Jackson Katz describes an awareness exercise he has conducted with hundreds of audiences in business, education, sports teams and the military.
“I 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…. Someone finally raises his hand and 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 cellphone. 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.
• 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.”
Katz helps teach that the epidemic of violence against women is also a men’s issue – and that all individuals, men and women, can be empowered bystanders who can recognize and confront harassment and abuse.
Jim Hawkins is a general practice and public interest law attorney in Gallatin. Call 615-452-9200 to suggest future column topics.