Suggested Small Action: Townhall Exercise on Sexual Assault

By Stephen, 1 October, 2018

Here's a gentle action that might change the frame for congresspeople and congressional staffs regarding sexual assault β€” that I hope could work well in conservative districts:

Just a few people could easily recreate this at a townhall meeting, perhaps when people are taking their seats before the speaker is ready to go, or get mobile butcher-paper easel to take notes and ask people to participate while they are bored in line waiting to get in.

Personally, (just my opinion, other ideas welcome!) I don’t think it’s helpful to make it explicitly about Kavanaugh: this is a first step that sets the frame, remind people of what is real. If you have a hostile Senator, this might be a way to connect with female staff or supporters. Stir up thoughts with this exercise, work the crowd trying active listening and especially (especially if in a conservative district) encourage people to keep talking until they talk past their bullet points.

The exercise below has been making the rounds on facebook. I find it illuminating, and think that re-creating it at political events might expand understanding. See the action idea to the right, and let me know if you try it.
What steps do you guys take, on a daily basis, to prevent yourselves from being sexually assaulted?
β€œI draw a line down the middle of a chalkboard, sketching a male symbol on one side and a female symbol on the other.

Then I ask just the men: What steps do you guys take, on a daily basis, to prevent yourselves from being sexually assaulted? At first there is a kind of awkward silence as the men try to figure out if they've been asked a trick question. The silence gives way to a smattering of nervous laughter. Occasionally, a young a guy will raise his hand and say, 'I stay out of prison.' This is typically followed by another moment of laughter, before someone finally raises his hand and soberly states, 'Nothing. I don't think about it.'

Then I ask women the same question. What steps do you take on a daily basis to prevent yourselves from being sexually assaulted? Women throughout the audience immediately start raising their hands. As the men sit in stunned silence, the women recount safety precautions they take as part of their daily routine. Here are some of their answers: Hold my keys as a potential weapon. Look in the back seat of the car before getting in. Carry a cell phone. Don't go jogging at night. Lock all the windows when I sleep, even on hot summer nights. Be careful not to drink too much. Don't put my drink down and come back to it; make sure I see it being poured. Own a big dog. Carry Mace or pepper spray. Have an unlisted phone number. Have a man's voice on my answering machine. Park in well-lit areas. Don't use parking garages. Don't get on elevators with only one man, or with a group of men. Vary my route home from work. Watch what I wear. Don't use highway rest areas. Use a home alarm system. Don't wear headphones when jogging. Avoid forests or wooded areas, even in the daytime. Don't take a first-floor apartment. Go out in groups. Own a firearm. Meet men on first dates in public places. Make sure to have a car or cab fare. Don't make eye contact with men on the street. Make assertive eye contact with men on the street.”

― Jackson Katz, The Macho Paradox: Why Some Men Hurt Women and How All Men Can Help