A man standing behind a sitting woman places his hand on her shoulder, an unwelcome attention that can be avoided.

“It’s not something we talk about.”

 “Not in our family. Never in our home.”

 “It’s not our concern.

And yet it assaults us daily, permeates our lives, the air we breathe, the words we speak. It’s so deep in our social structure we don’t see its presence. We don’t realize how it affects our attitudes and behavior. Silently we stand by. Bystanders.

Boys will be boys we say.

 Big girls don’t cry.

From our playgrounds to our workplaces, in our schools, on our streets, in the news and in our entertainment, in our homes every day, we live with it. Verbal abuse.  Gender violence. Bullying. The tactics of coercion, whether physical, emotional or financial are all the learned behavior of power and control that permeate our culture.

How did we all grow into such tough guys?

The statistics tell us that one out of three women and girls will be in an abusive relationship at some point in their lives. Gender violence  is an equal opportunity offender. It occurs with the same frequency in all races, religions and socio-economic classes, which means it affects 21% of Jewish families.

Gender violence is not just a women’s issue. “Every issue that affects women and girls affects men and boys by definition,” says social activist, Jackson Katz, “We live in the world together, our lives are interwoven. When we talk about women who are abused, we’re not talking about some abstract category, we’re talking about the women and girls we care about, our wives, our girl friends, our best friends.”

Combating silence: the bystander approach

“Most people think they only have two choices for intervention,” says Katz. “One is to intervene physically right at the point of attack, and the other is to do nothing. And that’s a false set of choices.”

The bystander approach to gender violence and bullying prevention concentrates on the community and the premise that silence in the face of abusive or violent behavior gives “implicit consent” to such behavior. Instead of focusing on victims and perpetrators of harassment, abuse or violence, the bystander approach concentrates on awareness and  prevention by giving voice to peers in schools, groups, teams, workplaces and other social units.

 Fighting the good fight

Bringing “bystander education” and intervention to schools, sports groups and the military, Dr. Jackson Katz is internationally recognized for his groundbreaking work in critical media literacy and anti-violence training.  Katz is co-founder of the Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) Program at Northwestern University – one of the first programs of its kind, now implemented in the NFL, Major League Baseball clubs and many other sports organizations. MVP training has been deployed in Iraq with U.S Army personnel, and the U.S. Navy is currently piloting MVP in four sites around the world.


A community call to action

Coming April 15 and 16, the Jewish community of Detroit will host Dr. Jackson Katz for four events sponsored by the Jewish Women’s Foundation and the Jewish Coalition Against Domestic Violence (JCADA) in partnership with Jewish Family Service.

 Sunday, April 15, 2012 

The Jewish Women’s Foundation with the support of the D. Dan and Betty Kahn Foundation will screen Miss Representation, the powerful documentary that made its debut at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival. Introductory remarks  by Rochelle Riley, Detroit Free Press columnist and family activist, will be followed by commentary and discussion with Jackson Katz.  3:00 to 6:00 pm. at the Seligman Performing Arts Center, Detroit Country Day School, 22305 W. Thirteen Mile, Beverly Hills. Adults $10; students $5

Click here to register.

Monday, April 16, 2012

  • A Men’s Call to Action: Power Breakfast with Jackson Katz.  (For men only.) Congregation Shaarey Zedek, 27375 Bell Road, Southfield, MI 7:00 to 8:30 am.
  • Community Lunch and Learn (Social Work CEU’s available).  Noon to 1:30 pm., Jewish Family Service, 6555 W. Maple Road, West Bloomfield
  • Monday Night School open to all community teens.  6:00-7:45 pm., Temple Israel, 5725 Walnut Lake Road, West Bloomfield, MI

There is no charge for Monday’s events sponsored by the Jewish Women’s Foundation.  Registration is required.   http://www.jfsdetroit.org/jackson-katz  For details: eychute@jfsdetroit.org or 248-592-2666.