Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Bystanders Must Speak out in Order to Prevent Sexual Harassment

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Bystanders Must Speak out in Order to Prevent Sexual Harassment

Article excerpt

At the very start of his training workshop on how to prevent sexual harassment, Jackson Katz asked the attendees to define leaders.

The responses ranged from "visionary" to "empathetic" and "transparent." Then he laid out why leadership was critical to the conversation.

"Gender violence prevention is a leadership issue at all levels," said Mr. Katz, a Boston-based author and activist who has been educating others about how to stop sexual harassment for more than 20 years.

Simply put, you don't need the title of boss, supervisor or coach to speak out and prevent harassment. "You are acting as a leader when you take action," he said.

The core of his message was that men - and women - need to stop being passive witnesses.

Mr. Katz helped pioneer what he calls "the bystander approach" in the early 1990s at Northeastern University's Center for the Study of Sport in Society. He encouraged athletes to "break their silence" and overcome the long-held perception that men were perpetrators and women were victims.

Members of both sexes need to speak up and hold the perpetrator of harassment accountable, he said.

He and his staff at Mentors in Violence Prevention, the firm he founded and directs, offer training programs to schools, athletic programs and the U.S. military.

During two days of workshops and presentations last month at the Rodef Shalom Congregation in Oakland, participants included male and female nonprofit executives and managers, university professors and staff members, and representatives from the city of Pittsburgh's human resources department.

About 200 people attended the events sponsored by Southwest PA Says No More - an initiative of local foundations and nonprofits that focuses on preventing gender and domestic violence.

Day one was an afternoon session for 150 attendees. The second day training was targeted to a smaller group of executives and others in decision-making roles.

As the #MeToo movement gained momentum last year amid an onslaught of claims of sexual harassment against high-profile celebrities and business executives, "We wanted to seize the moment," said Kristy Trautmann, executive director of the FISA Foundation, which is a founding partner of Southwest PA Says No More.

The initiative asked Mr. Katz to bring his program to Pittsburgh because his message "is really important to bring to the middle of #MeToo for people who want to take next steps," Ms. Trautmann said.

Mr. Katz was frank about why people don't speak up. Men, especially, feel at risk among their male peers, who may include professional colleagues, teammates or fraternity brothers.

Many people feel they'll put their own jobs, promotions and status at risk. That's especially true if the perpetrator has a higher rank or is in a position of power, Mr. Katz said. …

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