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All have positive roles to play in preventing abuse

Dr. Jackson Katz, internationally known author, filmmaker, educator and cultural theorist, visits Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., April 12. Katz was a guest of Air Force Space Command’s Sexual Assault Prevention Response Office as part of Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month activities. He spoke about the need to focus on the role men play in sexual abuse and domestic violence to promote prevention. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Dave Smith)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, colo. -- Dr. Jackson Katz, internationally known author, filmmaker, educator and cultural theorist, visits Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., April 12. Katz was a guest of Air Force Space Command’s Sexual Assault Prevention Response Office as part of Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month activities. He spoke about the need to focus on the role men play in sexual abuse and domestic violence to promote prevention. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Dave Smith)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Sexual abuse and domestic violence shelters, hot lines and counselors didn’t exist until the 1970s or after, said Dr. Jackson Katz. Women’s leadership has been transformational in getting these programs established.

Now, he says, it’s time for men to step in and join the fight.

“We have some big problems, not just in the Air Force, but in society and in the world,” said Katz. “We’ve had an epidemic of silence by good men.”

Katz, an internationally known author, filmmaker, educator and cultural theorist, visited Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, April 12, as a guest of Air Force Space Command’s Sexual Assault Prevention Response Office for Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month activities.

Katz gave a morning presentation to the SAPR and family advocacy staff, as well as volunteer victim advocates from Peterson AFB, Schriever AFB, U.S. States Air Force Academy and Fort Carson. In the afternoon, Katz made a similar presentation to AFSPC personnel.

His presentation, titled “What is a strong man?” was a departure from typical presentations in the Space Lecture Series. The seriousness of the subject, and timing of the SAAPM made it a logical choice, said Skip Bradley, AFSPC historian, in remarks to the audience.

It is a common misconception that advocacy by women’s leaders only helped women and girls, Katz said. Their work impacted the lives of men and boys in profound ways. The paradigm is shifting to push sexual abuse forth as a men’s issue, not just a women’s issue. He further said it is a men’s leadership issue.

“The culture needs to change,” said Katz. “Talking about this out loud and holding men accountable… is positive.”

Katz said the fact the military is talking about men’s role in sexual abuse and domestic violence will further the positive impact on men and boys. Often the most powerful influence on a male is from a commander or coach, so starting the change with leaders is important.

“We need to create a command climate where abusive behavior is not tolerated,” he said. “It’s a difficult challenge. Real action and introspection is difficult.”

The general makeup of culture and the workplace are becoming more integrated. Men need to intentionally focus on adapting behavior to adjust to these changes, he said, especially in the military.

“If you don’t know the difference between your opponent and your family, you don’t belong on the battlefield,” Katz said.

Historically most efforts have been in teaching women to protect themselves and not on prevention. Katz said moves by the military towards this end are moves in the right direction. Methods should acknowledge that everyone has a positive role to play when it comes to sexual and domestic abuse. To help deal with the issue, Katz developed the “Bystander Approach” to gender violence prevention.

A bystander, in this approach, is anyone who has a relationship with a person who might be either abusive or experiencing abuse. The goal is to help people become active bystanders, instead of passive ones, who can contribute to making a climate change where abuse isn’t acceptable.

Katz said the real question for a bystander is whether or not they are going to do the right thing when abusive behavior is observed. Taking the approach that it isn’t their business, or that it is a private matter, is problematic.

“It’s not a private matter,” he said. “It has many implications for our society and hurts the mission too.”

Katz said helping victims and abusers get help is a key to prevention. The earlier intervention can be made, the more it is successful.

To contact 21st Space Wing SAPR team call (719) 556-6972 or (719) 554-7272

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