October 3 – Game Changers Forum – Table Conversations

On October 3, 2017, the Desmond Tutu Center worked alongside Women4Change Indiana, Saving Orphans through Healthcare and Outreach, and Leadership Indianapolis for the Game Changers Forum featuring Naomi Tutu and Christina Hale. Table conversations were prompted on broad culture, domestic trafficking, domestic violence, policy, and judiciary topics.

The first prompt on broad culture was about Lolita, the classic 1955 novel written by Russian-American novelist Vladimir Nabokov tells the story of a middle-aged man who is obsessed with a young 12 year oldgirl he calls Lolita. As the story unfolds, the girl is a very young victim of rape. Today, the dictionary definition of Lolita is, “a young girl who dresses seductively or provocatively.” Each table discussed the topic with one person acting as a scribe and concluded that society continues to reinforce a narrative that victimizes women while supporting male-orientated norms and standards. Many tables thought that to combat this problem, we must increase awareness of and confront narratives that sustain traditions that victimize women early on.

Human trafficking is happening in our own backyard yet most people do not know it is happening so close to home. Many tables were unaware that human trafficking is a local problem and decided that spreading awareness and exposing the issue is a first step that needs to happen. Most tables thought that human trafficking was primarily thought of as an international issue and one table said, “human trafficking is viewed as a third world issue to demonize other counties while glorifying America.”

The domestic violence prompt posed questions concerning domestic violence statistics. Over one-third of women will experience domesticviolence in their lifetime. Many said that domestic violence needs to be thought of an all-around issue rather than just a women’s issue. There needs to be open dialogue in order to change the fact that 1 out of 3 women being abused is not worth headline news. The presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation increases the risk of homicide by 500%. This prompted table discussion on gun control and the complexity of the issue. Most recognized that we need increased gun control legislation.

Many tables expressed shock by learning that the number of American troops killed in Afghanistan and Iraq between 2001 and 2012 was 6,488 and that the number of American women who were murdered by current or ex male partners during that time was 11,766. Various tables posited that this number was surprising because domestic violence is a taboo topic that people do not what to think or talk about. One table pointed out that on average it takes eight occurrences of domestic violence to finally speak up and report.

The next question was regarding the Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos’, decision to rollback Obama-era guidance on how schools should handle sexual assaults under Title IX federal law. Primarily, the decision withdrew the “Dear Colleague Letter,” a comprehensive set of guidelines that clarifies what schools’ responsibilities are under the law to enforce Title IX. The tables were asked to discuss the implications of this decision and what their response would be if they were in a school administration. During this conversation, many tables acknowledged that Title IX can be tricky but specified that making the policy less detailed is not the answer. If anything, there should be more guiding policy introduced.

The final prompt gave the example of Brock Turner, a rapist who was commonly referred to as the Stanford University swimmer, who only served three months out of a six month sentence. The judge and probation office weighed in the facts that he surrendered a hard-earned swimming scholarship. The prompt asked about the tables’ opinion on mandatory minimums when it comes to sexual assaults and rapes. Most tables agreed that male perpetrators are given leniency especially when they attend universities and even more so when they are involved in the school’s athletic program. Some thought that mandatory minimums could bring more attention and awareness to the issue. On the other hand, some thought that mandatory minimums are not the answer for our judiciary system when it comes to any matter.

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