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Letter to the Editor

Sexual harassment is everyone’s problem

Though two other readers responded to Rabbi Rosenberg’s letter (“Sexual harassment discussions become unruly,” Nov. 2), I felt a need to respond as well. Rabbi Rosenberg wrote in his last paragraph, “I hope women will learn self-defense and legally carry whatever they need to defend themselves.”

This puts an incredible burden and responsibility on girls and women, and totally eliminates any responsibility and accountability from or on boys and men. It’s important to realize that sexual harassment and assault are not just a woman’s problem but a man’s as well. Power and control are forceful and scary tactics, especially when used by people with influence. Lack of verbal consent makes sexual advances illegal; often, though, victims feel if they come forward, no one will believe them and people will question their character and credibility.  

Numerous men who are national educators and activists speak out on the importance of educating men about gender violence and emphasizing healthy relationships and kind behavior toward women: Jeffry Bucholtz, Mike Domitrz, Jackson Katz, Tony Porter, Don McPherson, Byron Hurt and Keith Edwards to name a few. Jackson Katz and Tony Porter present educational and compelling TED Talks on the topic. Locally, my own rabbi talks publicly about the importance of healthy relationships and everyone’s responsibility toward that goal. Programs exist across the nation enabling men in leadership roles to teach about respect, kindness and integrity. One local, male high school teacher emphasizes the importance in changing a societal mindset about women, teaching boys what sexual assault means, combatting ways of sexualizing women, and “teaching males better ways to advocate for women.”  

I work for SAFEHOME, Johnson County’s only domestic violence agency, as a professional volunteer manager. Additionally, part of my professional responsibility involves performing outreach in the Jewish community on domestic abuse, thanks to the Flo Harris Foundation. However, I write this letter as a mother of one daughter, two sons, their wonderful spouses, and a savta (grandmother) of four very young grandchildren. Rabbi Rosenberg wrote in his letter of a genuine concern for his daughters and granddaughters. Neither one of us will have cause to worry if boys and girls learn and discuss the importance of accountability, respect, integrity and kindness as the components of a healthy relationship.