Cultural theorist speaks out against violence on women


    It’s crucial that powerful men in society learn how to hold men accountable in situations of sexual abuse, Jackson Katz, cultural theorist said.

    Katz, who spoke to students Wednesday night, said a “bystander approach” which holds all parties accountable is one of the keys to fighting sexual violence against women.

    He said college athletes should have to take sexual prevention training, along with coaches and administers as high up as university presidents. It should be part of getting the job, Katz said.

    Katz cited the bystander approach could have alleviated the Penn State scandal because it would have empowered those involved to speak out.

    “Penn State was ‘Exhibit A’ of the failure of the bystander approach on every level to take appropriate action in the face of overt sexual violence,” Katz said.  

    Training influential men on matters of sexual abuse is key to bringing awareness to young men and boys who look up to these men, Katz said.  

    Co-founder of the program Mentors in Violence Prevention, MVP, in 1993, Katz has taught bystander training at colleges and universities as well to some professional sports teams. The gender violence prevention program is practiced by the Marine Corps and is being integrated into the Navy.

    “Everyone should do it. We have to institutionalize this,” Katz said.

    Making sexual violence education a norm is crucial to seeing a shift in paradigms. Committing sexual violence against women is not a genetic trait. Individuals have to learn the difference between what is ‘hard wired’ and what is learned behavior, Katz said.

    One of few male students in the audience for Katz’s speech, senior interior design major Sean Zurko said Katz’s concepts would be well received by a male audience.

    He was knowledgeable and factual, Zurko said.

    “If guys don’t come to stuff like this, then it won’t ever get anywhere,” Zurko said.

    Having known for several years of his work in the anti-violence movements for men, Daniel Terry, director of Development Services wanted Katz on campus for quite some time, Terry said.

    He added that Development Services would enjoy having Katz back on campus in the future, and that perhaps his next visit could mainly focus on a male-oriented audience.

    On Wednesday, Katz also discussed society’s tendencies to use passive voice and cognitive structure when talking about instances of sexual assault or domestic abuse. He said this approach potentially turns women victims into perpetrators.

    “Victim blaming is pervasive in this area. Which is to say blaming the person to whom something’s happening rather than the person who did it to them,” Katz said.

    Katz noted the media often describes a woman, not as a “victim,” but as an “alleged victim.” Adding the qualification shifts the public’s sympathies and turns the woman into a victim of her accusations, Katz said.

    When asked by an audience member when and why the media began to refer to women as ‘alleged victims’ as opposed to ‘victims,’ Katz said he strongly believed the term emerged during the 2004 sexual assault case of Los Angeles Laker Kobe Bryant.

    “I think if you get a content analysis of rape trials and rape discussions in public discourse prior to 2004 and post 2004, I have a strong suspicion you’d find that what I said is probably true,” Katz said.   

    Katz has received honors for his books “Tough Guise: Violence, Media and Crisis in Masculinity” and “Spin the Bottle” and has also shared his methods through his current blog on The Huffington Post and through appearances on television shows including Good Morning America and The Oprah Winfrey Show.