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digging up the roots of gender-based violence

Tag Archives: sexual assault

The Profound Failures of Universities: The Winston Case and Beyond

Crosspost from HuffPost

I’ve written and spoken about how universities have an ethical responsibility to institutionalize sexual assault trainings for all students and athletes. Since writing this piece, there has been an escalation of political interest in the topic and the White House weighed in with an effort to get men involved.

By now you should be familiar with the case of Florida State University’s prized quarterback, Jameis Winston. During his recent student conduct code hearing, it is clear that Winston’s statement is in remarkable contrast to the statement of the who woman reported he raped her in late 2012. One is a story of sex and consent and the other is a traumatizing account of rape and intentional violation.

I’m not here to argue the complex details of the case, or about the statistics of false rape claims. Debating the validity of the victim’s claims isn’t useful and leans toward secondary victimization. I wasn’t there and neither were you. I’m using this incident as an opportunity to remind all universities of the critical need to require violence prevention training for student leaders and athletes.

The prevalence of assaults within sports and college culture reflects the dire need to discuss ethical consent. University coaches, leaders, policy makers and legislators should require multi-session, leadership training for students. When educated, student leaders can confront attitudes and behaviors that some students employ to disregard the need for consent during sexual encounters.

My work as a Prevention Educator centers on working with young men and discussing the details of consent. During a recent training session a young man revealed a story that weighed on him the entire eight weeks of our training. He explained a scene where he was at a party and wanted my opinion on how he’d acted. Heavy drinking was involved and although he chose not to indulge, his date was quite intoxicated. He helped her to a room where she laid down and then pulled him close. He confided that there was sexual contact but no sexual intercourse. Then he asked me, “Was that wrong?” What was striking to me was that he waited nearly two months to ask this question. It takes time to build the trust and rapport needed to fully understand ethical consent and have real conversations.

I shared this story to demonstrate the need to discuss consent and sex with young women and men in such a way that offers an environment of trust, rapport and authenticity. On more than one occasion, students should be given a platform to share their experiences, attitudes and beliefs. Once educators are permitted access to these beliefs we have the opportunity to reframe them, which may influence actual behaviors, and students are able to model responsible behaviors while engaging in effective bystander strategies and interventions.

This is a place where we can come together and have discussions and dialogue about ethical consent. Ethical consent is defined as consent that is:

  • Enthusiastically engaged
  • Participatory
  • Sober
  • Verbal and nonverbal
  • Yes means yes

By providing this to students as a guide, we can help reduce sexual assault and therefore the life-long repercussions rape survivors face in the aftermath. It will continue to be a profound failure on the part of university leadership and athletic departments until it is standard practice to mandate multi-session trainings with student leaders.

We will likely never know the events that transpired that night in Tallahassee between Winston and his accuser, however, by starting the conversation now, we can become a part of changing the culture of rape. We encourage all universities to partner with local domestic violence agencies to design comprehensive prevention strategies that produce an environment that never accepts or tolerates sexual violence.

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.

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.

Believe

Tuesday, in the midst of seeing people I respect and love defend Woody Allen, or at the very least, asking for folks to consider that there might be other possibilities and we might not want to be so quick to believe Dylan Farrow, I asked a question.  I asked my friends on Facebook to share their stories of survival with me. And they did, which is remarkable. I was truly awed by their bravery and candor. After each one of them shared, I told them that I believed them. And so did other people. “I believe you” is a simple thing to say, and far too often, we don’t say it.

Yesterday, after seeking their consent, I made this:

believe.jpg

click to see larger view (go on, it’s totally worth it).

 

I am truly awed by how beautiful believing can be.

The costs of not believing survivors are real.

Believing survivors costs us nothing. No one wants to believe that their hero, or their favorite actor or movie director is a rapist. But the truth is rapists aren’t mythological beasts. They are everyday people, like you and me. In order to be good allies to survivors, we have to be willing to believe that the very best person we know is capable of sexual abuse/assault if we are ever confronted with such information.

Believe survivors. Tell them that you believe them. If my little Facebook experiment is any indication, the results will be amazing.

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.