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Sexual Assault, Sexual Harassment, Masculinity And Our Culture

Jeff Siner/Charlotte Observer

Thanks to the presidential campaign, sexual harassment and assault have moved from the shadows to the light. How pervasive is this behavior? Apparently, very. We discuss what it is about our culture that encourages it.

Recent comments by and allegations against presidential candidate Donald Trump have brought these issues into the spotlight. After comments by the candidate surfaced from an old video tape, a number of women have come forward accusing him of misconduct.

Trump has refuted the accusations and threatened to sue the accusers. It's not just a topic on the campaign trail. Trump's comments and the allegations against him have started a conversation about something that affects many women. 

As many as one in six women in the U.S. will be a victim of sexual assault according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) and many more will experience unwanted comments or harassment. What is it about our culture that makes sexual assault and harassment so prevalent? What kind of messages are being sent to boys and girls about respect and consent?

Tony Porter is CEO of A Call To Men, a violence prevention organization that focuses on educating men about respectful manhood. He says the messages young men receive are important.
"You are seeing the harmful outcome of aspects of what men and boys are taught about manhood," Porter says. "That collective socialization creates unwritten rules that allow us to dismiss comments, jokes or behaviors that devalue women and girls, and through our silence, create the fertile ground where violence and discrimination against women can take root and flourish."


Kelly Finley - senior lecturer and undergraduate advisor, Women's & Gender Studies, UNC Charlotte. She teaches on the topic of rape culture and sexual harassment.
Tony Porter - CEO of A Call To Men, a violence prevention organization that focuses on educating men about respectful manhood.
Karen Parker - president and CEO of Safe Alliance, a Charlotte nonprofit that helps victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.
Becky Lindahl - attorney with Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP. She’s on the Board of Directors for Safe Alliance.

Related Reading:

The New York Times: What Our Sons Are Learning From Donald Trump
"If there is a silver lining to Mr. Trump’s views on manliness, it’s that it has prompted a national discussion about the "boys will be boys" excuse for things like bullying, boasting or appraising women in crassly sexual terms. That has offered an opportunity for parents and teachers to make clear what behavior is unacceptable."

Charlotte Observer: Domestic violence: When your body is the evidence (by Karen Parker, President & CEO of Safe Alliance)
"Why would a victim wait so long to disclose or decide not to disclose abuse at all? Imagine you are a victim. A part of you is violated that was once private, once yours. Now you must tell an officer you’ve never met before about the most intimate details of your victimization."

The New York Times: How to Be a Man in the Age of Trump
"The reports have sparked unprecedented discussions in the news media of “rape culture” and sexual consent. Except that the discussions aren’t really unprecedented. They are part of a cycle of soul-searching that is repeated whenever news of a high-profile incident of alleged harassment or assault breaks."

TED Talk by Tony Porter - Don't "act like a man."

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