Las Vegas Sun

April 26, 2018

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How can we rid our future of harassment?

Image

Richard Shotwell / Invision / AP

In this Jan. 6, 2016 file photo, producer Harvey Weinstein participates in the “War and Peace” panel at the A&E 2016 Winter TCA in Pasadena, Calif. Weinstein has been fired from The Weinstein Co., effective immediately, following new information revealed regarding his conduct, the company’s board of directors announced Sunday, Oct. 8, 2017.

What about women?

Six Clark County School District employees have been arrested during the current school year for having inappropriate contact on campus. During the 2016-17 school year, there were 13 arrests. Some have been female employees who interacted with male students. Earlier this year, the district implemented a policy requiring training on acceptable relationships between employees and students.

Highly sexist, misogynist attitudes that can lead to harassment and abuse are learned, not innate, said Cabrini University psychology professor Dr. Mark Kiselica, dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences and a fellow and former president of the Society for the Psychological Study of Men and Masculinity.

“The capacity for that exploitation increases greatly the more power a man has, whether it’s his physical power or his wealth and his positions of influence,” Kiselica said. “It’s a very disturbing pattern of behaviors that warrants social awareness and lots of constructive interventions to stop it.”

Many men in politics come from backgrounds of privilege, Kiselica said, and the intoxicating nature of power can lead to arrogance and entitlement.

“Part of what we have to do in preparing leaders is to foster in them this sense of duty and this sense of empathy for everyone,” he said.

The #MeToo movement is long overdue and going to bring about positive results, Kiselica said. Society needs to continue to confront men who harass women and hold them accountable, he added.

“The duty of all of us is to prevent this kind of behavior from happening and support women who have been victimized, and give them a safe place to talk about their experiences and seek justice,” he said.

Research shows boys tend to model their behavior after men, and Kiselica’s work focuses on how boys and men can learn to model positive masculinity. Men are susceptible to crossing boundaries with women even if they were raised in homes without sexist attitudes, such as the belief that women are objects for men’s sexual gratification, he said. Social pressures from those outside the family, such as other men and boys, as well as an abundance of sexist media, including video games, online pornography and movies, can influence behavior.

Families need to educate boys before they’re exposed to negative representations of power between men and women, letting them know why certain content they see on the internet does not embody healthy sexual relationships, Kiselica said.

Teaching age-appropriate gender empathy is also key, he said. Boys are statistically less likely to be sexually harassed than girls, though experts say this is underreported. Parents can ask boys to remember being bullied, and let boys know that women experience a similar sense of powerlessness, fear and victimization when men behave inappropriately.

“There are very strong forces out there that we as a society have to teach our boys to critique, to understand, to cope with,” Kiselica said. “And we have to give them even more powerful counter messages.”

Educate yourself

• Understand what consent is: Consent is an agreement to engage in any sexual activity, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN). While consent does not have to be verbal, verbally agreeing to sexual activities will help clarify boundaries.

The video, “Consent: It’s Simple as Tea” explains: If someone visits your home to have tea once, it doesn’t mean that person is obligated to have tea with you every Saturday for the next year. And if someone changes their mind and no longer wants to have a cup of tea, you don’t pour tea down their throat. Consent should be treated similarly.

• Tips for ensuring consent: 1. All participants should verbally communicate when changing the type or degree of sexual activity. 2. All participants should explicitly agree to certain activities, either by saying “yes” or another affirmative statement, such as, “I’m open to trying.” 3. Physical cues can let participants know you’re comfortable taking things to the next level. 4. Above all, communicate. Ask all participating parties what they are comfortable with.

• Planned Parenthood’s campaign on consent, FRIES, lays out the concept more directly. The acronym stands for: Freely given; Reversible; Informed; Enthusiastic; Specific.

Consent is only complete when there’s no coercion and the person is enthusiastic about the activity and knows the specific act to which he or she is consenting. People can change their minds and should be informed of any decision affecting them.

Sexual violence

Signs of predatory behavior

• An individual wanting to isolate an intended victim

• He or she may be charming or buy rounds of alcoholic drinks for a target, but the predator will be drinking water

• Individuals who won’t take no for an answer and keep coming back

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines sexual violence as any sexual act committed against someone without that person’s freely given consent. This includes:

• Completed or attempted forced penetration of a victim

• Completed or attempted penetration of a victim facilitated by alcohol or drugs

• Forced acts where a victim is made to penetrate a perpetrator or someone else

• Forced acts where a victim is made to penetrate a perpetrator or someone else facilitated by alcohol or drugs

• Nonphysically forced penetration that occurs after a person is pressured verbally or through intimidation, misuse of authority to consent or coercion

• Unwanted sexual contact and non-contact unwanted sexual experiences

Sexual harassment

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission states that sexual harassment includes “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature.” Sexual harassment can include physical forms of violence like groping, or it can include nonphysical forms of harassment like catcalls, “locker room talk;” pet names such as honey, sweetie or pumpkin; ogling, photographing or filming someone’s body without their consent; lewd texts or social media comments.

Sexual assault

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office on Women’s Health defines sexual assault as any sexual contact that isn’t consensual, including rape and sexual coercion. Sexual assault can happen either by physical force or threats of force, or if the attacker gave the victim drugs or alcohol as part of the assault.

How can men be advocates for women?

Did you know?

Almost 20 percent of the victims the Rape Crisis Center served at University Medical Center were assaulted or met their perpetrator at a party situation or alcohol-serving establishment, according to its website, partysmartinLV.com. Some sexual predators use these situations to find victims, because it allows them access to a person who is vulnerable while having the benefit of the victim’s story being discredited because of the state they may be in, said Randy Klenosky, Crime Prevention Specialist for the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.

What if you’re neither the bully nor the victim? How can you help? “Everyone has a role to play in keeping positive momentum moving forward,” said Daniele Dreitzer, executive director of the Rape Crisis Center. She suggested that you begin by recognizing the power and control you already have and taking care to not abuse it.

“Everyone can call out others who glamorize, joke about, or minimize violence and harassment or behaviors that support and promote violence and harassment,” Dreitzer said. “If people share rape jokes, images or videos glorifying violence, friends should call that out and create consequences. Coworkers of someone being harassed can come forward if they witnessed anything and document what they saw or heard to make sure victims are supported and harassers held accountable.”

“Men are frequently advocates for women,” said Connye Y. Harper, president of the Southern Nevada chapter of the Society for Human Resource Management. “They should speak up when they see something inappropriate happening around them—if what they see is not what they would want to be happening to them or to their spouse or family member.”

Tips for navigating the workday (or night)

RESOURCES

• Rape Crisis Center's 24/7 hotline: 702-366-1640

• RAINN otline: 800-656-HOPE (4673)

Remember those cringe-worthy sexual harassment PSA’s from the ’90s? A lecherous boss in a sweater vest would tell his female employee that she “wasn’t using all her assets,” and she would reply with a confident, “That’s sexual harassment and I don’t have to take it.” That type of response works great in a 30-second TV spot, but real life is a lot more … nuanced. Here are some tips for navigating the workday (or night) with grace and aplomb.

• Realize that you might be the problem: Your lighthearted joke might make somebody else uncomfortable. Take a moment to think before you act. “If you are worried about crossing the line, just don’t do whatever you’re thinking about,” said Daniele Dreitzer, executive director of the Rape Crisis Center. “Remember, your intent is not what counts; what matters is how it is perceived on the receiving end. Remember that silence is not consent. If you aren’t getting a response, it is likely because the person does feel offended or harassed and is not sure or feels too overwhelmed by what’s happening to respond.”

• If you’ve done something wrong, make it right: “People who feel like they have crossed the line should apologize and promise not to repeat their inappropriate behavior—and keep the promise,” said Connye Y. Harper, the Southern Nevada chapter president of the Society for Human Resource Management.

• If you’re being harassed, here’s how to get help: Even if you have no immediate plan of action, write down the date, time and details of the incidents with your harasser and share it with a friend, Harper suggested. That will give you a paper trail and documentation. Next, follow your company’s policy and report the problem. If it’s not taken seriously, go up the chain. “If you feel retaliated against or there are negative consequences, seek legal advice,” Dreitzer suggested. If you can’t afford a lawyer, you can also file a claim with the Nevada Equal Rights Commission, and Legal Aid may assist on a pro bono basis.