UpRoot

digging up the roots of gender-based violence

Category Archives: Bystander Intervention

A Call to Campus Leadership: End Sexual Violence!

Cross Post from Give Hope a Voice

When sifting through the news, these headlines have become all too common.

Statistical evaluation reveals that 1 in 5 women and 1 in 33 men experience attempted or actual rape throughout lifetime and a staggering 1 in 3 women over the course of her college career. Since fewer than 5% of assaults are reported, these statistics simply don’t reflect the astounding reality. Nearly 25% of women who reported rape were under the age of 25 when assaulted, 85% of the victims know their attacker, while nearly 99% of people convicted are men.

Universities have an ethical and legal responsibility to provide safe educational environments and confronting sexual violence must be part of that. Campuses should not only be responsible for working to prevent these incidents, but in the event an assault occurs the administration needs to investigate and work to ensure justice is sought. As seen by the headlines above, there are a good number of campuses not responding well or even at all to assaults. So how do you create a culture of consent?

Sexual assault prevention involves interventions at various levels. We can stop crimes before they are committed, while reducing the damaging consequences after the fact and while also holding offenders accountable. The implementation of prevention strategies often hinges on understanding that if we can inspire women and men to work collaboratively – we can shift the paradigm that supports sexual violence. We can educate students about ethical consent while teaching bystander strategies to safely confront potentially violent situations, while also transforming culture. Jackson Katz, a frontrunner in the effort of engaging men in ending violence said it well in this TED talk.

The prevalence of assaults within sports culture reflects a critical need for every institution to mandate sexual violence training for all student athletes. We’re not suggesting single session sensitivity trainings; however, we’re advocating for multi-session trainings founded in empirically researched strategies demonstrating long-term culture change and accountability.

That this is not standard practice within every athletic department reflects a profound failure on the part of leadership within higher education institutions.

RAAIN Statistics
In a recent report, The Rape Abuse & Incest National Network (RAAIN) issued a statement denouncing the feminist theoretical concept that we live within what’s defined as Rape Culture. They concede that it’s helpful to recognize systemic barriers, while not losing sight that rape is not the result of cultural implications, but is the result of deliberate choices of a small number of rapists, to rape.

Rape is absolutely a choice that one individual makes in order to gain power and control over another individual. ConsentThis choice is influenced by culture and is hidden in plain sight by a society that allows rapists to exploit cultural narratives and escape accountability. Holding rapists accountable necessitates uncovering the campus climate through which they’re able to conceal themselves. This climate allows for personal beliefs that they’re not rapists at all. Accountability requires pulling back the curtain and uncovering common rape myths, flipping the script on victim blaming, and engaging in a cultural shift that calls for universal unified understandings of a very specific definition of consent. This is an ethical consent that is conversational, engaging, participatory, sober, and only yes means yes.

To effectively prevent rape on campuses, and alter the attitudes and behaviors that lead rapists to believe they can get away with rape, we must also drastically alter the environment within which they live and thrive.

At HAVEN we seek to develop partnerships with institutions to implement best practices in prevention solutions. Prevention work includes education for students, professors and administration at levels of engagement ranging from awareness-raising, to comprehensive education, to building healthy relationship skills and ends in legislation and policy design. We create programs adequately addressing these levels of engagement while also addressing underlying causes. We encourage institutions to partner with local domestic violence agencies to bring together components of expertise while designing comprehensive prevention strategies that produces a paradigm shift that never accepts or tolerates sexual violence, ever.

Kristopher (Kole) Wyckhuys is one hopeful and optimistic voice within an intersectional social justice movement. As a Prevention Education Specialist at HAVEN, his focus is redefining healthy masculinity and works to engage men in ending gender-based violence. After graduating college he served in the military where he trained as a Combat Medic and Mental Health Specialist. Kole is an Iraq war veteran, NPTI certified personal trainer, and a trained massage therapist in addition to his work as a prevention educator. He envisions a collective consciousness that embraces individual and social responsibility, accountability, and equanimity. He shares his home with a 3 year old pup named Peanut the Pitbull.

Being a Good Bystander Is More Than Calling the Police

In fact, calling the police is the least of it. If we are good bystanders, we are speaking up WAY before there’s ever a reason to call the police.

Let’s think about it. The general idea is to call the police when and if we witness a crime by sight or hearing. Which means an assault is already happening, the harm has already come. It may not be safe to intervene then, and calling the police may not be an option for a variety of reasons (link is a PDF).

What if we could prevent the assault from ever happening in the first place?

We could rewind to:

  • when we heard our friend call his wife a b*tch
  • when we heard our brother tell his girlfriend she can’t go out with her friendsbyst
  • when we saw a guy mixing punch for a party with way too much alcohol, saying, “This is for the girls, man!”
  • when we saw our friend invade a woman’s space, and ignore her requests for him to back up

At all of these times, it’s possible to speak up or step in. “Hey, that’s not cool. Don’t talk about your wife like that.” “Hey, dude, what difference does it make to you if she goes out with her friends? Relax.” Accidentally bumping the table, knocking the punch over. Stepping in front of your friend, and preventing his access to the woman. Or any other of the million ways you could do something that would stop an assault from happening well before it occurs.

We could also rewind even further, and interrupt when we teach boys toxic, violent and misogynistic masculinity.

We could rewind to:

  • when we heard a Little League coach call his team a bunch of “little girls
  • when we saw a man take the credit for a woman’s work
  • when we saw a teacher only call on boy students
  • when we hear someone say that boys can’t wear pink, or dresses, or paint their nails
  • when we heard someone ask about the motives of a woman who was raped, but not about the motives of the rapist

Again, the ways to intervene are many, and as varied as the situations that present themselves. My point is, if we wait until an assault is occurring to intervene, we’ve waited too long. If we really want to address gender-based violence in a meaningful way, we need to step back from the assaults as they occur (though, still providing help and support for survivors as they request it), and look at the way our culture supports the assaultive behavior of batterers and rapists. What do you do that perpetuates rape culture? What do your friends do? What is your role in ending it?

Cristy Cardinal is a graduate of the University of Michigan and has worked in the field of ending gender-based violence since 1997. Cristy has three kids, all of whom she is happy to share (gross or funny or weird, whatever) stories about any time. She is an avid fabric artist in addition to being a loudmouth feminist. Cristy is the 2012 winner of the Michigan Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence Wave of Change Award, honoring excellence in social change and prevention of gender-based violence.