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December 2012

Prevent Domestic and Sexual Violence

The Importance of Prevention All Services Provided Free-of-Charge Crisis Intervention 24-hour hotline and in-person assistance (701) 293-7273 (800) 344-7273


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Holidays can be a time of great joy. This year, my holiday season was filled with gifts of generosity, the love of family and friends, and sounds of laughter that sang such a sweet ambient melody, I couldn’t help but stop for a moment to bask in the peaceful joy of it all – even amidst the hustle and bustle that can also accompany the latter months of the year. And as I sat in the stillness of those moments, I was filled with so much gratitude it’s nearly impossible to describe, which is an incredible gift because having had my own experiences with sexual assault and domestic violence, this year was quite different than many of my previous years. This year, I didn’t have to think about checking in with anyone several times a day or worry about whether an unplanned trip – or one that took longer than expected – would become another excuse to verbally, emotionally, and psychologically batter me. Instead, I could shop in leisure without fear. This year, I didn’t have to live in fear of the next rage that was inevitably coming, or worry about whether I would be safe in my own home. Instead, I could enjoy every second of the slumber parties, movie nights, and bear hugs I enjoyed with my child, and I could laugh and play games with my family until the early hours of the morning. This year, I didn’t have to justify the money I spent on donations, cards or gifts. I could give as my heart wanted to give. And every simple moment was filled with the gift of joy-filled wholeness and freedom. I’ve recently begun sharing these glimpses of my past as part of my effort to focus on the prevention of sexual assault and domestic violence within our community because within the intensely profound process of my own healing, I was shocked by what I’d learned. Prior to getting help, I’d heard the statistics; I’d seen the commercials with images of victims; I’d heard

By D.O.

stories; I thought I knew what domestic violence looked like – but I didn’t. And, with each step of learning and healing I became more acutely aware of how the issues of sexual assault and domestic violence are not only very complex, but also how each and every case impacts the community greatly. Each and every “case” is a person that may also have a sister or a brother, a co-worker, a friend, a child. Each case is more than a statistic; it is a person with a story. Each instance is also most often deeply intertwined with many other issues that significantly impact our community such as physical health, mental health, depression, suicide, addiction, eating disorders, bullying, employment, and more. I personally believe that prevention is critical. But even more shocking than all that I’d learned about the issues of sexual assault and domestic violence was how vastly different I was after I’d emerged from everything that I’d carried for so many years. And as I began to think about sharing my story, I began to realize that prevention is more than just critical – prevention is a gift of opportunity to a life of wholeness (something I believe everyone deserves), and I found myself more and more compelled to share the hope, the freedom, the love, the possibility, and the joy that I’d found in the process of healing. To know the freedom of authentic being, to dine on the richness of a life well-lived, to feel my heart so filled with joy it sometimes seems as if it’s glowing, to experience real love – given freely, accepted freely – rather than as a commodity to be bought or sold, or even to feel my heart grieve for another in pain without having to close it in fear…this is a life in colors I’d never imagined…this is a life I didn’t know was possible when I made my first appointment at the Rape and Abuse Crisis Center…this is a life that is worth savoring…and this is my wish for all in the coming year.

PO Box 2984 Fargo, North Dakota 58108 • 701-293-7273 • 800-344-7273 •

Sexual Assault Prevention at NDSU

Two and a half years ago I uprooted everything and moved 1,000 miles northwest to Fargo, North Dakota. It wasn’t for the winters. I made the move in order to take a new position at North Dakota State University (NDSU), coordinating sexual assault prevention on campus. When I visited campus during my interview I was energized and inspired by the students, faculty and staff that I met. They were not shying away from the topic, but committed to creating a safer, better e nv i ron me nt for all students. The time felt ripe with possibility and I jumped at the chance to be a part of it. In the last two and a half years, with the help of many, many people on campus and in the community, we have made some inroads in prevention on campus. Here are a few highlights: • Building coalitions: The first initiative on campus was to create a coalition of campus partners. We established an advisory board for sexual assault prevention that included leadership from all across campus. All of them have a stake in violence prevention. The group meets twice a semester and periodically breaks in to subgroups to focus on particular topics. • Data matters: Last year we began a wonderful collaboration with Dr. Amy Stichman from NDSU’s Criminal Justice Department. She administered a campus wide study on the prevalence of both victimization and perpetration at NDSU. Dr. Stichman’s preliminary data had helped paint a more nuanced picture of the experience and impact of violence in our particular community. We use this data as

guideposts when creating initiatives and provide information from the study to students through workshops and print materials. • Empowering the bystander: We want all students to have the skills and confidence to be part of the solution in ending violence, hostility, and dangerous social norms on campus. Bystander intervention programs have been shown to be an effective means to this end. Our bystander intervention initiatives take the form of a one-hour small group workshop and a social norming campaign featuring student leaders. The NDSU Athletic department mandates training for all athletes and Greek Life provides incentives to chapters that participate. • Student voice: We developed a student program called the Violence Prevention Educators (VPE). These students complete a rigorous application process and then attend 40 hours of training. Upon completion, they facilitate presentation for students in mandatory classes for incoming freshman. Presentations focus on dismantling rape myths and teaching bystander intervention skills. This fall they presented to over 1500 new students. This group also organizes many of the awareness events on campus. Please contact me at to further discuss these or other initiatives on our campus.

A Scooter for Jimmy, a Dolly for Sue

In case you haven’t noticed, the hustle and bustle of the holiday season is upon us, causing us all to attempt to juggle the normal routine of our daily lives plus the additional events and frivolity which come along with turning our calendars over to the month of December. The onset of the holiday season holds different meaning and causes different reactions for us all. For some, the season is a time filled with parties and get-togethers; a time to socialize and celebrate the joy of the season. For others, this time of year causes great anxiety. For others still, once the leaves have fallen from the trees, it’s time to begin compiling a holiday wish list. And of course, there are those who delight in fulfilling those wishes. Let’s talk about those wish lists and the process of selecting gifts, particularly for children. So very often, we may not consider the importance of thinking beyond the gifts themselves, considering their larger impact in the lives of their recipient and others. Further, how often do we actually stop and consider how heavily we are influenced throughout the process of gift selection? Emanuella Grinberg writes

Sarah Dodd

Daria Odegaard

about this issue in an article for CNN Living entitled “When Kids Play Across Gender Lines” and discusses the ways in which many products, particularly toys, are marketed and packaged along rigid gender lines. Grinberg includes commentary from Carrie Goldman, author of the book, “Bullied: What Every Parent, Teacher and Kid Needs to Know About Ending the Cycle of Fear.” Goldman states, “Removing gender-specific connotations from packaging or displays sends the message to children that they’re open to everyone. When stores separate toys into aisles for girls and boys, however, they learn that anyone who deviates from their designated shelves deserves to be ridiculed. We can’t truly address bullying without talking about the fear of people perceived as different.” Psychology Professor and co-founder of SPARK (Sexualization Protest Action Resistance Knowledge), Deborah Tolman, says that restricting toys like train sets to boys and dress-up to girls can also stifle their creativity while simultaneously reinforcing antiquated gender roles. Tolman states “Kids get a lot of ideas early from play about what they can do, what they like and what they can aspire to. By making those themes gender specific, it leaves out a whole range of possibilities.” Tolman makes the point that offering gender neutral play is not about

PO Box 2984 Fargo, North Dakota 58108 • 701-293-7273 • 800-344-7273 •

A Scooter for Jimmy, a Dolly for Sue

removing blue and pink packaging from toy store shelves or steering children away from toys which are traditionally thought of as being more masculine or feminine, but simply allowing children to feel as though all options are available. “It’s about making all these ways of playing part of the human experience. Anxiety about gender has created codes that have nothing to do with how people should be people,” she said. “There’s nothing wrong with pink. It’s the meaning we infuse it with.” So what does all this have to do with the prevention of domestic and sexual violence? We know in order to begin preventing these issues, we need to start looking at the social norms which exist around us that allow for domestic and sexual violence to occur in the first place. Two of the social norms related to domestic and sexual violence are limited roles for women and narrow definitions of masculinity. When children begin learning at a young age about what men and women supposedly should and shouldn’t do, and those ideas are reinforced by the toys they play with, the advertisements they see, the movies they watch, and the things they hear, the social norms which create and promote ideas surrounding gender roles and what men and women can or can’t do become reinforced. When children enter a toy store and it’s very apparent which toys are meant for girls and which are meant for boys because of the color


schemes, the packaging, and nature of the store’s design, the children are already receiving many messages about their gender; what’s acceptable, what’s not, and how males and females are expected to behave. Couple these experiences with advertising geared toward children, tweens, and teens, and it starts to become painfully obvious how young people today are socialized in ways that stringently dictate their gender roles. The question then, is how we begin to combat these experiences. For one answer, we can look overseas to Britain’s largest department store, Harrod’s. The store has garnered much praise for its revamped Toy Kingdom in which toys are no longer categorized along gendered lines, but instead, are grouped into six interactive ‘worlds.’ What’s more, A Mighty Girl (found at is a group that sells, tracks, and blogs about gifts and toys which are empowering for young girls and help break traditional gender role stereotypes for children. They have a holiday gift guide available on their website and plenty of thoughtful resources and blogs for adults to read too. As adults, we have a responsibility to educate ourselves on the harms of a gendered society and the impact such an experience may have on young children and the promulgation of domestic and sexual violence. To work towards preventing domestic and sexual violence, we can take the step to educate others on the importance of talking about social norms, gender roles, and how they impact our lives and the existence of these issues. If we have children in our lives, we can make conscientious decisions to purchase toys and gifts for them that do not promote antiquated gender roles and stereotypes, but promote equality and creativity. Opening a world filled with possibility to a child leaves a world filled with possibility for us all.

Memo to Media: Manhood, Not Guns or Mental Illness, Should Be Huffington Post Blog Entry By Jackson Katz Central in Newtown Shooting Jackson Katz, Ph.D., is an educator, author, filmmaker, and cultural theorist who is internationally recognized for his groundbreaking work in the field of gender violence prevention education and critical media literacy. He has lectured on hundreds of college and high school campuses and has conducted hundreds of professional trainings, seminars, and workshops in the U.S., Canada, Europe, Australia and Japan. He is co-founder of the Mentors In Violence Prevention (MVP) program, the leading gender violence prevention initiative in college and professional athletics. He is the director of the first worldwide domestic and sexual violence prevention program in the United States Marine Corps; MVP also works with the Navy and Army, and Katz is a subject matter expert with the Air Force. Dr. Katz is also the creator and co-creator of educational videos for college and high school students, including Tough Guise: Violence, Media, and the Crisis in Masculinity (2000), Wrestling With Manhood (2002) and Spin the Bottle: Sex, Lies and Alcohol (2004). His book, The Macho Paradox: Why Some Men Hurt Women and How All Men Can Help, was published by Sourcebooks in 2006. Many of us whose work touches on the subject of masculinity and violence have long been frustrated by the failure of mainstream media -- and much of progressive media and the blogosphere as well -- to confront the gender issues at the heart of so many violent rampages like the one on December 14 in Connecticut. My colleagues and I who do this type of work experience an unsettling dichotomy. In one part of our lives, we routinely have intense, in-depth discussions about men’s emotional and relational struggles, and how the bravado about “rugged individualism” in American culture masks the deep yearning for connection that so many men feel, and how the absence or loss of that can quickly turn to pain, despair, and anger. In these discussions, we talk about violence as a gendered phenomenon: how, for example, men who batter their wives or girlfriends typically do so not because they have trigger tempers, but rather as a means to gain or maintain power and control over her, in a (misguided) attempt to get their needs met. We talk amongst ourselves about how so many boys and men in our society are conditioned to see violence as a solution to their problems,

a resolution of their anxieties, or a means of exacting revenge against those they perceive as taking something from them. We share with each other news stories, websites and YouTube videos that demonstrate the connection between deeply ingrained cultural ideas about manhood and individual acts of violence that operationalize those ideas. And then in the wake of repeated tragedies like Newtown, we turn on the TV and watch the same predictable conversations about guns and mental illness, with only an occasional mention that the overwhelming majority of these types of crimes are committed by men -- usually white men. Even when some brave soul dares to mention this crucial fact, it rarely prompts further discussion, as if no one wants to be called a “male-basher” for uttering the simple truth that men commit the vast majority of violence, and thus efforts to “prevent violence” -- if they’re going to be more than minimally effective -- need to explore why. Maybe the Newtown massacre will mark a turning point. Maybe the mass murder of young children will force the ideological gatekeepers in mainstream media to actually pry open the cupboards of conventional thinking for just long enough to have a thoughtful conversation about

PO Box 2984 Fargo, North Dakota 58108 • 701-293-7273 • 800-344-7273 •

Memo to Media: Manhood, Not Guns or Mental Illness, Should Be Central in Newtown Shooting ...continued manhood in the context of our ongoing national tragedy of gun violence. But initial signs are not particularly promising. In the days since the shooting, some op-eds and blog posts have spoken to the gendered dynamics at the heart of this and other rampage killings. But most mainstream analysis has steered clear of this critical piece of the puzzle. What follows is a brief list of suggestions for how journalists, cable hosts, bloggers and others who will be writing and talking about this unbelievable tragedy can frame the discussion in the coming days and weeks. 1) Make gender -- specifically the idea that men are gendered beings -- a central part of the national conversation about rampage killings. Typical news accounts and commentaries about school shootings and rampage killings rarely mention gender. If a woman were the shooter, you can bet there would be all sorts of commentary about shifting cultural notions of femininity and how they might have contributed to her act, such as discussions in recent years about girl gang violence. That same conversation about gender should take place when a man is the perpetrator. Men are every bit as gendered as women. The key difference is that because men represent the dominant gender, their gender is rendered invisible in the discourse about violence. So much of the commentary about school shootings, including the one at Sandy Hook Elementary, focuses on “people” who have problems, “individuals” who suffer from depression, and “shooters” whose motives remain obtuse. When opinion leaders start talking about the men who commit these rampages, and ask questions like: “why is it almost always men who do these horrible things?” and then follow that up, we will have a much better chance of finding workable solutions to the outrageous level of violence in our society. 2) Use the “M-word.” Talk about masculinity. This does not mean you need to talk about biological maleness or search for answers in new research on brain chemistry. Such inquiries have their place. But the focus needs to be sociological: individual men are products of social systems. How many more school shootings do we need before we start talking about this as a social problem, and not merely a random collection of isolated incidents? Why are nearly all of the perpetrators of these types of crimes men, and most of them white men? (A recent piece by William Hamby is a step in the right direction.) What are the cultural narratives from which school shooters draw lessons or inspiration? This does not mean simplistic condemnations of video games or violent media -- although all cultural influences are fair game for analysis. It means looking carefully at how our culture defines manhood, how boys are socialized, and how pressure to stay in the “man box” not only constrains boys’ and men’s emotional and relational development, but also their range of choices when faced with life crises. Psychological factors in men’s development and psyches surely need to be examined, but the best analyses see individual men’s actions in a social and historical context. 3) Identify the gender subtext of the ongoing political battle over “guns rights” versus “gun control,” and bring it to the surface. The current script that plays out in media after these types of horrendous killings is unproductive and full of empty clichés. Advocates of stricter gun laws call on political leaders to take action, while defenders of “gun rights” hunker down and deflect criticism, hoping to ride out yet another public relations nightmare for the firearms industry. But few commentators who opine about the gun debates seem to recognize the deeply gendered aspects of this ongoing controversy. Guns play an important emotional role in many men’s lives, both as a vehicle for their

relationships with their fathers and in the way they bolster some men’s sense of security and power. It is also time to broaden the gun policy debate to a more in-depth discussion about the declining economic and cultural power of white men, and to deconstruct the gendered rhetoric of “defending liberty” and “fighting tyranny” that animates much right-wing opposition to even moderate gun control measures. If one effect of this tragedy is that journalists and others in media are able to create space for a discussion about guns that focuses on the role of guns in men’s psyches and identities, and how this plays out in their political belief systems, we might have a chance to move beyond the current impasse. 4) Consult with, interview and feature in your stories the perspectives of the numerous men (and women) across the country who have worked with abusive men. Many of these people are counselors, therapists, and educators who can provide all sorts of insights about how -- and why -- men use violence. Since men who commit murder outside the home more than occasionally have a history of domestic violence, it is important to hear from the many women and men in the domestic violence field who can speak to these types of connections -- and in many cases have first-hand experience that deepen their understanding. 5) Bring experts on the air, and quote them in your stories, who can speak knowledgeably about the link between masculinity and violence. After the Jovan Belcher murder-suicide, CNN featured the work of the author Kevin Powell, who has written a lot about men’s violence and the many intersections between gender and race. That was a good start. In the modern era of school shootings and rampage killings, a number of scholars have produced works that offer ways to think about the gendered subtext of these disturbing phenomena. Examples include Rachel Kalish and Michael Kimmel’s piece “Suicide by Mass Murder: Masculinity, Aggrieved Entitlement and Rampage School Shootings,” Douglas Kellner’s “Rage and Rampage: School Shootings and Crises of Masculinity,” and a short piece that I co-wrote with Sut Jhally after Columbine, “The national conversation in the wake of Littleton is missing the mark.” There have also been many important books published over the past 15 years or so that provide great insight into issues of late 20th and 21st century American manhood, and thus provide valuable context for discussions about men’s violence. They include Real Boys, by William Pollack; Raising Cane, by Michael Thompson and Dan Kindlon; New Black Man, by Mark Anthony Neal; Why Does He Do That? by Lundy Bancroft; Dude You’re a Fag, by C.J. Pascoe; Guyland, By Michael Kimmel; I Don’t Want to Talk About It, by Terrence Real; Violence, by James Gilligan; Guys and Guns Amok, by Douglas Kellner; On Killing, by David Grossman; and two documentary films: Hip Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes, by Byron Hurt; and Tough Guise, which I created and Sut Jhally directed. 6) Resist the temptation to blame this shooting or others on “mental illness,” as if this answers the why and requires no further explanation. Even if some of these violent men are or were “mentally ill,” the specific ways in which mental illness manifests itself are often profoundly gendered. Consult with experts who understand the gendered features of mental illness. For example, conduct interviews with mental health experts who can talk about why men, many of whom are clinically depressed, comprise the vast majority of perpetrators of murdersuicides. Why is depression in women much less likely to contribute to their committing murder than it is for men? (It is important to note that only a very small percentage of men with clinical depression

PO Box 2984 Fargo, North Dakota 58108 • 701-293-7273 • 800-344-7273 •

Memo to Media: Manhood, Not Guns or Mental Illness, Should Be Central in Newtown Shooting ...continued commit murder, although a very high percentage of people with clinical depression who commit murder are men.) 7) Don’t buy the manipulative argument that it’s somehow “anti-male” to focus on questions about manhood in the wake of these ongoing tragedies. Men commit the vast majority of violence and almost all rampage killings. It’s long past time that we summoned the courage as a society to look this fact squarely in the eye and then do something

about it. Women in media can initiate this discussion, but men bear the ultimate responsibility for addressing the masculinity crisis at the heart of these tragedies. With little children being murdered en masse at school, for God’s sake, it’s time for more of them to step up, even in the face of inevitable push back from the defenders of a sick and dysfunctional status quo.

PO Box 2984 Fargo, North Dakota 58108 • 701-293-7273 • 800-344-7273 •

Profile for Kara Odegaard

December Prevention Newsletter  

A monthly publication from the Rape and Abuse Crisis Center focusing on the prevention of domestic and sexual violence

December Prevention Newsletter  

A monthly publication from the Rape and Abuse Crisis Center focusing on the prevention of domestic and sexual violence