On April 3, the Trinity campus community gathers for a Symposium on #MeToo and Sexual Violence. This academic convening arose from last fall’s campus survey that covered a range of topics on the #MeToo Movement, the Catholic Church clergy sex abuse scandal, the large number of claims of sexual harassment and violence in a multitude of industries with horrific acts of abuse committed by powerful people, in most cases, powerful men. During the symposium, I live-blogged the panels, and will be adding more to this blog as feedback comes in…
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Panel #1 focused on sexual abuse and violence in major institutions.
Full house for today’s Symposium on #MeToo and Sexual Violence. Associate Dean Tom Mostowy (below), also a lawyer and chair of Criminal Justice in SPS, provides an overview of notorious cases of sexual violence in sports, including in elite and Olympic level swimming, speed skating, gymnastics — and the cases of Jerry Sandusky at Penn State and Larry Nasser of Michigan State and the US Olympics Gymnastics program.
Next, Trinity’s Executive Director of Human Resources Tracey Prince Ross (left) walked the audience through a series of scenarios illustrating grooming and sexual harassment and assault in the workplace. The most important advice: don’t be intimidated, and go directly to your HR Office if you are subjected to any inappropriate behavior by a supervisor, colleague, or other person in the workplace.
Assistant Professor Lynda Jackson (below), a retired Air Force Colonel, gave a powerful presentation about sexual abuse in the military. She spoke of the case of Martha McSally, now a United States Senator, who was the first woman to fly combat missions in the Air Force. Senator McSally recently revealed that she was a victim of rape by superior officers as she worked her way up the ranks in the Air Force. She has become a powerful symbol of the continuing problem of sexual abuse in the Air Force, as well as a leading advocate for change in the military,
Concluding the first panel, Sr. Mary Johnson (below), Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Religious Studies, addressed the problem of sexual abuse in religion, and particularly the Catholic Church. The need to address not only the abuse, but also the cover-up culture is urgent. Women must be fully engaged with developing solutions and effective responses to clergy sex abuse.
Questions from students following the first panel included requests for more information about workplace harassment, family sexual abuse, and Trinity’s policies and case reports, which will be on the agenda later in the day.
Panel #2 Addressed Sexual Abuse in Education Spaces.
Dr. Cynthia Greer, center above, introduced the panel including, left to right, Dr. Diane Reese, Dr. Luane Oprea, R. Kyle Bivens of Children’s National Health System, Dr. Greer, Dr. Gladys Williams and Dr. Deborah Taub. Except Mr. Bivens, all the panelists are faculty in the School of Education and members of the ACEs research team. Dr. Greer explained that ACEs — adverse childhood experiences — are a major issue for educators to learn about and be ready to respond to. The panel provided perspectives on the ways in which children are exploited, the problem of the power relationship when a child trusts an older authority figure, the challenge of eliciting the facts from a child, and how to provide support and assistance to the child. Panelists cited the recent case at Damascus High School as an example of failed policies and responses to protect children. The panel also addressed the prevalence of abuse for children with disabilities, and the stereotyping of children that result in their classification as disabled. Inclusive education reduces the risks for children with disabilities. The role and responsibility of the school principal is essential to understand for enforcing policies protecting children and responding appropriately to incidents of abuse. Parent education is also a vital component of child protection.
Panel #3 – Survivorship: Strategies for Empowerment of Victims of Sexual Violence
Dr. Carrie O’Reilly of Trinity’s Nursing Program (below) led the discussion of survivorship. The session explored all of the ways that professionals need to be ready to help survivors of sexual assault to heal and recover. Dealing with victim feelings of fear, shame, blaming themselves, family reactions, confronting abusers, and so many other psychological, social, familial and medical dimensions of cases requires professionals to be insightful and skilled on the issues.
Leslie Gergely of the Network for Victim Recovery of DC (with Dr. O’Reilly, above) spoke about the importance of strategies for self-care not only for victims but also for the professional responders and caregivers.
Panel #4: Preventing Sexual Violence
Dr. Jamey Piland (below) who leads Trinity’s Women’s Studies program as well as the Communication Program led the session on preventing sexual violence. She led the audience through a progressive continuum of ways different behaviors become socially acceptable, masking the potential for sexual harassment and abuse. Street harassment, innuendos about women’s looks or choices, even comments about how babies are dressed all contain cues about social attitudes toward gender and create environments that allow or prevent sexual abuse.
Dr. Piland’s session was packed…. the students and faculty attending were active participants in the discussion about how to deal with bystanders, perpetrators, victims and resources to help reduce sexual violence.
Through the years, Dr. Piland has been the advisor for the Women’s Student Action Coalition that has organized and led important events like Take Back the Night, the Clothesline Project, and other women’s rights and advocacy events. Two alumnae leaders of WSAC joined the current leaders for the symposium and sharing ideas with Dr. Piland and Trinity Sisters. They are (photo below, left to right), Morgan Carillo ’13, Dr. Piland, Vanessa Perry ’19, Victoria Turcios ’12, and Sayra Lopez ’21. Woman Power Works at Trinity!!
Panel #5: Sexual Harassment and Violence in the Health Professions
Dr. Mary Bantell (left), Director of the Master’s in Nursing Program, led the session on sexual harassment and abuse in the health professions. A panel of MSN students (below) presented cases and issues for discussion. The discussion included a video about Nurse Alex Wubbels who was arrested in 2017 in Utah after refusing to draw blood from an unconscious patient in violation of hospital policy protecting patient rights. The police officer was subsequently fired and Nurse Wubbels received a major legal settlement, but the case illustrates the problem of disrespect against nurses and challenges dealing with law enforcement. The session also reviewed a video about sexual harassment in the workplace and ways to prevent sexual assault. At the end of the session, the panelists asked everyone in the audience to sign the American Nurses Association pledge to #EndNurseAbuse click that link to find the pledge and sign-up information.
Panel #6: R. Kelly and Sexual Violence in Entertainment
Psychology Professor Dr. Christopher Bishop (right, above) led a provocative session on the case of R. Kelly, touching on other figures in entertainment such as Michael Jackson. Using video clips from interviews with the women involved in the R. Kelly case — some considering themselves victims, some rejecting the idea that anything wrong happened — the panelists dissected the issues of grooming, power relationships, victim blaming, exploitation of children, the significant role of parental participation in grooming and educating their children. Distinguished panelists included Dr. Gizelle Carr of Howard University, Dr. Katara Watkins-Laws with D.C. Superior Court, and Dr. Charla McKinzie-Bishop of Bowie State.
Panel #7: Gender, Race, Sexuality and Culture: Intersections and Influences
The last panel of the symposium explored the many issues of intersectionality —- how race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, immigration status and other personal characteristics can make some people more vulnerable to sexual exploitation and abuse, and the remedies and protections that are available including legal services.
Liana Monticenos (above, right) and her partner Sarah B. Pitney (second from right) with the law firm Benach Collopy LLP had particularly urgent insights and case studies. Ms. Monticenos discussed a case study of a victim of sex trafficking at the border, a young undocumented woman subjected to horrific abuse even while pregnant. Time and again, the speakers emphasized the reality that women on the margins are more vulnerable and suffer more abuse than any other population.
Other panelists in this session included Tonya J. Turner of the Rainbow Response Coalition, Tiffany Turner-Allen of the National Center on Violence Against Women in the Black Community, and Associate Dean Tom Mostowy who is also a lawyer and former magistrate judge who adjudicated sexual violence cases.
Sexual Violence Resources Presented in Payden Lobby
Throughout the day, a number of professional resource providers were in the Payden Lobby with information and assistance to participants.
Many thanks to all providers including Trinity’s Health and Wellness Center, Campus Ministry, Student Affairs, Title IX, WSAC and Women’s Studies, and partners from the DC Coalition Against Domestic Violence, DC Rape Crisis Center, MPD Special Victims Unit, The Women’s Center, and the Network for Victim Recovery. Thanks to Dr. Karen Gerlach and the Student Affairs Team for organizing!
Many special thanks as well to Trisha Smith and Trinity’s Library for offering a film series all week with documentaries, dramas and discussions of the treatment of sexual violence in film.
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