Monday, December 21, 2009

Australia Report: Conceptualising Prevention of Sexual Assault and Role of Education

I found an interesting report on sexual assault prevention from Australia titled: Conceptualising Prevention of Sexual Assault and Role of Education by Moira Carmody.

Not counting references, it is 16 pages long and raises important issues. Some of her description of what different groups believed about gender (what was biological and what was social) in the history of efforts to stop sexual violence feels a little simplistic and may reflect the perception of certain groups more than they do the full reality of what those people believed. However, these limitations don't reduce the importance of this report and the need to consider the issues raised such as the problems of using the construct of "healthy relationship" in education meant to prevent sexual violence.

Because this report is on education, it only addresses non-educational aspects of primary prevention indirectly as they relate to education. The main discussion of non-educational aspects is about the lack of consistent funding and the lack of an overall strategy that has full, consistent support.

The most important take away I got from this report is that we need to look critically at educational prevention programs and we need to understand that just having something called primary prevention education doesn't mean having something that is effective at preventing sexual violence.

As I was reading this report I was envisioning a school where the unwanted activity was being ignored as it was happening at school by school employees (through a mix of apathy and hopelessness) and then a whistle blows and students are told to settle down and then are taught about the way they should behave and then at the end of the lesson a whistle blows again and the students and the school employees revert to their pre-prevention state.

When sexual violence or dating violence prevention education is in sharp contrast to the reality of a school and the community it is clear to me that education given to students cannot alone make any significant progress toward the goals of primary prevention. Fortunately, the realities of school environments and communities are not fixed.

We need to create environments where taking the appropriate action or refraining from taking the wrong action are supported and are easier and more natural choices.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 1:45 PM   1 comments links to this post


At December 21, 2009 5:01 PM, Blogger JENNIFER DREW said...

Very true this report when discussing what is commonly termed second wave feminism does make sweeping statements and once again castigates radical feminists for supposedly reducing female survivors of male violence as 'perpetual victims.' Similarily this report claims radical feminists claimed all men were potential perpetrators.

If the writer had cared to read Catherine McKinnon's work and other radical feminists work, she would have realised her claims were totally untrue. Elizabeth Stanko and Liz Kelly have also written extensively about male violence against women and girls.

What second wave feminists sought to discover is how and why male violence committed against women and girls (and to a lesser extent boys) is widespread, common and mundane. Answering these questions meant radical feminists went to the root of the problem and that is and still is how dominant masculinity is constructed, promoted and maintained as natural.

Likewise radical feminists have looked at how power operates and which dominant group continues to retain this power and define to subordinate groups, primarily women and girls, what does and does not come within the term 'sexual, physical and or pyschological violence.'

But of course we are in the midst of a huge backlash and individualism and 'diversity' means if taken to its logical conclusion that men as a group are not the ones with greater social and economic power and women as a group are supposedly able to negotiate and limit any male's decision to commit sexual/physical/pyschological violence against them. Oh so simple, but as radical feminists discovered or rather re-discovered, patriarchy is not that simple.

Second wave feminists listened to women's and girls' experiences of male violence committed against them and then publicly named such violence for what it is - male control and subordination of all women and girls.

If we cannot name the perpetrators then we cannot even begin to engage in primary prevention work. Naming the perpetrators means challenging the social construction of masculinity and femininity both of which serve to enforce and maintain male power and control over women and girls.

Interlinking this is racism, misogyny, homophobia and classism, none of which can be separated out from how gender is and continues to be constructed as 'natural and unchanging.'

As the backlash commenced so new terms were developed in order to hide the fact violence is predominantly committed by males against females, but since this truth had to be kept hidden, phrases such as family violence, interpersonal violence and even gender-based violence were coined. All of which serve to hide which biological sex is disproportionately committing such acts. 'Family violence' implies several members within a family are committing violence against other members - again too simplistic because it ignores power dynamics and how one or two family members have greater economic and social power than other family members.


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