people to step up and step in to a potentially violent situation. Without a basic understanding of what sexual assault entails and the ability to think critically about prevention, actions can be ineffective, or worse, they can be dangerous for the bystander and others.

Hall’s opinion that prevention is more important than intervention is shared by many, including We End Violence, and all other sound and thoughtful bystander training programs. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center has published a booklet on Engaging Bystanders that urges us “to create more engaging words and images” than bystander. They write, “The reality is that everyone is a bystander, every day, in one way or another to a wide range of events that contribute to sexual violence.”

We are all bystanders and we can practice prevention far beyond being a hero in a single event.

We End Violence incorporates bystander training within education that stresses critical thinking, basic knowledge about sexual violence and survivor support skills. WEV has accepted the challenge to “create more engaging words and images” by developing Agent of Change, a prevention program that moves beyond a limited bystander concept and teaches how to be proactive as well as reactive to the everyday language and attitudes that support sexual violence.

 


Carol Mosely, Director
We End Violence

The Importance of Bystander Intervention and the White House Task Report

May 2nd, 2014

First and foremost we are thrilled that the President has made sexual assault education and prevention a priority. It means something to have the highest office in the land be advocating for a higher quality of prevention and response to sexual assault. To put the spotlight on a topic that has been taboo for so long shows that our collective, ongoing work has had an impact on how our society is changing its views and responses to sexual violence.

We agree that campus climate surveys are necessary and LONG overdue. We commend the Task Force’s decision to support such data collection as it will help us to better identify the scope of the problem. It will also help universities to encourage survivors to report incidents as campuses will no longer have to fear that people will equate increased reports with increases in violence. This is an important step in removing the stigma from honest self-reporting and will aid us in creating more effective programs for campus communities.

The new focus on survivor support and perpetrator accountability is also welcome. The suggestions the report makes on providing a wide variety of resources to survivors and educating them about the availability of said resources, including confidential non-mandated reporters, is critical to helping survivors and creating a culture of holding rapists responsible for their crimes.

We are also thrilled to see the introduction of trauma-informed training for campus officials. This will fundamentally alter officials’ understanding of victim dynamics in a way that is bound to be far more survivor supportive. We End Violence is currently creating a program to train university officials and employees on this very topic. We believe it is extremely important that all individuals who work with students are better able to create a safe, supportive climate for survivors.

The suggestions for building collaborative relationships are a good shift towards creating a systematic support system for survivors and activists. Our country’s rape crisis centers provide some of the most important and impactful services in the country. We do hope that as these memorandums of understanding and partnerships are entered into, that recommendations are made to ensure that the burden of work and funding does not fall on community advocacy programs. We have seen universities with large budgets and resource pools request and obtain assistance from advocacy programs only to not reciprocate with support for their new community partners who often are already spread thin. We hope to see this be a collaborative effort both in terms of labor, funding, and support.

The importance of prevention efforts being included in the recommendations, especially bystander intervention efforts and engaging men in the prevention process, cannot be overestimated. We were gratified to hear that the White House Task Force agrees that primary prevention is an essential part in the cultural challenge against sexual violence. In particular, we were happy to hear the emphasis on continuous and comprehensive education efforts, as well as our program’s, Agent of Change, inclusion in the list of the White House’s Not Alone website’s recommended resources. This is exactly what WEV advocates and provides to colleges, military, and communities.

However, WEV believes that prevention efforts need an even stronger prioritization in the report and in our activism. Many survivors will tell no one about their assault, and when they do, often university staff and students have no training on how to respond. We can change this by better educating these communities on the importance of supporting survivors and creating safe spaces. For example, the language used on college campuses to describe sexually active women facilitates perpetrators’ belief in the acceptability of their actions and, at the same time, silences survivors. We would like to see prevention efforts expanded to identify the roots of this culturally facilitated problem.

Bystander intervention must mean more than identifying “abusive behavior” when it is happening. True prevention efforts need to focus more heavily on bystanders stepping up to be agents of change long before someone chooses to violate another person. This is one of the primary foci of WEV’s work and our online program, Agent of Change. By introducing sexual assault prevention education earlier and having it more often, students will have a better understanding of what sexual violence is and a stronger commitment to making a change for the better.

While the focus of the committee and report are on sexual assault, we believe that other forms of power-based violation must also be discussed. Relationship abuse and stalking are driven by many of the same cultural norms, including strict gender roles, confused ideas about relationships/sex, and victim blaming. Our hope is that as this Task Force moves forward it will extend prevention efforts, in particular, to cover more power-based violations.

We think that the Task Force report is an excellent first step for the government in the ongoing global movement to prevent sexual violence. We wish to continue to see strides made towards removing the stigma for survivors and a cultural shift against the casual acceptance of sexual violence. We look forward to the day when we can look back on this report and see how far we’ve come.

 


Jeff Bucholtz, Director
We End Violence


 

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