Want To Prevent Sexual Harassment And Assault? Start By Teaching Kids


Published:

In the wake of sexual assault and harassment allegations involving Harvey Weinstein and Bill O'Reilly, Americans may be learning just how prevalent sexual violence is in our society.

So, what can be done to prevent it?

We have studied how family, school and neighborhood environments influence violent youth behavior. Building from this knowledge, we are working with schools to develop prevention programs.

Here’s what we’ve learned.

Reducing The Risks

Decreasing sexual violence means investing in prevention programs that address the causes of sexually abusive behavior. The majority of prevention programs aimed at teens and young adults often focus on teaching girls and women how to decrease their risk of being assaulted, with strategies such as watching out for each other at parties or being aware of their surroundings. Some include self-defense strategies.

Programs like these are generally found to be ineffective because they fail to address the realities that most assaults are committed by someone known and trusted. Harassment is commonly committed by someone in power, such as a teacher or supervisor. These types of programs may be able to reduce some risks, but real prevention needs to focus on the only person who can actually prevent harassment: the potential perpetrator.

It’s Everyone’s Problem

Increasingly, programs address this shortcoming by encouraging bystanders to challenge harassing behavior and jokes to help promote healthy, positive norms. For example, programs like Green Dot and Bringing in the Bystander help teach high school and college students to step in to prevent violence or help someone who has been assaulted. In 2014, President Obama and Vice President Biden launched the It’s On Us campaign to encourage bystanders to get involved. It provided real actions for college students to help protect their friends and neighbors, such as intervening when someone is harassing another person, providing support to someone who has been victimized or refusing to laugh at hurtful jokes or comments.

However, programs such as these face an uphill battle. Youth are exposed daily to the pervasive and nearly invisible ways that our society accepts and even condones sexually abusive behavior.

For example, as toddlers and preschoolers, young children are taught to ignore their personal boundaries of their bodies. Parents might pressure their children to hug a family member when they don’t want to. Instead, family members should teach children to talk honestly and assertively about how they do or do not want to be touched.

Fathers commonly joke about protecting our daughters from predatory boys who want to date them, because “we know how boys are.” This teaches both sons and daughters that boys are mindless aggressors and girls are helpless victims.

Parents are an important part of teaching positive attitudes and skills for healthy relationships, but few programs exist to teach them how to talk about these difficult subjects.

What About Men?

Some programs, such as Coaching Boys into Men, seek to engage men to see sexual violence as more than a “women’s problem” and understand their role preventing violence. Programs for men build on bystander interventions and encourage youth to challenge traditional expectations of masculinity that accept, or even promote, violence. As men’s perception that they are not masculine enough has been associated with increased rates of sexual violence, it is essential to provide role models of nonviolent masculinity.

However, prevention programs cannot ignore that 23 percent of boys and men experience sexual violence or harassment over their lifetime. Although rates of being raped or sexually assaulted are lower for men, males report experiencing sexual coercion, in which they are pressured or manipulated into sexual activity they don’t want, at rates that are nearly equal to women.

What’s Next?

Prevention needs to begin in early childhood and continue for life. Teaching skills to prevent violence starts with learning empathy for others, communication skills and problem solving. It involves promoting healthy sexual behavior through sex education focused on respect for self and others, communication and consent. Programs that empower youth to make positive changes in their communities show promise for preventing sexual violence.

School boards, employers and politicians have the power to strengthen and consistently apply policies to keep schools, workplaces and communities safe by holding abusers accountable for their actions. Leaders, and all bystanders, can refuse to hide or tolerate abusive behavior. Lastly, we can support services for both male and female victims that reduce the harm of these traumatic experiences.

Sexual abuse is not just a “women’s issue.” Men and women play a significant role in prevention. Acknowledging sexual assault as a community-wide problem that impacts all persons regardless of gender is vital to preventing sexual assault.

Poco Kernsmith is a professor of social work at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. She received her PhD in social welfare in 2002 from UCLA with a study of gender differences in intimate partner violence perpetration. She is also currently pursuing a masters in public health, with a focus on epidemiology. She has worked in domestic violence and sexual assault victim services agencies in crisis intervention, legal advocacy and community education, including developing of prevention programs for high schools and universities to address dating violence and sexual assault.

Joanne Smith-Dardenis an associate professor at Wayne State University. She has been funded to study interpersonal violence, sexual violence, teen dating violence, and youth violence by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention since 2012 on two consecutive RO1s. She has authored and co-authored numerous peer-reviewed publications and presented her research nationally and internationally.

Megan Hicks is a post-doctoral fellow in the school of social work at Wayne State University.

This article was republished from The Conversation.

See also:
Why Boys Need To Have Conversations About Emotional Intimacy In Classrooms
For Native Mothers, A Way To Give Birth That Overcomes Trauma

Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

Daily Astrology

November 18, 2018

It’s a delightfully lazy Sunday morning. The Moon is void of course in Pisces. Sleep late. Relax. Indulge in sentimental favorites, comfort foods, familiar songs, faces and places. Enjoy mother nature. By late morning the Moon enters “get up and go”…
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Alternative Health Directory

Browse all listings »

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Calendar

November 2018

Join us and take your intuitive skills to the next level! The goal of this series is to create a sanctuary of learning and support where all can deepen their connection to spirit, stretch...

Cost: $45

Where:
Private Office
6 Royal Crest Drive
Apt 11
North Andover, MA  01845
View map »


Sponsor: Sacred Spiral Dance
Telephone: 978-973-6637
Contact Name: Diana Harris
Website »

More information

Celebrate and give thanks for harvest of the summers effort! We have a fun line up of readers and healers providing services at sampler rates to enjoy their services while you enjoy shopping...

Cost: $60—3 15 min. sessions (45 min total), $25—15 min. session

Where:
The Healing Power of Flowers—Heaven and Earth
68 Stiles Rd
Unit A
Salem, MA  03079
View map »


Sponsor: The Healing Power of Flowers—Heavven and Earth
Telephone: 603-275-7688
Contact Name: Stacey Smith
Website »

More information

Where do they go? A chat about what happens when a person passes. Where do they go? This is a question psychic medium Diane Lewis has been asked over and over again. Many of us wonder,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Together We Can New England
148 Thompson Road
Webster, MA, MA  01570
View map »


Sponsor: Together We Can New England
Telephone: 508-943-1637
Contact Name: Caryl
Website »

More information

Kinetic Chain Release, moxibustion and past life regression at Leapin Lizards. Every third Sunday: 9/16/18 10/21/18 11/18/18 12/16/18 For information, call Leapin Lizards at (207)...

Where:
Leapin Lizards
449 Forest Ave
Portland, ME
View map »


Telephone: (207) 221-2363
Website »

More information

This three-part series attunes you as a conduit to the healing system of Kundalini Reiki, a firey earth-based feminine energy. Kundalini Reiki is a gentle yet powerful modality to channel healing...

Cost: $150

Where:
Akasha Studio
20 Birch Street
Roslindale, MA  02131
View map »


Sponsor: Miriam Katz, Shamanic Healer
Telephone: 617-545-5142
Contact Name: Miriam Katz
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
No Events
No Events

The class is a combination of qi gong, yoga, meditation, and relaxation followed by a cup of healing tea. The class, developed by Korean enlightened master Ilchi Lee, is based on Sundo, a...

Cost: $10

Where:
Divine Paradigm
58b Macy St
Amesbury, MA  01913
View map »


Contact Name: Brad Fanger

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
No Events

The class is a combination of qi gong, yoga, meditation, and relaxation followed by a cup of healing tea. The class, developed by Korean enlightened master Ilchi Lee, is based on Sundo, a...

Cost: $10

Where:
Divine Paradigm
58b Macy St
Amesbury, MA  01913
View map »


Contact Name: Brad Fanger

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

With Katie Malloy Ramaci  Expand your connection to the angels by learning IET levels 2 and 3 certification. Truly move forward on your path. Learn Soulstar activation and release...

Cost: $1099 (Early Bird $999)

Where:
Women of Wisdom
118 Washington Street
North Easton, MA  02356
View map »


Sponsor: Women of Wisdom
Telephone: 508-230-3680
Contact Name: Women of Wisdom
Website »

More information

Join the Heart’s Desire Herd of Empowered Equines in Rochester, Massachusetts for an afternoon of peace and serenity. Remove yourself from the hustle and bustle of the holidays. Discover...

Cost: $65—some partial scholarships available

Where:
Heart’s Desire Stable
Rochester, MA  02770


Sponsor: Heart's Desire Stable
Telephone: 508-763-5254
Contact Name: Chris Korben
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags