By Jackson Katz
Huffington Post, February 2, 2011
This coming Sunday, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has the chance to win his third Super Bowl and join a truly elite group of NFL quarterbacks. This historic opportunity comes at the end of a season that began with him serving a four-game suspension by the National Football League for allegedly sexually assaulting a young woman in a bar last March — the second sexual assault allegation against him in a year. (Neither allegation resulted in criminal charges.)
“Big Ben’s” behavior and his team’s success present a classic “teachable moment,” especially given that the Super Bowl is the most widely watched television program in the United States, with an estimated 100 million viewers. There undoubtedly will be millions of conversations in America’s living rooms this weekend about Roethlisberger’s actions, including debates about whether he evaded more serious consequences because of his wealth and power.
There will also likely be considerable hand-wringing from many in Steeler Nation, who will cheer for their team with a troubled conscience, out of concern that their cheers could be construed as support for a man — the team’s quarterback and on-field leader — with a disgraceful record of mistreating women.
The following talking points are designed to give parents, coaches and other adults some ideas about how to frame conversations with boys and young men (and girls and young women) about the Ben Roethlisberger case.
Our culture sends young people loads of mixed messages. On the one hand, many parents teach our kids to treat themselves and others with respect and dignity. Teachers, coaches, and religious leaders reinforce the message that “might doesn’t make right,” and that if you want to be a good and successful person, you must “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Over the past few years numerous states have passed anti-bullying laws, and school districts are increasingly implementing prevention programs on issues like dating violence and sexual assault.
On the other hand, any young person can look around and see that many men who abuse women (and other men) are nonetheless rewarded professionally and financially. This is true not only of athletes, but also of corporate executives, entertainers, politicians and others. How do we reconcile this seeming contradiction? In the case of Big Ben, we can say “Sure, he’s a great quarterback, he’s rich and famous. But do people respect him? Look at how carefully the television announcers choose their words when they talk about him. He might be a champion on the field. But beyond his football achievements, is he truly worthy of admiration?”
Big Ben created a huge mess as a result of his own actions. Big Ben has paid a price for his unacceptable behavior in the bathroom of a bar in Milledgeville, Georgia last year, when he allegedly sexually assaulted a 20-year-old woman. According to published accounts, the woman was extremely intoxicated when Roethlisberger accompanied her into the bathroom as his bodyguards stood at the door, blocking anyone from coming to the woman’s assistance. Although Roethlisberger denies the rape allegation and no criminal charges were brought against him in the March 4, 2010 incident, the allegation was serious enough that he was suspended for four games by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. His reputation as a person and a leader took a big hit. But let’s remember that Big Ben is not the victim here. You could even say that he got off lightly, considering that he might have been charged with first-degree rape.
Sexual violence is a big problem in this country and it affects many of the girls — and boys — that you know. Approximately one in four girls and one in six boys will be a victim of sexual assault before the age of 18. Think about your sister, your girlfriend or your mother. How would you feel if someone sexually assaulted her? Sadly, some of you have girls and women in your lives — including members of your own families — who have experienced sexual abuse and assault. This issue is personal for a lot of men. Young men, including football players and other student-athletes, have an important role to play in preventing it – especially by making it clear to your teammates and friends that mistreating anyone sexually is wrong, and that you will not tolerate it.
(Note: Parents, coaches, teachers and others can use personal anecdotes if they feel comfortable doing so, although it is important to remember not to disclose information about any victims without their explicit permission. An example of what they might say: “This issue is personal for me. I know women — and men — who are survivors of sexual violence. This isn’t just happening somewhere else to someone we don’t know. This is a problem that has surfaced in our community, in our family.”)
Leadership in sports means leadership on and off the field. Ben Roethlisberger is a proven winner in athletic competition. But the measure of a true leader is how they conduct themselves 24/7, not just during a winning touchdown drive or a goal-line stance. Leadership isn’t something that gets switched off because the game clock expires. Leadership doesn’t ‘just happen.’ It isn’t ‘automatic.’ It is something that is earned and exemplified (or illustrated) continually. Football fans across the country might respect Big Ben’s ability to get it done on the field, but he has a long way to go to prove that he is worthy of their respect as a true leader and as a man.
Men who mistreat women verbally, physically or sexually are never proving their strength or manliness. Rather, they’re revealing their belief in the deeply discredited and unacceptable idea that men are entitled to treat women as objects, like property, to be controlled, used and discarded. They’re also displaying serious shortcomings in their character, flaws in their personality and/or cause for intervention or professional help.
According to various sources, including some who were quoted in Sports Illustrated last year after the Georgia sexual assault allegations surfaced, Big Ben was someone who routinely demonstrated “crudeness and immaturity” in his interpersonal behavior. He wasn’t just boorish; he was also openly sexist. This is not how strong men act — whether they’re Super Bowl champions or average Joes.
Friends and teammates have an important role to play in interrupting and preventing violence against women. Eyewitness accounts from the incident last March revealed that Roethlisberger was surrounded by paid bodyguards and unpaid companions who failed to raise objections to his repeated sexist comments and aggressive behaviors toward women — behaviors that Sports Illustrated and other media investigations alleged to be part of a long-standing pattern. One friend of the quarterback told SI that he shook his head when he saw Roethlisberger “disrespect” women in bars — but it is tough to find anyone who ever went beyond head shaking and actually confronted the Steeler.
If you ever see a friend or teammate acting disrespectfully to women, or abusive in any way, don’t just walk away. Say something, or do something, that communicates to him that you don’t approve of his behavior. Get others to help you. Tell a team captain. Tell an adult in a position of authority. By stepping in, your actions could help prevent abusive behaviors and save your friend/teammate from ruining his life and reputation.
Alcohol does not cause men to assault women. Drinking alcohol may cause people to lose their inhibitions, and therefore facilitate abusive behavior. But it does not cause it. Saying “I was drunk” is not an excuse for coercing, abusing or committing violence against another person. Some people like to use alcohol as an excuse to no longer obey the rules, but ultimately you choose to drink. Alcohol does not cause violent behavior; it disinhibits it. It allows people to use it as an excuse to act out preexisting, anti-social feelings or beliefs. Anyone under the legal age should not be drinking. But if a person you know acts out in an aggressive and violent manner when he drinks, then he should stop drinking immediately. As peers, you need to support him and confront him if his drinking continues.
False reports of rape do occur, but they are rare. A lot of guys think women lie about being raped. They point to anecdotal incidents, such as the Duke lacrosse team fiasco and generalize about how common they think false reports really are. But false reports are rare, approximately 2 to 5 percent. In fact, according to the FBI, 75-80 percent of rapes are never reported. Women who have been raped – especially if the alleged perpetrator is a popular guy — face incredible pressure from his friends (and sometimes hers) to remain silent.
Even the process of reporting is very difficult, embarrassing and painful. In addition, women who report rape are often the target of harassment, verbal abuse, and social ostracism. Think about it: why would women willingly bring all of that on themselves under false pretenses? In the vast majority of cases, women who report rape have been sexually assaulted – whether the district attorney decides to pursue criminal charges or not.
None of this excuses the actions of women — or men — who falsely report rape. If a young man is the victim of a false allegation, it can be a devastating and damaging experience. One suggestion – don’t ever put yourself in a situation where sexual consent is not clear. If you have any doubts, stop. If you see a friend acting in a way that suggests he might not have consent, or if he is pursuing sex with a girl whose age or state of inebriation might preclude her from being able to consent, interrupt him, confront him and stop him.
Media depictions of men “scoring” with women are not the same as real life. The sexual scenarios many people have been exposed to online or in movies and magazines depict staged performances by paid actors and actresses. In real life, women don’t enjoy being degraded and treated like objects/receptacles. It’s not funny when men pressure women to drink too much and then coerce them into having sex. If men treat women the way they are treated in some Hollywood films, music videos or in most porn, they’re not only being disrespectful, they might also find themselves committing acts of criminal sexual assault.
Your actions affect others. What each guy in a peer group does — how he conducts himself in public, or in his relationships and interactions with girls – reflects not only on him and his family, but on his friends as well. In the case of student-athletes, what a member of the team does reflects on his teammates, his coaches, and the entire athletic program. In the Roethlisberger case, Big Ben not only damaged his own reputation, he also tarnished the image of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Young men owe it to the people around them to treat women — and men — with respect and dignity.
Ask yourself what matters most in life. Football is a very popular sport in this country. Millions of people have played it, and many millions more enjoy watching it and rooting on their favorite team. But there are more important things in life than football – or any sport. Maybe Big Ben’s saga can prompt you to reflect on what is truly meaningful in your life and the lives of those around you. And perhaps this discussion can help to strengthen the resolve of more young men to treat women with respect and dignity and to speak out when they see others not treating them this way.
A version of these talking points is available at the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR) web site, www.PCAR.org.
HereWomenTalk Expert Team Scored Big!
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Women Social Network, Here Women Talk, saved a young woman’s life when she reached out to Dottie Laster during her live online radio show, “Trafficked”. Dottie with a team of experts were able to reach this young woman, assisted her in her escape from being trafficked to freedom, established her in safety WITHIN 24 HOURS! This team worked diligently, non-stop for 24+ hours to rescue this innocent child of 19 years old!
Thursday, 1-2 pm EDT (10-11 am Pacific)
Horrific true stories and happy-ending stories about people saved from the fastest growing crime in the world. Live this week: Poet Laureate for Human Rights Larry Jaffe with a poem on genocide; Francis Bok, escaped slave from Sudan; and Elizabeth Crooks who shelters victims of trafficking. Chat-in or Call (646) 652-2071
Thank you Team – ^5, awesome team work! And, who says it can’t be done. It has just been proven that when a victim reaches out a job can get done. Nothing will stand in the way of advocacy.
YOUNG SURVIVORS OF SEX TRAFFICKING ORGANIZE IN NYC
On Saturday June 26, 2010, from 12 – 4:00 pm, Girls Educational Mentoring Service (GEMS) will host the 5th annual New York State End Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) Day in Central Park (Merchant’s Gate Park 59th Street entrance). The event will honor survivors as well as educate the public on the issue of commercial sexual exploitation and domestic trafficking. The 5th Annual NYS End CSEC Day is being organized by the GEMS Youth Outreach Team, survivors of commercial sexual exploitation and domestic trafficking who serve as leaders in the movement and advocate for their peers at the local, national and international level including through the NY State Legislature, US Congress and the United Nations. The day will include featured speakers and fun activities such as games, contests, and Double Dutch to engage and educate attendees who support survivors and those who wish to learn more about the issue of commercial sexual exploitation and domestic trafficking.
As the only organization in New York City and the largest in the nation specifically designed to provide services to domestically trafficked and sexually exploited girls and young women, GEMS launched New York State End CSEC Day in 2005 at the height of their advocacy for the passage of the Safe Harbor for Exploited Children Act, landmark legislation that provides sexually exploited children under the age of 16 with comprehensive services in lieu of prosecution and incarceration. End CSEC Day is both a celebration of survivor voices and survivor leadership and a call to awareness and action to end the trafficking and exploitation of children and youth in NY state. “Through community outreach and organizing events such as End CSEC Day, survivors are utilizing their voices and power to make New York State a better place for their peers,” says Rachel Lloyd, the Founder and Executive Director of GEMS.
“Commercial sexual exploitation has been an area that many people find challenging to deal with. End CSEC Day provides an opportunity for the public to engage and have fun as well as become educated about commercial sexual exploitation and domestic trafficking. It also creates a positive environment for girls to interact with the people who support them,” says Sheila, a GEMS Outreach member and event organizer.
For more information on attending the 5th annual New York State End Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) Day, contact Muhammida El Muhajir 718.496.2305.
For more information about GEMS, visit www.gems-girls.org.
The 5th Annual New YorkState End Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) Day Saturday, June 26, 2010, 12 – 4:00pm
Central Park (Merchant’s Gate Park 59th Street entrance)
U.S. Finally Includes Itself in Human Trafficking Report
June 22, 2010 by Kate Noftsinger, Ms.blog
The U.S. State Department just released the tenth installment of the annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report. What’s new in 2010? The removal of one little asterisked disclaimer: “*does not include the United States,” which indicates a very big deal.
That message, which appeared on each report from 2001 to 2009, is gone; the United States now receives a ranking on its trafficking-prevention efforts, like the rest of the world, and victims’ testimonials include domestic accounts like this one:
Harriet ran away from home when she was 11 years old and moved in with a 32-year-old man who sexually and physically abused her and convinced her to become a prostitute. … The police arrested Harriet when she was 13 and charged her with committing prostitution. They made no efforts to find her pimp. Harriet was placed on probation for 18 months in the custody of juvenile probation officials. Her lawyers have appealed the decision, arguing that since she could not legally consent to sex, she cannot face prostitution-related charges.
The report classifies countries into three tiers based on their compliance with the minimum standards of eliminating trafficking set by the United States in the 2000 Trafficking Victims Protection Act. And these minimums are indeed minimal: that governments have laws that prohibit and punish trafficking, and that they actively pursue trafficking investigations. Predictably, the United States made the most favored first tier. Further rankings could be mistaken for a worldwide popularity contest. Greece and Switzerland are both tier two. Countries like Thailand and India are on a tier two “watch list.” The Congo, Iran and Saudi Arabia are on the third tier.
It’s debatable whether these annual rankings or the international promise-to-try agreement (the 2000 TVPA) are having any effect on the trafficking epidemic. In 2001, it was believed that at least 700,000 persons were being trafficked worldwide. Last year, that number had reached 12.3 million and remained there through 2010.
Women continue to make up 56 percent of the world’s trafficking victims. Why? Depends on the year. In 2001, social and cultural practices that devalue women were to blame. In 2009, women’s social and economic dependence on men was believed to be the problem. Both of these, though true, looked like attempts to remove the “empowered” women of the U.S. from the equation. The 2009 report also said that “in countries where women’s economic status had improved, significantly fewer local women participate in commercial sex.”
But this mindset obscures an important truth: Even in countries like the U.S. with high average incomes, poverty persists and poor populations are still vulnerable to trafficking.
Take a city as (seemingly) innocuous as Toledo, Ohio. According to February’s state report, Toledo is currently number four in the nation in terms of the number of arrests, investigation, and rescues of domestic-minor sex-trafficking victims among U.S. cities (behind Miami, Portland and Las Vegas.) Let that register: Children are being bought and sold for sex in the “heartland” of America–not brought from overseas, but drawn from local populations. Ohio had 1,078 victims under the age of 18 in the last year. The TVPA (and every TIP Report) unequivocally state that all such prostitution of minors constitutes trafficking:
The act defines “severe forms of trafficking in persons” as sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age; or the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.
The 2010 TIP Report also makes clear that an effective approach to trafficking involves helping, not prosecuting, victims. Celia Williamson, associate professor of social work at the University of Toledo founded the Second Chance program with this rehabilitation method back in 1993. But she still sees victims being treated like criminals elsewhere in her community. She estimated more than half of domestically trafficked women and girls in this country are wrongfully arrested for solicitation, loitering and prostitution. And many adults found prostituting on their own were originally trafficked as children. “[The] country is illegally incarcerating and re-traumatizing [victims],” she said, “so how can we ask these kids to come forward about this underground victimization?”
And while the U.S. has a lengthy prescription for how to combat global trafficking, there is a communication breakdown at the state level. “Even though [the TVPA is] in the federal law, that doesn’t mean anything,” Williamson said. The Ohio Trafficking in Persons Study Commission found that:
Law enforcement agencies expressed a need for training, indicating they are both unaware of the problem in their communities and how to recognize signs of a victim of sex or labor trafficking or a human trafficking business or entity. … They did not understand criminal justice system procedures pertaining to human trafficking, and are unfamiliar with both Ohio and federal laws.
Given this, of the 11,144 prostitution-related charges in Ohio in the last five years, how many were actually incidents of trafficking?
Internal reports like this cast doubt on whether the U.S. really deserved its cushy tier-one placement. But other research shows at least one group of U.S. lawmakers pushing for progress: A study conducted by Vanessa Bouche, a Ph.D. candidate at Ohio State University and a member of the Greater Cincinnati Human Trafficking Report research team, found that the more women there are on a legislature, the more likely anti-trafficking legislation will pass and be comprehensive.
And, of course, it’s a woman–Secretary of State Hillary Clinton–who has finally included the U.S. in its own anti-trafficking report. She has put the second-largest sex purchaser in the world on the road to recovery–because admitting you have a problem is the first step.
Cleveland, Ohio Juvenile Court Judge Alison Floyd is forcing sexual assault survivors to take polygraph tests before their attackers are sentenced. To date, at least four teenage girls have been ordered to do so. All have refused.
According to reports from the Cleveland Plain Dealer, even prosecutors see the problem. Ordering sex crime survivors to undergo polygraph testing exceeds judicial authority over victims, says Assistant County Prosecutor Nicole Ellis.
Plain Dealer reporters Rachel Dissell and Leila Atassi write that Judge Floyd also “ordered the teenage boys who were accused of rape and other sex crimes in those cases to undergo polygraph examinations as part of an assessment done before the teens would be sentenced.” Although the defendants have not objected, this raises procedural concerns about due process for teens in the legal system.
But back to the sexual assault survivors. Still not sure what the problem is? Here’s the breakdown:
• The judge’s order may violate Ohio’s rape shield law, which is intended to prevent courts from effectively trying the victim instead of the defendant.
• Forcing victims to take a polygraph test violates the federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).
• Polygraph testing can be intimidating for rape survivors who already have difficulty in coming forward. Cleveland Rape Crisis Center president and CEO Megan O’Bryan tells Ms.:
We want to create a culture where survivors are supported in coming forward. Forced polygraph testing sends a message that survivors’ stories are not believed.
This sort of order contributes to the fact that sexual assault is a vastly underreported crime. The National Center for Victims of Crime (NCVC) indicates that a mere 39 percent of rapes or sexual assaults are reported to law enforcement agencies.
Of those assaults reported, even fewer lead to convictions, partly because of extreme delays in testing rape kits. Yet, according to a 2009 publication by researchers from The National Center for the Prosecution of Violence Against Women, false reports of sexual assault are only between 2 to 8 percent. Ashleigh Klein, a Los Angeles-based sexual assault prevention educator, points out that polygraph testing adds to problem of discouraging reporting and encouraging misinformation. She tells Ms.:
In my work I repeatedly hear the myth that women lie about rape to get back at men or because they are embarrassed by what they have done. We know that this just isn’t true. Reporting a rape and having a rape kit exam done can be extremely devastating to someone who has just experienced trauma. A very small percentage of women would voluntarily go through this invasive process and not be telling the truth.
Clearly, when it comes to sexual assault, what’s needed is more streamlined criminal justice procedure, not further blockades to victim support. We hope Judge Floyd gets the message.
Take care and STAY SAFE!