Baylor University is in the news again:
Objectification is a process of depersonalizing others in order to maintain power and not feel empathy.
One problem is the dehumanization of the victims. These kinds of bonding require in-group thinking, which requires the men in the group to think of women as objects instead of people. Objectification is a process of depersonalizing others in order to maintain power and not feel empathy. When working with young (junior high and high school-aged) men in our assault prevention programs, Esteem’s male instructors begin with basic empathy training, presenting students with scenarios that depict dehumanizing behaviors toward women and asking the participants questions such as:
* How would you feel if this was your mother/sister?
* How would you feel about the men who attacked her?
“Most group acts of violence occur because of the one or two people who start them, one or two more who go along and all the others who remain silent.”
This approach may seem simplistic but it’s effective in shifting the perspective of boys and men because it personalizes an experience by requiring the male students to think of specific individual women rather than abstractions, and it requires them to consider how they might think of peers who carry out such actions. This is extremely effective because it requires them to think in challenging personal terms.
The other key element to the young men’s training involves holding peers accountable by shifting their perceived roles from passive bystanders to proactive “upstanders,” men who stand up to call out inequality and oppression. These concepts are often commonly found in anti-bullying trainings and are equally applicable to women’s experiences on (often too hostile and dangerous) college campuses.
Matthew Harris, a lead instructor at Esteem with eight years of experience working with teen boys and college men in our violence avoidance trainings, emphasizes the need to offer these trainings to high school and college athletic teams. “Most group acts of violence occur because of the one or two people who start them, one or two more who go along and all the others who remain silent.”
The third area to focus on is personal accountability. Rather than blame young women for attending parties hosted by football teams, what if men started evaluating their own behaviors and asked similar questions of other men: What was he doing there? Why did he not stop? Why did the other guy join in? Why didn't anyone say anything?
Shifting the focus from victim to perpetrator or bystander is the most direct route to the core of the issue.
Esteem offers programs at middle schools and high schools in order to reach young people before they find themselves faced with a situation like the one that we are learning about at Baylor University. Unfortunately, most young men have not been exposed to this type of assault prevention training and end up obeying whoever the leaders are on the team or other peer groups.
“It is up to the men with integrity in the world to use positive peer pressure to end sexual assault,” says Dale Thomas Vaughn, a male ally and vocal activist toward ending sexism and sexual violence. “According to many studies, the overwhelming majority of men are never directly involved in sexual violence, but their silence allows the minority of men who are violent to believe they are doing what’s expected of them. The more we as men speak up about our desire for integrity, compassion, and respect, the less these would-be perpetrators will commit acts of sexual misconduct.”
College administrators and coaches should provide the students in their care the training they need to make safer choices. We all need to work together until rape is no longer a part of anyone’s college experience.
For information on Esteem founder Lauren Roselle and how to bring Esteem’s programming to your middle school, high school or college, visit our website at esteemcommunication.org