HEADLINES

Be part of the solution & help The Women's Center stop the violence in 2015

In 2015 we can use our voice, influence, and actions to become part of the solution. Together we can stop the violence.

This past year was an interesting year filled with accomplishments and letdowns for the violence against women movement. In 2014, sexual assault came to the forefront of national dialogue through many different events that were covered by mainstream media. Here is an overview of some of these important moments:

In 2014, Rolling Stone released a story about rapes at the University of Virginia. We were appalled when Rolling Stone questioned the verifiability of Jackie’s stories, creating a frenzy to prove the victim’s story false. Fortunately, this became a teachable moment for society to learn about the trauma associated with sexual assault and the effects of trauma on neurobiology and memory formation and that confusion about details – however extensive – occurs often and is not the same thing as not telling the truth. 

It was a positive change when mainstream media actually covered and reported on the more than a dozen allegations of drug-facilitated rape by Bill Cosby. Many of these allegations had been brought up in previous years but the cases had gone largely unnoticed, perhaps in part because of Cosby’s fame and popularity. With these allegations, we saw networks back away from Cosby while the media highlighted survivor’s stories, believed survivors, and called out Cosby’s on-going silence as unacceptable.

We cringed when four students from North Carolina State University invented a nail polish that detects common date rape drugs by changing color. Though well-intended, the practically and logic behind this invention is lacking. Most sexual assaults are perpetrated by someone the victim knows. Victims usually are not “on-guard” and in the mindset that they need to put on drug detecting nail polish when they wake up in the morning. Further, we know that males can also be victims of sexual assault; this invention isn’t practical for men who might not wear nail polish in their daily lives. Finally, the invention implies that it is a woman’s responsibility to prevent sexual assault and emphasis is put on the victim instead of the perpetrator, where it belongs. Prevention that focuses on what women do or wear is ineffective and implies that the victim is at fault when those steps are not taken.

So there were good times and bad times over the past year. Hopefully, as a society we learned from our mistakes and will continue on the path to end sexual assault. But how can we really make these horrific, life-changing crimes a thing of the past? What can we do with our anger and frustration? How can we continue raising our youth in a society where one in three females and one in six males are sexually assaulted in their lifetime? How do we fix a problem that is deeply engrained into our culture and daily lives?

I don’t have all the answers or solutions. But I do know this: men are part of the solution. We all have a role to play in preventing sexual violence and men have a unique role. In order to end sexual violence, all men need to be actively engaged in addressing cultural norms that support sexual violence especially relating to aggressive, unhealthy stereotypes of masculinity and attitudes of inequality and devaluing of females and other marginalized populations that allow their victimization to be discounted. When men hold other men accountable, the results can be profound.

With this in mind, the Women’s Center is continuing its participation in the Where Do You Stand? state-wide primary prevention initiative. In Connecticut, this campaign, created by the nationally renowned organization Men Can Stop Rape (MCSR), is the first collaboration between a state coalition against sexual assault, CONNSACS (of which we are a member program) and MCSR in the United States. It engages men and boys in the movement to end violence and empowers them to become active in the prevention of sexual violence - including sexual harassment, sexism and sexual assault.

As part of this campaign, the Women’s Center provides bystander intervention workshops to boys and men in the community. These workshops utilize bystander intervention theory and techniques to give males the tools necessary to directly confront problematic behaviors and take a stand against all forms of sexual violence and abuse, and, in the process, be a role model of healthy masculinity. While bystander intervention immediately intervenes in an imminent incident of violence, the long-term primary prevention impact will be a society of zero tolerance of sexual violence. With the dominance of healthy character traits and social skills, no one will have the vulnerability to perpetration of abuse or victimization in the first place.

Bystander – or as we prefer to call them “upstander” intervention programs are also available to female audience so they also have the tools to challenge unhealthy attitudes and behaviors in the males – or females abusing people -  in their lives as well as to assert their own rights and empower others to do so also.

So often, things are being said or done and we do not know what to say or how to react. When we remain silent, we unintentionally condone these behaviors. It is everyone’s responsibility to intervene and challenge problematic behavior. We all need to be willing to take action to challenge cultures that support and allow sexual violence to occur. 

In 2015 we can use our voice, influence, and actions to become part of the solution. Together we can stop the violence.

Our education team is continuing to offer these interactive, evidence-based workshops to the community in 2015. To learn more or to schedule free workshops (at your location or ours), please contact our Program Manager of Education & Outreach, Ann Rodwell-Lawton, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 203-731-5200 ext 233.

The Women’s Center provides free and confidential services to prevent or lessen the trauma associated with domestic violence, sexual assault and other major life transitions to thousands of women, children and men annually. The programs of the Women’s Center are supported by state and local government, area United Way agencies and the people and businesses in the communities we serve including Bethel, Bridgewater, Brookfield, Danbury, Kent, New Fairfield, New Milford, Newtown, Redding, Ridgefield, Roxbury, Sherman, and Washington, CT.

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