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The Power of Sport in Pakistan

By David S. Lee, Director of Prevention

From table tennis to cycling to soccer, I recently saw for myself the true power of sport. This month, as part of the United States-Pakistan Exchange on addressing gender-based violence through sport, I joined nine other U.S. violence prevention and sport leaders in meeting with Pakistani programs. The exchange was organized by Women Win, an international organization dedicated to girls’ and women’s empowerment through sport, and Right to Play Pakistan, with support from the U.S. Embassy in Pakistan. Throughout this exchange, we shared challenges, approaches, and best practices around using sport as a tool to address gender-based violence and create more gender-equitable communities.

In Pakistan, programs are working to empower women and girls by increasing opportunities for them to participate in education and sports. During the exchange, I saw powerful examples of women being empowered through sport with visits to the Diya Women’s Football Club, Pak-Shaheen Boxing Club, Asbar Welfare Foundation (which teaches table tennis to girls and young women), Early Bird Riders Sheroes Cycling Club, and Misbah’s Volleyball Academy.

I was impressed with Right to Play Pakistan’s programs that utilize sport and play to promote rights toward ending gender-based violence. The Goal Program (Girls Rights and Financial Literacy Through Sport) places young leaders in government schools to engage children and youth in regular play-based activities designed to integrate life skills such as cooperation, communication, teamwork, and critical thinking. At a Play Day in Islamabad, we joined over 100 young boys and girls from local charity schools where they sprinted, high-fived, and played “tug of peace” together under the theme of saying no to violence!

Ending gender-based violence also involves engaging men and young boys to become advocates for gender equity and promoting women’s rights. At Rozan, we met with a group of young men who have participated in Humqadam — a program that teaches men how to take action against gender-based violence.

We concluded the visit with a two-day convening on using sport to address gender-based violence, where I shared the report from RALIANCE’s Sport + Prevention Center on how sport can be part of the solution to ending sexual violence in the United States.

Across the U.S. and internationally, sport is an influential system. It can be a powerful part of the solution to ending sexual violence, and it’s encouraging to see how various programs are using the lessons from sport to create a safer, more equitable world.

top five moments of 2019

RALIANCE’s Top 5 Moments of 2019

Throughout 2019, news of sexual harassment, misconduct, and abuse continued to drive our national conversation. While many missteps and missed opportunities made headlines, we also think it’s important to reflect on the positive and empowering milestones from this year. From survivors boldly contributing their voices to drive change, men striving to do their part in the #MeToo movement, and increased corporate accountability, below is a compilation of our top 5 defining moments of 2019. These examples serve as a guide for the many steps ahead in our journey to end sexual violence.  

1. Survivor Stories Inspire a New Look at Accountability

The news media, the public, and the police had all heard reports that R&B singer R. Kelly and pop superstar Michael Jackson had sexually abused minors. Long before Surviving R. Kelly and Leaving Neverland, many of us had a hard time facing just how serious the abuse was. These documentaries challenged us to look at the actions of cultural icons and reminded us that people we love and admire are also capable of committing sexual violence.

The Netflix series Unbelievable, inspired by intensive reporting from the Marshall Project and ProPublica, also detailed egregious missteps of a police department and their callous treatment of a rape survivor.

The publication of The Education of Brett Kavanaugh, also empowered survivors, unveiling a new allegation and calls for his impeachment by 2020 Democratic presidential candidates. Filmmaker and activist Aishah Simmons published The Love WITH Accountability Anthology, sharing stories of child sexual assault to compel a world which ends this abuse. Chanel Miller – formerly known as Emily Doe, famous for her viral victim impact statement in Brock Turner’s 2016 rape trial – continued to inspire survivors with her bold voice through the publication of her memoir, Know My Name.

These articles, books, and films highlight the important responsibility that law enforcement, organizations, and companies have in holding abusers accountable. They also drum home the importance of investing the right resources – human and otherwise – from the beginning of an investigation.

2. Valuing Women and Girls in Sports

From USA Gymnastics to U.S. Figure Skating, 2019 was packed with examples of how our Olympic sport programs protected those who abused and silenced survivors. While change has long been overdue, we’re starting to see organizations, athletes, coaches, and fans rally around the importance of valuing and respecting women and girls and making sport safer. For example, Women’s Health and Runner’s World, with partners Garmin and athletic shoe company HOKA ONE ONE, launched Runners Alliance, an initiative dedicated to women’s safety and addressing harassment while running. In collegiate sports, Cody McDavis, a third-year law school student and former Division 1 athlete, called on the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) to ban student-athletes with a history of violence through his Change.org petition.

3. Men and #MeToo

Earlier this year, shaving supply company Gillette stirred public controversy after running an advertisement that challenged men to think differently by re-imagining their slogan, “The Best a Man Can Get” into “The Best Men Can Be.” This call-to-action asked men to change behaviors that reinforced harmful assumptions about masculinity. The ad made clear how “boys will be boys” behaviors create hostility, reinforce inequality, and threaten women and girls’ sense of safety.

Even men who make concerted efforts to do the right thing can – unintentionally or not – cross the line by disrespecting women and their boundaries. For example, former vice president and 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden, who championed the Violence Against Women Act and other policies to end sexual and domestic violence, struggled with respecting personal boundaries. Comedian Aziz Ansari took some time away from the spotlight to reflect on his fall from grace following an exposé about pressuring and coercing a date into sexual situations. His 2019 stand-up comedy special, “Aziz Ansari: Right Now,” addressed the sexual misconduct. These examples show how we as a society must deepen our understanding of consent and what it means to respect boundaries.

4. Businesses and Corporations Taking Responsibility and Driving Innovation

Online dating app Bumble used their popularity and leadership to push for important safety changes like banning users for sending unsolicited lewd images and even making it against the law in Texas. With the help of RALIANCE, Uber set a new industry standard by releasing its safety report, sharing information on the number of sexual assaults and other safety concerns. Travel platform Trip Advisor updated their safety features so users can identify safety-related reviews. The American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA) celebrated the one-year anniversary of the hotel industry’s commitment to advance safety and security for hotel employees and guests. We’re also encouraged by a new resource launched by the nonprofit I’m With Them. The Misconduct Reporting Directory is a helpful and easy-to-use guide for how employees can anonymously report sexual harassment, misconduct, and abuse.

With the help of RALIANCE, Uber set a new industry standard by releasing its safety report, sharing information on the number of sexual assaults and other safety concerns.

Organizations and companies have the power to influence entire industries as well as set new standards for safety, respect, equity, and inclusion. We’re encouraged by these companies’ bold moves and call on others to follow suit. 

5. Title IX Comments: Advocacy Makes a Difference

In February 2019, during the 60-day period when the U.S. Federal Register formally published the U.S. Department of Education’s Title IX Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, advocates, survivors, and others submitted more than 100,000 comments – an estimated 20 times what is typically received for a major regulatory proposal. Advocates and survivors cited concerns that these new regulations would make it harder for survivors to report and would increase the emotional trauma for those who do report. Activism is important. Our elected officials need to hear from survivors and advocates when their decisions will have damaging consequences for victims.

These are just a few examples of the important, hard and courageous work happening behind the global movement to address the inequalities and power imbalances that enable acts of sexual violence. RALIANCE commends all those stepping up to transform our society into a stronger, safer, and altogether better place. Together, we can stop sexual violence in one generation.  

Leaning into accountability: Lessons from McDonald’s and Alphabet

This past week, multiple headlines revealed that major organizations are actively investigating the inappropriate behavior and relationships of their top executives and leaders. There are several lessons we can take away from these stories, which demonstrate why corporations and industries must change how they do business to create safer and more respectful workplaces.

Employees learn organizational culture and company tolerance for inappropriate behavior by how reports, investigations, and implications are handled.

McDonald’s fired its CEO, Steve Easterbrook, due to a relationship with an employee. Many news outlets reported that the relationship was consensual, but it’s important to note that while an inappropriate relationship may not be necessarily abusive, it can still be an abuse of power. As the National Sexual Violence Resource Center notes in their Sexual Assault Awareness Month Resources, power exists in formal and informal ways, especially in workplaces, making consent more nuanced.

Easterbrook admits he violated company policy on personal conduct, but McDonald’s is holding Easterbrook accountable with a $42 million exit package – a golden parachute tantamount to a slap on the wrist.

Boards of Directors and companies can hold top executives who violate policy accountable in many important ways.

For instance, Alphabet’s Board announced this week they were investigating how Google executives handled misconduct and inappropriate relationship claims. They formed an independent subcommittee and hired a law firm as an added layer of transparency and accountability.

Further, in September 2018, after twelve individuals came forward about misconduct against CBS executive Les Moonves, the organization and Moonves agreed to donate his $20 million severance agreement to organizations supporting the MeToo Movement.

In our April 2018 Open Letter to CEOs and Board of Directors, RALIANCE and partners provided best practices and organizational survey questions designed to consider ways to foster a harassment-free workplace and to guard a company’s reputation from becoming the next headline. Read the whole Medium series for insights at all levels of an organization – from frontline staff, to HR, and beyond.

Teaming Up: Power of Sport and Public Health

By David S. Lee, Director of Prevention at RALIANCE

This week, RALIANCE attended the American Public Health Association (APHA) Annual Meeting in Philadelphia to share how sport is an important part of the solution to end sexual violence. In a session on Monday entitled “Sport as a platform to advance a culture of prevention,” RALIANCE’s Director of Prevention David Lee discussed the power of sport and athletics to promote well-being and advance a culture of prevention. He also highlighted the roadmap to create change from RALIANCE’s Sport + Prevention Center.

Other session panelists included Dr. Kathleen Basile of the CDC’s Division of Violence Prevention, who spoke about how middle school sports involvement contributes to better understanding sexual violence in high school; Jessica Wagner of the NCAA’s Sport Science Institute, who spoke about the role of the NCAA in creating health promotion for college campuses; and Inside Outside Initiative’s Jody Redman, who shared her experience of reclaiming the educational purpose of high school sport for prevention.

The next day ushered in a standing-room only session entitled, “Sport as a platform to advance a culture of health.” The discussion focused on how to build a network that advances prevention and brings together public health best practices to sport. This session was facilitated by RALIANCE’s David Lee, NCAA’s Jessica Wagner, and Jeff Milroy of Institute to Promote Athlete Health & Wellness at the University of North Carolina Greenville. From researchers, athletic trainers, athletes, sports management, coaches, officials, and parents, it was clear from the discussion that there is tremendous interest in building a network dedicated to using the power of sport to foster healthy athletes and communities.

Despite the headlines these days exposing high-profiles cases of unchecked sexual abuse in different in sports, our productive sessions at the APHA annual meeting shine a light on how sport is a powerful and positive force in our society. It has the potential to instill important values in athletes, shape positive attitudes, and build strong communities.

Companies should support employees with adverse childhood experiences

Experiencing childhood traumas puts you at risk for lifelong health consequences, according to a new report by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. The study showed 61% of adults experienced one ACE (or, Adverse Childhood Experience), and 16% had four or more types of ACEs, which can be caused by physical, sexual, and emotional abuse; neglect; caregiver mental illness; and household violence. This is troubling because having a high number of ACEs greatly increases your risk for five of the top 10 leading causes of death in the United States.

ACEs influence many areas of health and well-being. From physical symptoms like depression, anxiety, chronic pain and substance abuse, ACEs can lead to poor worker performance as well as impact business profitability.

It’s critical that organizations, schools, and corporations implement community-wide strategies to prevent trauma.

How?

Prevention is possible, and it’s happening. A corporate response to ACEs means looking at internal policies, practices, and culture to see how sexual harassment, misconduct, and abuse are addressed or tolerated.

Corporate leaders and innovators must move past old models of maintaining a healthy, productive workforce. It’s not enough to offer job training and medical care for injuries — companies should also help employees with unresolved ACEs and support community initiatives that prevent these experiences from happening to the next generation. Corporations can work within their organizations but also within their community to have a lasting impact. They can ensure young people thrive through work with community service providers and youth-serving organizations to expand programs to remove barriers, like the stigma attached to mental illness, by supporting a culture that reduces employee stress and promotes health and well-being for employees as well as family members.

Preventing these experiences in childhood has the potential to reduce heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and positively influence mental health as well as education and employment opportunities.  RALIANCE is your partner in ending sexual harassment, misconduct, and abuse. Learn more at https://www.raliance.org/consulting/

Industry spotlight: Runners Alliance and the race to end harassment

Last month, Women’s Health, Runner’s World, Garmin, and Hoka One One launched Runners Alliance, a page dedicated to women’s safety and addressing harassment while running. This diverse partnership follows a recent Runners World audience survey that found 84 percent of women have been harassed while running at least once, including being groped, followed, flashed, and cat-called. Many admitted to changing their habits to increase personal safety. Some ran only in daylight, switched to a treadmill or stopped running altogether after their experience with harassment.

RALIANCE understands these results all too well. In our 2019 Measuring #MeToo: A National Study on Sexual Harassment and Assault report, we found that street harassment negatively impacts individuals and forces them to change their behavior.

Far too often society asks women to keep themselves from being victimized. Suggestions like carry mace or a taser, only run in groups, or only run with a dog require women to change their behavior in order to avoid harassment. We commend the Runners Alliance partners for saying harassment is unacceptable and that it’s on the entire runner community to do better and look out for each other.

Runners Alliance’s platform illustrates how organizations can work together to educate all users to be helpful bystanders. We agree with Runners Alliance that “to really make the sport safer, everyone has to do their part.” This movement is just one concrete example of how companies from different industries can come together towards a common goal to make sport and communities safer.

Learn more about how sport is part of the solution and other examples of ways prevention is happening in and through sport at RALIANCE’S Sport + Prevention Center.

Building new definitions of accountability and justice in the #MeToo era

Accountability, justice, and healing look different for every survivor. In many ways, we’re stuck with old paradigms of justice. Unfortunately, the criminal justice system, including law enforcement, courts, and prisons doesn’t always deliver the justice, power and control that survivors need to move on. 

A recent Wellesley Center for Women study, for instance, looked at 2,887 sexual assault reports by females over the age of 12. Researchers found that when women did report sexual assault to law enforcement, only 19% of cases ever led to arrest. Of those, only 6% returned a guilty finding – and mainly due to a plea bargain agreement. Fewer than 2% of reports ever went to trial.

It’s important to note that about 30% of the study’s cases were “cleared by exceptional means,” meaning in the reports of sexual assaults by females over the age of 12, law enforcement deemed the victim uncooperative or knew the prosecutor would decline to prosecute. It’s important to note the study looked at reports for victims as young as 12 years old, or seventh graders — children in our society.

We can and must do better.

“So many ways that people experience sexual violence don’t rise to the level of crime. And so then what? You’re just out of options? This is part of the re-education and resocialization that has to happen. If you harm somebody, there has to be recourse. You have to be accountable for the harm you cause. That accountability does not have to look like jail all the time, but there has to be a system of accountability. We don’t have great examples of what that accountability can look like, and that’s where the visioning and dreaming has to come in.”

Tarana Burke in Teen Vogue’s On #MeToo Anniversary, Tarana Burke Talks About the Modern Movement’s Impact, Restorative Justice, and Aziz Ansari

We as a society can increase the number of options for survivors to pursue a new concept of justice, one they have a hand in defining for themselves. We cannot, as a society, rely on systems that perpetually fail us. It’s on all of us to fix them, and we can start with passing a bipartisan reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, which calls for stronger protections for survivors and resources to support preventing harm before it happens.

Learn more about RALIANCE’s full policy platform to end sexual violence in one generation.  

Lessons for academic institutions: how to prevent campus sexual harassment, misconduct, and abuse

Even with sexual harassment, misconduct, and abuse on the national radar, we were disappointed to learn last week that many students still don’t feel confident that their higher education institutions will take a report of sexual misconduct or assault seriously. This was a key finding in the Association of American Universities’ confidential online survey of 180,000 students at 33 major universities, which demonstrated that higher education students today significantly experience sexual harassment, misconduct, and abuse.

So how can campuses and workplaces overcome barriers to reporting and make campuses healthier?

First, change the perception that campuses won’t act on the problem. So much has to go right for a survivor to come forward and report, and many considerations include whether the system will take the report seriously, act on the information, and hold the person who caused harm accountable. With Title IX changes hanging in the balance, it’s vital campuses do more, not less, than what the requirements dictate.

Second, address a campus culture that enables harm and blames the victim for their rape. Programming that teaches students to not be victimized with messages like never leave a drink unattended or don’t walk home alone, may reduce risk factors, but more can be done on campuses to teach healthy behaviors and relationships, ways to look out for each other, and how the community can hold the university accountable to its role in the process. In our society, girls are taught to avoid risky situations, but rarely do parents, schools, or programs talk about what consent means — which could help ensure no one pressures someone sexually, or crosses the line into even more serious sexual harm.

Third, deepen understanding of perceptions and attitudes about sexual harassment, misconduct, and abuse on campus. For example, conducting climate surveys and establishing processes for sharing procedures and protocols can help school administrators develop tailored prevention solutions and measure its progress.

Fourth, engage students and the campus community through programming that encourages them to learn about this sexual violence and how to be part of the solution. These prevention conversations could take place during classroom electives or campus activities with organizations like campus police, student health centers, and LGBTQ groups.

Thankfully, there are several good organizations that are already leading changes and conversations about sexual assault and respect on campus. It’s On Us is preparing campus leaders to take this issue on with skills and support. RALIANCE impact grantees Strength United or the Power Up! program at Prairie View A&M University are both working with athletic departments and student-athletes to improve how their schools prevent and respond to sexual harassment, misconduct, and abuse.   For more ideas, check out RALIANCE’s Sport + Prevention Center and Impact Grant database.

Democratic candidate Pete Buttigieg at a campaign event

Buttigieg’s platform addresses gender inequity

Photo by Gary Riggs. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International

Democratic Presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg announced a sweeping $10 Billion Proposal tackling sexual harassment and other issues of inequality for women and girls. After Senator Gillibrand left the primary race, Buttigieg is the only candidate still in the race to release a plan displaying a path toward a world without sexual harassment, misconduct, and abuse.

The South Bend mayor’s platform – “Building Power: A Women’s Agenda for the 21st Century” –  addresses gender equality with a specific focus on closing the pay gap, supporting women’s health and reproductive right to choice, securing women’s power and influence through key Cabinet appointments, and building safe and inclusive communities, including for low-income workers. Additionally, Buttigieg’s investment would entail tackling workplace misconduct and discrimination by holding employers accountable for protecting women workers and banning forced arbitration.

It’s encouraging to see that accountability, transparency, and respect are cornerstones of the platform.

In Buttigieg’s plan, public companies would be required to track and share annually the total number of reports and investigations. Industries with the highest risk of harassment would need to assess their workplace climate to inform and drive prevention plans. While it would be wonderful to live in a world where companies operated transparently and implemented prevention methods proactively, few would do this without a mandate.

For many #MeTooVoters, their voices are just starting to be heard. We applaud Buttigieg for stepping up for survivors and offering a concrete plan to address #MeToo comprehensively as an issue of safety and gender inequality. It’s encouraging, and we hope his example will spur other candidates to more proactively be part of the solution.

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