by Rob Peeler Jul 21, 2015
- Do NOT present if you are not comfortable discussing sexual relationships and misconduct, or if you find you cannot lead a discussion without experiencing strong emotions. No one wants you to feel uncomfortable leading an important discussion.
- Make participation voluntary and optional.
- Provide your audience with a topical outline, explain to the audience that there will be a short break while you prepare, and explain that anyone who does not wish to stay for the discussion may leave without penalty/complete an alternative assignment.
- Explain that you are going to discuss sensitive information and explain your expectations for discussion/reaction/rebuttals.
- Do not try and talk about all of the critical issues surrounding sexual misconduct in a single day/lecture. These issues are complicated and integrated. Pick one target issue, connect it to a discussion
- Know and understand the myths about rape so you do not support them inadvertently.
- Be aware of sensitivities - some people in your audience could know/be victims or ignorant perpetrators (perpetrators who are not yet aware that they have engaged in misconduct). Have contact information on hand (and present it when you are done) for someone (e.g., campus counselor) students can talk with if the discussion elevates their discomfort.
- Consider using the terms “sexual coercion,” “sexual misconduct,” and “survivor” rather than the terms “sexual assault,” “rape,” or “victim.” We have found that the second set of terms can raise defenses and promote emotional reactivity at the cost of engagement and learning.
- Prepare by reading about strategies for discussing sensitive topics with students. Here are some related resources:
- Use a tone and an approach that does not make audience members feel defensive.
- Present information that is relevant to the audience and explain why you are talking about the content from a practical, rather than emotional, point-of-view.
- Talk about consent!! Talk about consent!! Talk about consent!!
- When possible, try to begin with a common, comfortable topic and introduce critical information as a natural extension of the discussion (e.g., begin by discussing gender differences in: attraction, communication, social dynamics, etc. Next, discuss how these can lead to misunderstandings/relationship problems, etc.).
- Educators who believe a direct approach is appropriate (e.g., You may have read about __ in the paper, so today we’re going to discuss …) should consider talking about the issues as community or social problems and include information/discussion about causes before discussing prevention/intervention and consequences.