By P. A. Tezuka, SMC/Public Affairs
/ Published April 22, 2008
Los Angeles Air Force Base -- The Sexual Assault Awareness Seminar, sponsored by the 61st Air Base Wing's Sexual Assault Prevention & Response Office, was held at the Gordon Conference Center, April 11. The seminar was part of the many events offered to base personnel in observance of the Department of Defense and Air Force Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
Jackson Katz, world renowned educator, author and filmmaker on gender violence prevention, spoke to the crowd of 150 attendees about the relationship between the violence committed against women, the cultural affects, and how men could help in its prevention.
"I have a big problem calling them women's issues," said Mr. Katz about the gender violent crimes such as sexual violence, rape, harassment, domestic violence and stalking. "Why can't we just say it's a 'community issue' or 'human right's issue' ... why do we have to distinguish between men and women?"
By referring to it as "women's issues," many men will just "tune it out," thinking it doesn't concern them because they are not the ones harming women, Katz said.
"Men will say, 'Hey, I'm a good guy ... that's for women, it's not really my issue,'" he said. "But men are the overwhelming perpetrators of sexual violence and domestic violence ... the vast majority of the problem is not 'women' violence ... the big problem is 'men' violence, whether the victims are female or male."
According to Katz, 99 percent of rape is by men and is a very big problem in the United States. Rape has no boundaries among class, race, age, affluence or educational level. He said between one in four to five women are victims of rape or attempted rape. Of the rapes that occur, 80 percent are never reported. Of the crimes committed, only 1.5 percent of the rapists spend time in jail.
"Men are the overwhelming perpetrators of sexual violence and domestic violence," he said. "Most men are not abusive; but most men who are abusive are getting away with it."
He said the most fundamental thing we need to do if we want to get the message across in preventing sexual violence is to get more men involved.
"It's not about her [women], it's about him [men]," he said. "True prevention means going after him. We need to move beyond being defensive about the subject matter.
"Just saying 'I'm not a rapist' is not that impressive. You need a whole lot more than that," he said. "We need to raise the bar a little higher in what it means to be a 'good guy' at this stage in our time.
"What can a man do about that? ... What can I do as a man about the fact that so many of us are abusive towards women?"
He said we have two options when we see abuse happening - 1. Do nothing, "it's none of my business, I'm not going to get involved," or 2. Intervene, which comes with a risk.
"With these two options, people usually do nothing because of the consequences of confrontation," Katz said. "... It's often about fear, fear of social consequences or fear of physical consequences, like getting into a fight.
"But if you're not saying anything about it, isn't your silence a form of consent?" he asked.
He said by not saying anything about it and by not challenging the abuser, we are allowing the violent behavior to continue. We are all "bystanders" to the crime.
"Speak up and support our friends [whether victim or abuser], do not be silent," he said. "That's the heart of the matter."
Katz said the problem has to be personal in men's lives, not just in women's lives.
"Every single person in this room, every one of us, every man and woman, knows at least one girl, one woman, who has been a victim of rape [or sexual assault] and many of us know more than one. This is a mathematical probability," he said. "So we're not talking about somebody else, somewhere else."
Currently, there are 18 million rape survivors in the United States.
"... fathers, sons, brothers, boyfriends, husbands ... so many men have so many personal relationships ... with sexual abuse trauma survivors," said Katz. "Imagine being a parent of a child who's been raped ... it doesn't get more personal than that."
He said violent masculinity is the cultural norm in the United States.
"When boys act out violently, we shouldn't be shocked that such a thing should happen," he said. "Just step back and look at our society, everywhere you look, the normalization of the violence is part of socialization, especially in boys."
He gave examples of how the image of the "tough guy" has changed through the years from the size of the weapons our heroes carry to their physical stature. For example, the size of the biceps on action figures toys which boys play with. Men are bigger and women are smaller, which he called a form of control men attempt to have over women especially as women become more successful and powerful in the business world.
"So what happens in our society between the time where a loving little 3-year-old boy turns into a 19-year-old teenager who's pushing his girlfriend against the wall, punching her in the face? What's going on? What's happened in those intervening years?" he asked.
Some violent behavior comes from the home; some comes from the society we live in, he said.
"Imagine the effects on the children whose mothers are victims at home ... children are traumatized by what is happening to their mother. Men who abuse wives abuse children as well," he said. "Many boys in the juvenile system in California ... have externalized their trauma by their behavior."
He explained children are also becoming more and more immune to seeing violence through media sources, such as video games, and television programs, such as in pro wrestling shows which depict men abusing women for entertainment purposes. He said violence is not a "learned behavior; it's a taught behavior."
"Young boys are playing hours and hours of video games where a realistic looking person is dying on screen with blood spurting out. It's naive to think there's no affect," said Katz. "Violence in kids and people are from ... 'desensitization and normalization' ... not imitation."
He said the support from leadership among organizations such as the military is a major step towards the prevention of sexual violence. It is important to have visionary leaders among men to face these issues. Men need to demand changes in order to reduce the abuse.
"It takes guts, it takes strengths, it takes courage, and it takes self confidence as a man within their male culture to start speaking up about men abusing women," he said. "I passionately believe we can dramatically reduce the level of domestic and sexual violence if we make a commitment to it."
Jackson Katz is the co-founder of the Mentor in Violence Prevention, a program which works with sports culture and various high schools throughout the country by promoting violence prevention through risk reduction. He was a former member of the United States Secretary of Defense Task Force on Domestic Violence in the Military. He is also the director of the first world-wide domestic and sexual violence prevention program in the U.S. Marine Corps. He is the author of the book, "The Macho Paradox, Why Some Men Hurt Women and How All Men Can Help."