Statement from the 2017 President of Division 51(Dr. Holly Sweet) re sexual harassment incidents

In the light of the increasing number of incidents reported in the news about recent and past sexual transgressions of well-known and powerful men in government, media and entertainment, we are encouraged by the progress being made that women are now better able to speak up and be believed, and that the men who have committed these acts are being brought to task for their behavior.   We are specially heartened by the creation of the #Metoo movement in which women who have been harassed are speaking out in ever growing numbers.  However, there is still more emphasis on the current issues, and fewer ideas presented about how to prevent mistreatment from occurring in the first place.  These ideas include changing the way boys and men are socialized that encourages them to harass and demean women, as well as the important role of bystanders to speak up about the misbehavior they observe.  There also tends to be little mention about the impact of sexual harassment and assault on women who are poor, transfemale, or from a minority group, who are often in a position where they have limited access to helpful resources or are afraid of the potential backlash against them (including losing their jobs or being further victimized).

Sexual harassment trainings, while very important, are treating the symptoms and not the cause.  Educational programs should start at the earliest possible age about how boys should treat girls.  We need to teach the general public about how the traditional socialization of boys and men and a “locker room” culture can lead to mistreatment of women.  The positive impact that bystanders can have in halting sexist behavior in personal and professional settings should be more widely known.  Managers need to be trained to take the complaints of sexual misconduct in the workplace seriously and to take action on those complaints.  Women should be encouraged to assume positions of greater power in the workplace through the support of male and female mentors and supervisors, as well as their own advocacy. Finally, men need to see themselves (and be seen) as valuable allies in the drive to stop sexual harassment from arising in any context.

As a professional organization, we are dedicated to the psychological study of men and masculinities.  We believe that it important to take an advocacy role in helping create a culture of respect for women. Members of our division are actively educating the public in a variety of ways about the value of gender equality and empathy that could prevent the problems of sexual misbehavior (ranging from misconduct to rape) from arising in the first place.  Different methods include research, professional trainings, articles in newspapers and journals, interviews in the media, workshops, blogs, and academic classes. It is our belief that through education and activism, we can reduce the incidents of sexual harassment, stop them from developing in the first place, and address them quickly when they do arise.   The time is right for all of us to step forward in whatever way we can to work towards the development and support of emotionally healthy men and improved personal and professional relations between the genders.