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White House Report on Sexual Assault: We need to dig deeper
Last week, I was happy to see the release of the new report from the White House Council on Women and Girls, Rape and Sexual Assault: A Renewed Call to Action. I, like many, was excited to find out what this “renewed call to action” was all about. As I flipped through the report, I was struck by the number of accomplishments that have been achieved over the past several years when it comes to responding to sexual violence. Improving the criminal justice, legal, medical, and institutional response to sexual violence is vital in our efforts to address sexual violence. These efforts play a key role in the comprehensive approach to preventing, and ultimately eliminating, sexual violence.
But when it comes to primary prevention, I felt that the report fell short. There is mention of culture change, which I appreciate. But that seems to be the buzz phrase of the hour right now. A huge (and I would argue a most important) piece of the prevention puzzle is still missing. What I want is a deeper discussion of the culture we are trying to change. Most of the prevention efforts in the report focus on the bystander engagement approach and involving men in social norms change efforts. We ask these bystanders to get involved, men to get involved, and also some organizations to change. But culture change is bigger than that.
I’m a fan of many bystander engagement programs. But many of these programs put most of the focus on changing individual behavior. I would love to see more programs, especially on campuses, that focus on a broader approach to helping systems and organizations in challenging rape culture. I was so excited this morning to listen to two amazing women talk about what they are doing to address power-based violence and rape culture on their campuses. Check out this PreventConnect podcast with Vickie Sides from the University of Chicago and Rachel Caidor from the University of Illinois at Chicago as they talk about the need to dig deeper and challenge rape culture as part of our sexual violence prevention efforts. I hope it is as inspiring to you as it was to me.
I’ve been doing this work for 16 years now. I remember a time when we were barely scratching the surface when it came to prevention work. Many of the current prevention programs are starting to dig beyond that surface. But we need to dig deeper if we want to get to the root of the issue.
What are your thoughts on the White House report? What are your ideas for “digging deeper”?