Transcribed using artificial intelligence via Otter.ai and may contain errors.
Bri Rollins 0:00
We are thrilled to host today’s webinar, #AllMenCan.
Today, we will highlight the importance of men leading in their circles to support survivors, strengthen families, and empower communities to create a culture where sexual violence and oppression are not tolerated. Our featured speakers will share their personal and professional reflections on their experiences as male leaders and the movement to prevent sexual violence. And today’s speakers include Dr. Anton Reece, Richie Kemp, and Sherman Neal II.
Our first speaker, Dr. Anton Reece, has served as president of West Kentucky Community and Technical College since 2016. Dr. Reese brings 30 years of communications in higher education administration expertise. Under his leadership, WKCTC is a record five times top 10 ranked Community College in the nation by academic influence as featured in Forbes magazine and ranked number one Community and Technical College in this state by best campus.com.
Our second speaker, Richie Kemp, is the founder of Kemp Law Group and serves as Graves County Commonwealth’s Attorney, formerly serving as assistant Commonwealth’s attorney for 10 years. He was also an Assistant County Attorney for nearly 10 years. Under Kemp’s leadership, multiple specialized units of prosecution were created within the Commonwealth Attorney’s office, including the Vulnerable Victim Unit. In 2020*, Kemp was honored with the Children’s Advocacy Centers Legendary Partner Award.
And finally, Sherman Neal II is the former assistant football coach at Murray State University and a student at the University of Miami School of Law pursuing a master’s in law. Sherman served 10 years in the United States Marine Corps, including military justice platoon commander and supporting infantry operations to include two deployments to the Middle East. He is an attorney experienced in family and criminal law. Sherman also serves as a criminal justice advocate for Amnesty International in Kentucky. And so we are so grateful to have these amazing panelists with us today. And without further ado, we will transition to today’s panel.
Our first question for our featured guests is, how has your upbringing influenced your perspective on sexual violence? How have cultural definitions of masculinity affected your perspective?
Richie Kemp 2:44
The first thing that came to my mind when I heard that question was—well, first off, thanks for having me. It’s an honor to be here. But the first thing that popped into my mind when I heard that question was Pepe Le Pew. When you’re a child, well I’m sure everyone’s seen that cartoon. Children were entertained by a cartoon character that was not only not respecting boundaries of a limit, but what would be criminal behavior, and it was provided as a means of laughs for kids. And, you know, that, obviously, is a dangerous precedent. Another thing that I thought about in our area that’s problematic in this regard is a level of victim blaming that goes on—how much as a woman had to drink? What did she have to wear? How late was she out? While, you know, I’m a father of two daughters, 14 and 10. And I certainly talk to them and will continue to talk to them as I get older about ways to be careful in situations, but under no circumstances does that justify any kind of assault or attack on them. So I think victim blaming in our area, particularly more with older people, and younger people, is a problem too. But I also think, briefly, there’s signs that it’s getting better. When I was in college at Murray State, and there in law school. And so you know, classes for men on boundaries that are okay, and what kind of conduct is acceptable or not. But my wife went to West Kentucky Technology, and more recently Frontier University, and both of those they had mandatory classes for men about those subjects so that if they weren’t taught that younger, they’ll know that for the college experience. I think there’s trends in the right direction.
Dr. Anton Reece 4:29
I’ll jump in right behind Richie. And I wanted to mention thanks for this opportunity to be part of this distinguished panel with both Richie and Sherman. This is a very important issue. It’s a challenging issue. There are a lot of sensitivities around it. You know, I’d like to put if you will, maybe a cultural spin. So I’m from Barbados in the Caribbean, a country that is probably about 70% on the whole Anglican, I think we call it in the US Episcopalian. It is a very dominant religious society even as we speak. But there are religious implications, because I would submit to you that both religious leaders also impacts culture. They that’s the whole male dominated, right, head of household, ultimate rule, ultimate authority. You know, those carryovers I do believe are linked in many ways to, unfortunately, some of the challenges associated with sexual assault, and those sorts of issues.
Still, keeping with the both religious and culture, in many ways, you know, there are always those “no nos,” right. I mean, there’s certain things that we just don’t talk about, because it could be embarrassing to the family. And you know, the family name is the game, right?
As another aspect I would add into it again, culturally, fast forwarding, I was also a former athlete at Eastern Kentucky University. And as part of the training—what little that we had back in the day, by the way—it was very minimal. Mostly, I call it policy talk. But in terms of really getting out the heart and the core of how we interact with females, etc. Certainly things like Title IX, I mean, I’ve been to college back in the 80s, right? Those were just not that prominent. Let me just say that in terms of what’s happening in the college setting.
And then third, and certainly not least, spent over three decades, interacting with various communities, you know, across this country. And I say it’s a complex problem, too, because there are also political underpinnings, financial underpinnings, legal underpinnings, and that’s the reason why I think it is timely and important that we do bring more men prominently into the forefront, as advocates for this challenging issue.
Sherman Neal II 7:04
A follow up on that—appreciate having me on again, such as Dr. Reece and Richie here. I’m learning as we go. I’ve learned from them just researching their backgrounds. So number one, to answer the question to how sexual violence is played a role in my upbringing. I actually started out by writing down, you know, who am I and kind of intersectionalities and one, Black man and masculinity. So just those three things in the question alone, kind of touching on what Dr. Reece talked about, as a Black man, before you just talk to me in a man, culturally, you know, my mom’s side of the family from West Africa, in Liberia, and my dad’s side is from the south, in South Carolina, and fortunately, had a lot of strong women on both sides that surrounded. But it’s also culturally where we don’t, you know, address these issues in the same manner that maybe other cultures have, I don’t want to guess, but it’s just not at the forefront of what we talk about. Now, that may be generationally, too, given, you know, what’s happened with the #MeToo movement. And so that might be that. So I’ve been trying to figure that out. But I know that that’s part of my upbringing, right now, as part of being a man—period. When I looked at my own background, and what makes me the man that I have, it’s athletics, the Marines, advocacy, really being at the forefront, not a lot of room to do the things that we don’t traditionally associate with men, which is, you know, be emotional or take a step back or, you know, do the self–care stuff that we talked about, that half of us really don’t do. Usually it’s at the forefront, you put that on the back burner, and you put the mission first. And there’s consequences to that. And so that’s, that’s affected my understanding of sexual violence.
And then, you know, with masculinity overall, in the society that we’re in, what I immediately did when I wrote this down, it’s like, I wrote down that I have not been impacted directly by sexual violence, because it didn’t happen to me. And I don’t know any, you know, physical things that happened to family members. I realized, I just did the most American thing that you can do as an American man. And it’s the same thing that you hear with a colorblind society, like imagine, you know, how is it possible when you have stuff, when you’re living in a state that has the number one rate of sexual violence in a country where it’s prevalent? It’s an epidemic, pandemic issue. And you can say, “well, I didn’t see it directly. So I don’t know.” It’s colorblind. It’s all great. And imagine explaining that to somebody suffering. So I had to step back and recognize, you know, how did I miss what’s surrounding us? And so, I’ve been directly impacted without even knowing it. At this point, I’m still going back through and doing a good exercise now looking at that. So I appreciate the opportunity.
Bri Rollins 9:57
Thank you for sharing those vulnerable reflections with us, Mr. Neal. And I know that Mr. Dr. Risa touched on this. But I’d like to explore it a bit for conflicts considering your professional background and expertise. How did you become an ally in the movement to end sexual violence? And what has that looked like in your life?
Dr. Anton Reece 10:19
Well, Sherman mentioned the real important thing, right, which is, if you’re not directly impacted by it, the next important thing is raising awareness about it. Right? And so in some of my power roles, as Dean of Students, is the closest I’ve come to getting involved, you know, in situations involving sexual assault. And there’s an entire process right through Title IX associated with that. So one part is raising awareness to knowledge of the issue in the first place. I think that’s one important place.
He also mentioned something I think is also important to though. Second, which is just the evolution, I think, for manhood, if you will. So let me be more specific. I grew up in an era of time as a young, much younger man, in the 70s and the 80s, where, not just for myself—I’ve certainly learned this in conversation with my peers—the thought of, you know, having a dialogue with your father, I mean, an exchange where there’s like expectations and guidance and how you deal with women and that type of thing was a foregone conclusion. It basically during that genre time, it was providers, right.
My dad would, only when I was very, very young, was almost like a shadow—worked, came in, worked out as disciplinarian. There was very few inquiries, questions, the dialogue type thing. And so in many ways you learn aspects of manhood and how you engage with women, in this case, from your peers, right? And that’s not always accurate or good to follow as well, too. So I believe that that’s another important part of it.
But then third, and certainly, you know, we do mandatory trainings, that also elevates the level of awareness for faculty, staff, and students, which I think is really important. And it would be great to get an expanded, actually true society, true or religious, nonprofits, organizations as well.
Richie Kemp 12:33
My professional background is in what I do now, as a prosecutor. So going back to 2007, I’ve been the guy in our office who handles most of the sexual abuse cases involving children and women. They are the most difficult cases we have, there’s often not any physical evidence or witnesses. I mean, these are, these are oftentimes crimes of secrecy, particularly when talking about abuse of children. And then when you do have DNA evidence or something like that, it’s a comes down to who you believe whether or not there was consent or not. So because the Commonwealth or the prosecution has to convince all 12 people, and trying to get 12 people to agree on anything is challenging, and trying to do that, beyond a reasonable doubt. It is a struggle to get justice for for victims of these kinds of cases. And it’s so important because not only does that particular victim deserves justice to what they went through, the data shows that people who commit crimes of violence against women will repeat those crimes if they’re not held accountable. So it’s important that we do as good a job as possible as prosecuting holding these guys accountable. Because when you say someone get away with it, it makes the next woman or the next girl less likely to come forward, and it makes the process harder.
So as a prosecutor, I’m right there on the front lines, I would say. And I’d also say that I work with Lotus a lot. And I want to give them a shout out because they do a tremendous job from doing the forensic interviews at the beginning, which is an investigative tool, which is helps us a great deal to providing counseling for coping mechanisms for victims who’ve gone through bad things, but also a trial prep counseling so that when they go to court, they know where everybody’s sitting, they know what questions are going to get asked. They do an amazing job.
Sherman Neal II 14:28
Just a follow up. So I have kind of a hybrid of both of those experiences, and not extensive experience in either, when we’re talking law and higher education. And I think about the hashtag that we use for this, #AllMenCan, and if there’s anybody that’s proof of that, it’s probably me, because I’ve done it through learning and failing and then listening to other people. And I say that with with career number one really being an attorney in working with the Child and Family Law Clinic with indigent clients in West Virginia.
And being eager to address the problem, being eager to help these families, to the point where—Richie would probably laugh at this, you know—I’m giving out my cell phone number and I give the, “call me anytime in the night.” I don’t understand what that means for these families going into this and, if you work at Lotus, I didn’t understand that that meant, you know, you probably need some training to be able to answer that call at 1:30 In the morning, when somebody is saying daddy is touching four year old. I didn’t have that—I learned, you know, by listening and going through it that way. But I’ve never really knew if the answer was, you know, turn it off and don’t assist, or, you know, go all in and assist, and what I should have realized is that you need formal training, we need more things like this, to go back and learn how to do it.
That that led me to second experience of really being a platoon commander in the Marines. So as a platoon commander of 70 Marines to take care of, and one thing that sticks out to me more than almost any experience deployment or otherwise is, the day I sitting in my office in a marine comes up to me, and he says, an ex marine has a 16 year old girl in a motel room across the street. What do you do? And so in retrospect, I’m glad that whatever I did to create an environment that was permissive, that they would tell me that existed, but it also terrified, the level of, you know, where I was at as a 22 year old in charge of those guys, and I didn’t have the training to address that properly. Luckily, my seniors did. And we see in the military now, there’s a push–pull in responsibility, because I had good leadership that walked me through that. What happens if you don’t? And what happens if they’re self–interested? Do you need a third party etc., we don’t have to figure that out here. guy was destroyed right now. But it’s tough. But that’s why that individual level, I saw that early on, by every level. And he talked about being on the front lines, like everybody is on the front lines, when it comes to this, almost.
And thirdly, as a football coach it is really more of a reconciliation, with talking to 22-year-old self, or 19 to 20-year-old self. You all mentioned, you know, what you had in college, and I thought about myself, and that’s just, you know, 2000. Facebook just came out in like, 2006, when I was out there, people were putting everything there. Like, I go back and I look at, you know, what I heard, what I didn’t hear, what I probably should have heard, and knowing that it’s not going to, you know, be a tsunami of change. But just small things like taking 15 guys to Men Who Cook to, you know, these organizations exist, and that the people are normal. And that know, you can talk and use your platform in ways that don’t have to, you know, tear down stuff. So there’s a lot of opportunities out there. But the key just listening in, and reaching out for help when you need.
Bri Rollins 18:05
Well it’s clear that each of you have used your professional experience to support survivors, and advocate against sexual violence, and we really appreciate that. And as we continue to reflect on that, do you find it difficult to talk about sexual violence prevention, and the societal norms, perpetuating rape culture with the people in your life? Why or why not?
Sherman Neal II 18:39
I was going to say my ego tells me “No,” but my actions show that it I do have difficulty addressing it directly. And something that I’ve noticed, and is part of the reason I’m probably talking to this group in Western Kentucky today, is because I’ve been involved with some community organizing here that is being led by a lot of women. And two of the women that I was thinking about that have supported this, both openly shared their experiences of sexual violence. And I realized that I have not directly talked to them about those experiences. Yet they talked to me or listened to me about my own experiences as a man, Black man, in Western Kentucky for almost nine months now. So how’s that possible? It’s either that you don’t know how to talk about it, or you’re avoiding it because it’s difficult, although they put it out there. And it just made me—when I started researching the origins of the #MeToo campaign and realize that all it took essentially is the same thing that I did. It’s just somebody put out a single letter, or Alyssa Milano, I want to say, you know, highlighted a campaign that is already in existence similar to what’s going on with a lot of the social justice movements out here. It just takes a couple people to respond and to turn it into 10,000. So for me, I’ve recognized that, I need to address those people that have helped me and just in general more directly more often. Because it can spark a larger movement a change.
Dr. Anton Reece 20:12
Yeah, I was just going to add a couple of thoughts on there as well, too. Right. So certainly, from my perspective, I think one is, you know, oftentimes, this is my first opportunity, first of all, you know, to be invited to formally make any sort of presentation, right, along such a complex and, in many ways, sensitive sort of topic. So I think I think one part is either opportunity given, and/or seeking opportunity, right, to be part of it. So I think that that’s important as well, too. So I think ways in which organizations like Lotus and related areas, you know, can create more opportunities, you know, for men, to be more involved, certainly is one area where I would definitely want to push.
I think, second, you know, I think your level of advocacy has a lot to do with knowledge, right? Because the worst thing you want to do is to misspeak, or heaven forbid, you know, make situations worse, right? Like most folks, I like to be as informed as they can, in terms of what is I’m talking about, you know, I keep mentioning this piece about the importance of ongoing education and awareness. So, you know, I look back during my tenure at the University of Tennessee, where I was involved in student life and student affairs, I remember, you know, we had the annual sexual assault walk, right? Candlelight walk for campuses, and then the program, the highlights, if you will, listening then to sexual assault victims/survivors, and learning firsthand, from quite a few of them actually, that their first encounter wasn’t even on campus. Oftentimes, they happen earlier in homes. They talked about the trauma, even though they may be an individual impact, in some cases, it was more than just them. Right. And then the reasons why they felt the shame, didn’t come forward, the financial control that, you know, the parents had over their situation, right, added yet another layer. So it’s almost like coming out of a, almost like a cultural secrecy and shame combined. You know, but I thought it was very courageous hearing from victims speaking out.
Certainly, through the lens of my wife, who worked as a social worker—Sherman mentioned his military background—she worked with the Fort Campbell for quite some time, you know, dealing with victims, and certainly families impacted in different ways. And just, you know, hearing just how this thing is so complicated, because of the hesitation of victims coming forward. And if they do, the implications, and what was the support resources would look like. And of course, Richie just the scratched the surface with the whole legal arena, and probably how much has involved, I don’t know, can afford legal services, that if it goes to court, the public shame, I mean, it’s a really complex situation. But it is an important situation that needs more light, and certainly more advocates to be speaking on behalf of it.
Richie Kemp 23:28
I would say that conversations like this are always difficult to have. But I think that the #MeToo movement has definitely got the dialogue going more, and got more victims comfortable coming forward and talking about it. And I think it’s led to men being better at receiving that. Sherman brought up little things that can be done. And part of the question is about societal norms perpetuating rape culture. And thinking about that reminded me of an incident where, I play a lot of fantasy football, I spend entirely too much time every fall on fantasy football. And when we make trades with other players, if someone come out way ahead, it’s often referred to as a “trade–rape.” “You trade-raped that person.” Well, I quit using that term—like guys, we’ve got to find a better way to say someone got beat in a trade and saying, you know, throwing the word “rape” around. I think little things like that, that you can do in your own life, that spreads—and it’s a good thing to spread.
But anyways, I think the little things like that to try to change that rape culture can be helpful.
Bri Rollins 24:44
Thank you all. Yeah, I love how you, Richie, highlighted just those small actions can go a long way when we’re acting collectively.
And so our next question is, what ways have you seen laws, policies and societal norms discourage men from intervening as an upstander? And we are using the word upstander, which just means someone who takes action rather than being a bystander. So, again, what ways have you seen laws, policies, and societal norms discourage men from intervening as an upstander in situations of potential violence?
Richie Kemp 25:25
Well, I can, I can say, societal norm-wise, I believe that a lot of times domestic violence, which is often accompanied by sexual violence, is viewed as a private matter between a husband and wife. And that’s becoming less and less the view of it. And, for example, it used to, you know, you’d never dream of being able to get a conviction for a husband for raping his wife. Now, I’ve prosecuted multiple husbands for raping their wife, and that’s not you know, wife’s no longer looked at as a piece of property for the husband to do with what he wants. And we’re continuing to go that route.
There’s also been a strengthening laws to protect women. And this needs to happen more with two areas. One that’s happened, it’s good, there’s strangulation. Often, if you put your hands around a woman’s throat, too, restrict her breathing even a little bit, that would usually just be part of an assault fourth, now, which is a misdemeanor crime max punishment 12 months, and they usually don’t get that long. Now it is a felony offense where they can go to prison for anywhere between five to 10 years for that. It’s important for a couple reasons. One, I mean, obviously, the chances of that person dying are significantly more even though it doesn’t always lead the same kind of injuries, that severe assault, more severe assault might. But a people that do that are—I forget the exact statistics, but—far more likely to assault them again, and far more likely to murder them. A lot of women who’ve been murdered by their significant others have been strangled at one point or another. So that’s a good thing that happened.
Another one that that’s, that needs to improve is people who are accused of these kinds of crimes, violence, sexual violence, having access to firearms. There are some rules or laws against that on the books, but they need to be strengthened. In some places, there aren’t any. We do have that. And, but it’s not everywhere. And we know that when you hear of like, gun laws, you should think of that as a woman’s protection law. Men with access to firearms are far more likely to kill their spouses or their girlfriend, and if they’ve got a history of assault, the statistics are off the charts—women are in danger if that situation in that situation.
Sherman Neal II 27:38
I could follow up on that real quick. The firearms one is interesting, because back when I used to do domestic violence, protective order hearings, in West Virginia, I remember it was crazy to me that you know, you get through the hearing, you talk about the temporary protective orders going into place and list all the restrictions going into it, where the dad or dads or moms can’t see the kid, stay a certain way away, and then taken to the last part, which is part of VAWA, and you got to turn in your firearms. And they’re like, “Well, hold on now, like, chill out—like this is crazy.” I’m like, bro, they just said that they’re taking away your kids for an indefinite period of time. And you’re not vision until you hear about the firearms and so like, so it sounds trivial, but it’s real as a deterrent in doing that, and that, and that actually gets them to interact with the police more than they maybe would have otherwise with the kids is being taken away. So I just thought that was interesting from being in West Virginia and doing it.
And then a second to add, talking about societal norms. So when I was leaving the Marine Corps, so I served in infantry battalions in particularly 29 Palms, California, it’s just middle of nowhere. And we returned from a deployment and we were actually going to be one of the last, if not the last unit, to integrate. And it sounds crazy to use that word, but we had no women at the time. And Richie was talking about this fantasy football league. For about a month to month and a half, we had to have mock meetings, to try to eliminate talking in terms of like, hyper sexualization using phallic objects for every other thing. And, and we realized, like we almost weren’t capable of having a meeting, like certain people couldn’t be in the room until like they received ways to talk and like that wouldn’t get us all fired or worse, or in a hearing before Congress. And Richie talked a lot about like the actual crimes that he saw and sees every day. I knew at the time, and from my experience, like I wasn’t seeing it, but it definitely perpetuated a culture where it’s gonna be more likely to happen, you know, all the things that Dr. Reece talked about, that his wife saw were happening as a result of that, at a higher rate that would have happened had we stopped some of it. And so just going through that process and seeing how painful it was and how much we had to change to even function, you know, in an integrated environment, that we know that, you know, by not saying anything, by not having these types of meetings by not being frank, that, you know, I was contributing to what was going on, on base and outside of base, in the service overall. And it doesn’t make you a bad person. But once you recognize that and you don’t do anything, then you probably got some serious questions you need to have answered for yourself about priority. So, just going through that from a societal norm standpoint, just as recently as two years ago, is interesting to me, when we see the entity now, it is a better force, in my opinion.
Dr. Anton Reece 30:46
So let me add real quickly to that along the theme and maybe social norm. And, you know, we haven’t mentioned this angle as much, but I think certainly through social media, and actually, quite frankly, the movement has really amplified and raise the bar significantly, just in terms of, you know, their themes, like, you know, see something, say something. You look at a lot of high profile cases that have come forward. In some ways, it is still almost like, there’s almost like that kind of wall of, you know, where, you know, within some organizations or within some group of men, that keep it pretty close. Right. And in some ways, I watched the evolution of the debate. So it goes almost like this. So first, you hear about sexual assault situation, if you hear about it. Through time, it has evolved from, “well what did she do? What, does she deserve it?” Right? So it’s almost like a rationalization because there’s no way—because no means no, you know, following the evolution, this whole thing.
But to me, it has really shifted much more just in recent years, I would add, where it is tipping more so where, again, I think men as a whole are just becoming more aware and more educated and more willing, if you will, to tip the scales the other way, right? That we don’t get into victim blaming, that we that we really tried to understand the importance of, you know, again, getting a good sense of what the situation is. And then how do you lend voice to it.
I bring the media piece up to it too, because it has also raised a couple of things. I think things like statute of limitations. At what point do you say something? And when does that expire, becomes a factor under somewhere one. And two, how much level of involvement? Do you get involved? Because then you get into, whether it’s the public perception and or reputation, right. So you know, I keep using this theme that it gets complicated, but I don’t want that to be misconstrued as the reasons why we should not continue and push for more advocacy and having more men standing out. I think it is: ways to educate and how you can make an informed decision, informed level of support, timely support, and speaking out in a way at best, where we recognize and understand the importance of supporting victims and getting them the necessary resources that they need, be it legal, social, you know, financial, etc. I would also add into the conversation.
Bri Rollins 33:33
Thank you. And with that being said, I’m going to plug Lotus in here for a moment. We do offer various types of training and education whenever it comes to preventing and intervening with sexual violence. And so, if there’s anyone who’d be interested in learning more about that, again, you can visit our website at hopehealgrow.org.
And with our next question, we know that the impact of sexual violence is widespread beyond the immediate victim. For example, sexual violence is among the most costly of crimes. Do you think sexual violence impacts everyone? Why or why not?
Richie Kemp 34:15
I would say I believe it definitely impacts everyone from children, spouses. Anyone who’s close to someone who’s had to go through this will know that it’s, you know, women need a support system to heal from this kind of violence. And you know, having those people to help children, family, spouses, parents is good, but it impacts them to them. It’s never an easy thing to see someone you care about hurt.
I have women in my family that had been victims. I each instance I’m talking about I learned about long after it had happened, but it impacted me a great deal—a lot of emotions there, anger to other emotions.
But I definitely don’t think it’s limited to just the victim herself. I think a good example of this can be seen—there’s a documentary called I’ll Be Gone in the Dark. It’s about the Golden State Killer and how he was captured. This is a serial rapist. And it’s fascinating, one, about how he got caught and all that. But also though, there’s interviews there with many of his victims and their spouses, and you can see the emotions in the family members’ faces and what they’re going through, and they’re talking about rapes that occurred decades later, and it’s still raw with them. So I definitely think it impacts everything.
Sherman Neal II 35:39
From a, if you want to look at it from a strictly economic standpoint, you know, right now, you can look at Louisiana State University, LSU, you can look at Baylor, you could Kansas and look at, you know, multiple millions, if not billions of dollars, that have to go into addressing a problem that could have been addressed and should have been known about from an athletic standpoint, and that involved, engulfs whole universities in these lawsuits.
And is it about the lawsuits? No, but you know, in reality, there’s, there’s a real cost, just like there’s a real cost to not putting in certain criminal justice reform, like there’s dollars and cents to that. So why is it critical for people that are in institutions of higher learning, or specifically in athletic departments like I was, to address it, is because one, as a person, we know that we can’t prevent 100% of the things that happen. What I would hate to happen is tomorrow, you open the newspaper, and you see know, player from team that I was on commit something, and that they look at calendar over the past year, and there’s been zero, you know, actual training or discussion time allotted. And Dr. Reece talked about as an athlete, he’s like, yeah, we get that, you know, click through, you know, the Title IX brief. But what happens past that? How are you putting that into practice, how are you role playing that, in scenarios that most of these kids have never been in, certainly haven’t been in all together at the same time away from their house. So you know, it’s a high-risk situation. And there’s an obligation there to be fiscally responsible and protect them, and protect institutions. And recognize I’m not saying the victims here which sucks. But I mean, the facts are that it’s happening. And so we have to take preventative steps until we know how to fix the systemic issues.
And then you see the same thing play out even in a military standpoint, it took until there’s congressional hearings and intervention to come up with real solutions and real reporting mechanisms. So maybe, if we can’t reach out to Lotus or if we aren’t doing it to ourselves, or we don’t have that type of tool, I know it’ll be forever ingrained into me: restrictive reporting, non-restrictive reporting, how to handle these things, and more so than how to handle a rifle, just because that’s the level of importance that they placed on addressing this issue, which was costing time, money and reputation, in addition to the tangible harm that comes with having to remove family from bases to bases, etc. that we talked about earlier.
Dr. Anton Reece 38:18
Two quick things I would add, regarding the cost and the impact. You know, Sherman did a great job of illustrating high profile lawsuits and the impact financially. But it impacts everyone too, because then, well, it’s the victim’s ability to provide for their families, a lot of time to trauma can be so significant, that they’re not able to work.
You know, it could be in relationships, you know, those involved in relationships with those who may have been sexually assaulted, obviously didn’t do the crime, but it could also help with the healing of the trauma, right, and then certainly the impact that it may have on the victim’s family, kids, etc.
So in many ways, what is well–publicized is the financial settlements from the high-profile cases, but the societal cost is just significantly larger. And you know, as a society, we need all hands on deck in terms of being, you know, healthy, contributing members of society. That is incredibly compounded by those on some level impacted by sexual assault, so we all bear costs, and you know, and then we support great organizations, by the way, like Lotus, we were very happy to recognize Lotus as one of the organizations that we support as part of our diversity, equity, and inclusion initiative. But ultimately, it does, it does have significant costs both financially, emotionally, culturally and society as well.
Bri Rollins 39:57
Thank you for those reflections, and Dr. Reece, we definitely appreciate that recognition.
As we wrap up our discussion today, we’ve heard many great ideas, and inspiration for being upstanders to prevent sexual violence. What is one thing that men (and all people) can do to prevent violence and oppression?
Richie Kemp 40:26
I can begin. Something to do to prevent—what I would say is, look for signs. Often times, you know, this is about sexual violence. That’s often accompanied by domestic violence and abusive relationships. My niece was telling me the other day about two of her friends who have boyfriends that like, monitor their phones, don’t let them hang out with certain people where there’s going to be other boys around. Like really controlling types. And when you see somebody in that situation, some of the questions we had to review were about intervention. And sometimes the intervening is recognizing that someone is in a bad spot and saying hey, try and talk them out of it. And even if you can’t, you can maybe encourage them to go to counselling. A common problem with people in these relationships is low self-esteem. By maybe talking to someone they can see their self worth and that they deserve better and they deserve to not be controlled by someone like that. I think that’s a good way to do it.
And also, try to see things from women’s perspective. My wife told me about a class she had where they asked the men what kind of precautions they take when they go out. And they wrote the answers on the board and one of them was, you know, I wouldn’t walk down a dark alley by myself or I would make sure I lock my car. And then they asked women and they filled up the board with precautions, like I don’t go to a party by myself. I don’t let my drink out of my sight while I’m at a party because someone might put something in it. I make sure that I put my keys in my hand so if someone comes up to me while I’m walking I can jab their eyes. Hearing what women are concerned about versus what men are concerned about is way different. So try to see it from that perspective.
And lastly I think this is illustrated, I can’t quote my source on here, but I know I’m correct on this, when men were asked what their greatest fear of women were, their answer was being laughed at by the women. When women were asked that their greatest fear about men were, it was being murdered. So I would encourage everybody to look for the signs of these kinds of problems. Things like Denim Day help, where you’re raising awareness. It’s a famous case out of Italy where a rape trial was overturned because the woman’s jeans were too tight according to the Court of Appeals. It’s astonishing. Having things like that, Sexual Abuse Awareness Month, all things like that bring attention to this matter and help men to do a better job.
Sherman Neal II 42:59
I’ll say two quick things—one, it came up, I think in a question in the chat box about how do you distinguish between legit, illegitimate—the answer is: don’t. Do not. Listen, absorb it, and then try to support that person. If you can’t, because either you don’t believe it or you know morally there’s something that’s of issue with it, refer that person to get help somewhere else because the worst thing that you can do is tell them that their voice doesn’t matter and what they’re relaying to you doesn’t matter. So none of us, I’m speaking for myself, I’m certainly not an expert, I doubt there’s many qualified experts out there that are hearing these things, so do not.
The second is, find a way to actively support organizations like Lotus or individuals trying to address this matter. Because I think—I don’t want to make up statistics, but like one in five women have suffered sexual assault, I want to say. That’s assault, we’re not even talking about harassment or anything else that is an epidemic now. Look at your own workplace and your own practices as well, and who you’re getting advice from. One of the smartest things I’ve heard in the past couple months was from a woman who was a sports executive and she gives a task to build your own board of directors and see who would be on it to help you with decision making. And when I went down and I wrote that I came up with five men. When I came up, I was struggling, you know, to look past that—I recognize, you know, where I have gaps, I have to build relationships, you know support others, and then build relationships as you go through that process of supporting better, meaningful, and authentic so that way you help yourself make better decisions and make the whole community more aware.
Dr. Anton Reece 44:59
I would quickly add two things. There’s an adage—first of all I think it’s important that the education, empowerment gets in earlier. There’s the adage that goes, it is better—it is easier—to raise conscious boys to deal with angry men. I think two, I think the arenas where there are male leaders, give them voice. So I put this forth as a challenge for religious leaders, leaders of our various community organizations and nonprofits, that using their various voices, right, be it the pulpit, be it social media, etc. I can’t think of ever going into church and hearing a sermon related to, you know, sexual assault, right? That may not be the arena for it, but certainly as part of the, I don’t know, this other school of teachings, etc., you know. But again, start early. Churches, I think, Boys and Clubs, get in early and, you know, let’s have those voices of influence being on record, if you will, of ways in which they want to encourage and foster the importance of how we should respect and uplift, right? I just remember years ago where there’s a lot about men being providers, strength, right? You see these hands—so what do we do—do we uplift our women or do we beat them down, right? That gets back into a change of conscious of education and retraining and reframing with accountability.
And last but certainly not least, it takes funds and resources because there are financial implications. So to our lawmakers, our mayors, our county judges, executives, those with influence, certainly they can provide more funding for important organizations like Lotus, would be my last piece.
Bri Rollins 47:00
Wow, thank you for those powerful statements and reflections. And with that being said, we appreciate everyone for dedicating their time and energy to learning more about the importance of men leading in their circles to support survivors, strengthen families, and empower communities to create a culture where sexual violence and oppression are not tolerated.
Today, we all have the opportunity to create a world free from violence and oppression. This really starts with our own values, behaviors and the norms we perpetuate. We have discussed some really sensitive topics today, and if you’ve been impacted by sexual violence or you’re needing help, you can always contact Lotus by visiting hopehealgrow.org.
Once again we really do appreciate our featured speakers for sharing their thoughts and reflections with us. And if you would, please complete our post-event survey. Thank you!
Transcribed using artificial intelligence via Otter.ai and may contain errors.
*Updated from 2010.