Last week, we asked men why it's important to be leaders in their communities to support survivors and fight sexual assault. This week, we asked: How are you working to #ChangetheCulture to prevent sexual assault? The individuals you'll hear from below reaffirm that there are so many ways to advocate - creating cultural changes in the workplace, teaching children that they have control over their bodies, modeling healthy relationships, simply having a conversation about #MeToo - and more.
At JWI, we're working to shift norms, language, and attitudes through programming that aims to build a culture of consent.
In the past year, the media has supplied a seemingly endless series of headlines that highlight
organizations’ challenges in addressing sexual harassment. With one in four women in the U.S. and between 30% and 50% of women in Asia/Pacific countries and the EU reporting experiences of sexual harassment in the workplace, the recent spotlight on tackling harassment — and companies' role in it — is unlikely to fade anytime soon.
Human Resources reporting structures have received much of the attention over the past few months, but the problem goes beyond underreporting. Ending sexual harassment in the workplace necessitates a focus on prevention, not just response. Unfortunately, many organizations are struggling to proactively address sexual harassment.
That's where I come in. I am fighting to #ChangeTheCulture and prevent sexual harassment in the workplace by partnering with organizations to design interventions that create a culture in which all employees are treated as equals and employees treat one another with respect. It starts with recognizing that we all have the ability and responsibility to make a difference. By being alert and advocating for our peers and colleagues, we can take a first step toward creating a better place to work.
Olivia Hinerfeld currently works at Gartner, Inc., where she advises HR professionals on strategies to meaningfully address workplace harassment. She is also a member of the Biden Foundation’s Advisory Council on Ending Violence Against Women.
I am working to #ChangeTheCulture to prevent sexual assault by teaching people of all different ages about consent in an engaging way. The last 9 years I have been focused on teaching college and high school students and adults about consent but now with a new baby I’m finding ways to teach her about it in our daily routines. I believe consent education must start early in order for people - especially girls - to understand they have the right to their own body. Soon, I’ll be able to share tips and tricks with other parents/caregivers to get the conversation started with their children. The easiest first one to teach is to not force children to hug and/or kiss friends and family. If the child doesn’t feel comfortable with someone they can offer a ‘hello’ and a high five or a wave instead.
Jasmin Friedman-Enriquez, Founder & Executive Director at Only With Consent
My children are now technically “adults” meaning they are 21 and 19. A daughter and a son. As they navigate college life, one thing is very clear — the stories and statistics we hear about sexual assault on college campuses are very real. My daughter called me four times, first semester freshman year, to tell me about friends who experienced assault or attempted assault and the way their sorority sisters blamed and shamed them. She asked for advice about reaching out to friends who were in unhealthy relationships. And my son has shared stories about, for lack of a better term, the “bro culture” of college athletics and fraternities, and how hard it is to be the one to speak up, to be, as he says, “the mensch in the room.”
And, I’ve been thinking about what I did to help them become the young people they are today. Much of it I credit to being a part of JWI — first as a member of the board of trustees, and then, for the last five years as staff. I honestly don’t think I would have been aware enough of the need to talk to my children about healthy relationships had it not been for JWI. I am forever grateful—because we must talk to our children about what is and is not healthy, in the same way we talk about drugs and alcohol abuse.
But, even with all of that, I fully believe that our children are more likely to do as we do and not as we say to do. I think about the role my husband has played in modeling both for our son and daughter, about what we all should expect in a relationship. I am fortunate to be in a loving relationship — my husband is my biggest support and cheerleader and we often talk to our children about our very real friendship For me, my husband is the first one I want to go to when something is good or something is bad. The one who makes me feel better, simply because we happen to be in the house at the same time.
The relationship we model for our children, those little signs of respect and friendship and support and love — this is why, I believe, my daughter dates nice guys, who treat her with kindness and respect. This is why, I believe, my son not only treats the women he dates with respect, but also expects that his relationships have strong communication. And, he doesn’t hesitate to shut down “jokes” and conversation that are demeaning to women.
I recently spoke at a synagogue Sisterhood event, and a young mom came up to me after and asked for advice on raising her son so that one day, he would not be on the other end of a #MeToo post. To her I would advise: talk to your kids’ early and often, about what is healthy and what they deserve and should expect in a strong relationship. And, be that role model for respect, kindness, support, and love.
Meredith Jacobs is JWI's chief operating officer and an award-winning journalist and former editor-in-chief of Washington Jewish Week. She is the author of The Modern Jewish Mom’s Guide to Shabbat: Connect and Celebrate—Bring Your Family Together with the Friday Night Meal (HarperCollins).
I found myself becoming an activist after I was raped on campus. While the people I had called my friends turned against me, refusing to believe I was raped by a person I onced called my best friend, I found sanctuary amongst other survivors. They believed me. I believed them. In 2013 I was one of many named complaintents that filed a Title IX complaint against USC. The timing was fortunate, as sexual assault survivors across campuses around the world found each other online and leveraged our community to demand accountability on campus. I am proud to be one of 50 survivors who stood on stage with Lady Gaga at the 2016 Oscars. We went from #WeBelieveYou and #StandWithSurvivors to #MeToo and #TimesUp. I am fortunate to work in entertainment, seeing our entertainment culture demand better. I never returned to college. Instead I worked on 2 documentaries about campus assault, spoke at TEDX and decided to create impactful entertainment. Now, I am founder of a entertainment start up, developing media and consumer products that influence culture. I will never stopped being heartbroken by the continued sexual violence and institutional betrayal, but I am using my experiences in entertainment and survivor activism to influence and create a culture of respect.
Ari Mostov is an award winning writer, producer and social activist based in Los Angeles. She is the founder of Zamarra, a story franchise development company.
I am working to #ChangetheCulture to prevent sexual assault by trying to make spaces on my campus where survivors can feel safe and supported. I’m a student at American University. I’ve worked with organizations on our campus like the Sexual Assault Working Group, a coalition of students, professors, and administrators; with the Students Against Sexual Violence, a student-run organization for which I serve as co-Executive Director; and with Women’s Initiative, a branch of our student government for which I serve as Anti-Violence Coordinator. With events from our large-scale annual Take Back the Night march to smaller survivor self-care events, it has been helpful to get to provide both public spaces where we can raise awareness of the issue of sexual violence and challenge problematic practices like victim-blaming, as well as more private places where survivors can find people to believe them and listen to them in a judgment-free zone.
Lee Clyne, Senior at American University and co-Executive Director of AU Students Against Sexual Violence
I’m working through my Greek Life chapter to #ChangetheCulture around sexual assault. While people dismiss Greek Life as a haven for a dangerous misogynistic culture, its important that we work within problematic systems to improve them, rather than just trying to ban or dismiss them as a lost cause. Through JWI, I’ve helped write and lead co-ed programs that give students a safe space to talk about difficult issues of consent and victim blaming, while giving them the tools to be active bystanders and support survivors in their own lives.
Ellie Samuels, Sophomore at Emory University and JWI Campus Ambassador
My name is Kalpana Vissa, and I am a senior at the George Washington University studying Public Health and French. I have actively been working to #ChangetheCulture to prevent sexual assault for over six years now.
My involvement in sexual violence prevention began in my Student Ambassadors leadership class in high school where I was trained by our city's local advocacy center to educate my peers about sexual violence. I quickly learned that education is everything. I grew up in a wealthy city with a phenomenal public schools, but in all that glamour... there was no consent education. I was proud that our city's four high schools started training students to serve as peer educators for middle and high school students. And that's really where it began for me. I knew from my first peer education workshop to a group of middle school students that I would continue to #ChangetheCulture through education.
Since then, I have become involved in GW's peer-led student organization, Students Against Sexual Assault (SASA), where I have served as the Co-President for the last two years. My four years in SASA have been nothing short of challenging, but also entirely rewarding. This work is not easy, but it is needed. I have learned that prevention and advocacy surrounding sexual violence prevention comes in many forms.
I get asked all of the time how people can be advocates for change in their community, and my answer is simple. Education does not have to come in the form of a formal workshop... it can be in informal settings with your friends and family. In our friend groups we often talk about everything but sex and consent. We talk about politics, we talk about religion, so let's start talking about this too! The more we begin talking about sexual violence and rape culture, the more people will understand. Because consent education and sexual violence prevention training is not part of our formalized education system in the U.S., a lot slips through the cracks.
It's on us to call out rape culture when we hear and see it, to have open and mutual conversations about ways to ask for consent and how it can be practices, and how together, we can be active bystanders. Bring up current events -- the #MeToo campaign and Title IX policies are a good place to start. Though these have been in the media widely, you'd be surprised by how much people don't actually know about it. Use these as a way to start conversation and to inform your friends, peers, and family, that they are part of this change and that they can be part of it.
Kalpana Vissa, Senior at George Washington University and Co-President of GW Students Against Sexual Assault
Serving as a Campus Ambassador for Jewish Women International has taught me a lot about educating the community and advocating for survivors. Through my time as a campus ambassador, I helped plan a self-care event which reminded individuals that is is okay to prioritize their own well-being from time to time, while our Healthy Relationships Shabbat which we hosted during Purim at Minnesota Hillel allowed us to unpack the roles in the Purim story in ways not traditional taught in Jewish contexts. Judaism emphasizes tikun olam through social action, but I think it is important for individuals in the Jewish community to remember to hold each other accountable as we move forward with this mission. We must remember to speak up when we hear unjust or inappropriate comments being made within our communities, and listen more as we work to support survivors. I hope to see this work continue within my own community in the coming years.
Micaela Yarosh, Junior at the University of Minnesota and JWI Campus Ambassador
I am graduating with my MSW in August and am excited to continue working in prevention and recovery for individuals who have experienced trauma. My work spans multi- media, workshops, expressive arts, consulting, fundraising, and event planning.
Most recently, I completed a clinical internship at Mass Mental Health Center's partial hospital program providing DBT therapy and psychotherapy groups I also work for a Sexual Abuse Recovery Coach providing and creating supportive online spaces and mentorship to folks in their healing. I believe people who been traumatized are vulnerable to further trauma and so part of prevention work is supporting people in their recovery so they can develop skills to try and protect themselves from additional harm.
Additionally, I'm a co-organizer in a new grassroots initiative called the Survivor Leadership Collective (www.survivorleadership.com) that has been showcasing survivor leadership in the community through open mics and art workshops and exhibits over the past year. I'm part of a committee to lead the first survivor-studio in Cambridge, MA. To raise awareness for Sexual Assault Awareness Month as well as Child Abuse Prevention Month, I created a video called "We Need You to Listen" featuring various stories of people at different stages of their recovery.
I've been sharing my story since my college days where I organized Take Back the Night events in an effort to end stigma and offer hope to others.Sharing my story has been a powerful part of my healing as it’s helped ease the shame and isolation that caused far more suffering than the trauma itself. I found my voice and realized I could use it to help advocate for others and be part of the change. I'm passionate about meditation and nonviolent communication, as well as restorative justice as a means to change the larger culture of violence and oppression. My vision for #metoorising is to focus on accessibility and systemic oppression in order to prevent violence at every level of society.
Jocelyn Schur, an advocate for survivors of trauma, restorative justice, leadership development, and sex education. She is committed to ending violence through education, prevention, and raising awareness by empowering youth and survivors to know their bodies and their rights. She is a leader of the Survivor Leadership Collective and pursing her MSW at Smith College.