Breaking the culture of sexual assault

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Breaking the culture of sexual assault

The Clayman Institute announces an 18-month program to explore the underlying causes of sexual assault and its culture

by Alison Dahl Crossley on Monday, February 15, 2016 - 4:58pm

logoThe Clayman Institute for Gender Research has a history of confronting pressing and timely gender issues. This long tradition includes involvement not only in the prevention of sexual assault, but also in thinking about its root causes. Over the next eighteen months, the Institute is launching a series of talks and discussions to address multiple facets of the topic in order to create best practices and novel solutions. Each quarter, we will investigate a different aspect of the culture of sexual assault with programs designed to engage students, staff, faculty and the community. 

We are extremely encouraged by the campus-wide support we have received for this important initiative and wish to acknowledge our co-sponsors: the Office of the Provost, the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education, Stanford Law School, Stanford Student Affairs, The Program in Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies, Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society, Stanford Women's Community Center, Stanford OpenXChange and the Men & Masculinities Project. 

Our approach is intersectional in nature: we emphasize the importance of taking into account diverse experiences in order to understand how sexual violence affects different individuals and communities in varying ways. We will explore the interactions, social influences and expectations that collectively give rise to a culture where sexual assault is a continued issue on campuses and in society. Together, with members of all our communities, we will find pathways to break the culture of sexual assault and build a new culture of safety and community. 

Program launch 

The series kicks off this month with the theme of "Masculinity and Men," with presentations from two highly regarded writers and scholars, Dr. Jackson Katz and Professor Michael Messner. On February 18, Katz, a world-renowned expert in masculinity and sexual assault, will speak about how dominant forms of masculinity actually inhibit all of us from reaching our full potential. Continuing the theme of masculinity, on March 1, Messner, author of "Some Men: Feminist Allies & the Movement to End Violence Against Women," will speak to the community about the importance of male allies in the feminist movement. Accompanying these events will be other opportunities to continue the conversation, such as through organized discussions and articles in "Gender News." 

In the spring quarter, our theme will be "Primary Prevention," starting with a panel discussion on affirmative consent, followed by a gathering of faculty experts from around the country to explore best practices for supporting students and changing campus climate. 

The 2016-17 academic year will begin with the theme of "Intersecting Identities," where we shed light on the experiences of groups who are most vulnerable to sexual assault, such as LGBTQ students and women students of color. The last two quarters of this series will look at "Global Perspectives" and "Solutions." 

A solid grounding in research and dedication to education 

Research is the core of our approach to breaking the culture of sexual assault and is the foundation from which we understand the causes and consequences of sexual violence. Previous research has convincingly demonstrated that sexual assault affects all communities and segments of society. However, there is a need for updated empirical attention to the issue. Through research conducted at the Institute as well as the amplification of outside research, we ask questions such as, "How are the experiences of sexual assault survivors shaped by broader systems of inequality and power today?" "How do the words we use to speak and write about sexual violence reproduce or challenge dominant narratives about sexual assault?" "How do laws and policy affect individual experiences with sexual violence?" 

To ensure an intersectional and interdisciplinary approach, we are convening a number of different perspectives to address these complex issues. We will disseminate our own research to academic and non-academic communities, and have also invited the best and the brightest researchers to Stanford to contribute to these conversations. 

Education and the dissemination of scholarly research to wide audiences has been a guiding principle of the Clayman Institute since its founding in 1974. We recognize the ongoing need to bring research about sexual assault outside the academic setting in order to share key findings, best practices and research-based interventions. 

Encouraging young leaders 

A future unencumbered by the problems of sexual assault and gender inequality is only possible if we have confident, capable and skilled leaders. The Clayman Institute has enriched the education of the next generation of leaders, scholars, intellectuals and activists. We continue this through incorporating young leaders in the planning, programming and research of the initiative. Over the course of our "Breaking the Culture of Sexual Assault" series, participants in the Institute's partnerships, including the high school internship program, Susan Heck internship program and graduate and postdoctoral fellowship programs, will learn to lead this conversation. 

Our three-part model of research, education and leadership addresses the problem of sexual assault from a number of different angles. It is our hope that this initiative will spur new research, conversations and connections. Through disseminating research-driven knowledge, we will contribute to the advancement gender equality, empower women's voices, educate students and work towards creating a future free of sexual violence. As we are reminded by Shelley Correll, Director of the Institute, we will not achieve the goal of gender equality on our campuses or elsewhere until we eliminate sexual assault. 

For more information on the series, please check our website.


Alison Crossley
Associate Director

Alison Dahl Crossley is the Associate Director of Stanford's Clayman Institute for Gender Research. She leads the Institute's strategic focus, operations, and academic and community relations, including the Institute’s fellowship programs and programming. She co-organized the Institute's Online Feminism Conference, drawing a diverse group of scholars and activists from across the country to discuss the challenges and...