Expert on Gender and Violence To The Rescue

The Cadet Chapel at United States Air Force Ac...

The Cadet Chapel at United States Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Christopher Kilmartin, a professor from Virginia will spend the upcoming academic
year teaching courses on gender at the (USAFA) Air Force Academy to combat
sexual assaults
.

He is a psychology instructor at
the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Va., and will serve as
a visiting professor at USAFA, teaching “Men and Masculinity” in
the fall and “Interpersonal Violence” in the spring.

Neither
course is required of students. But so many have registered for the lone
section of “Men and Masculinity” that the academy is considering adding
another, said Col. Gary Packard, head of the academy’s Department of
Behavioral Sciences and Leadership.

“When I looked at his
background, he became my No. 1 candidate” for the department’s visiting
professor position, Packard said. “We need him here to deal with these
issues, especially those related to masculinity.”

Kilmartin will conduct research and consult with leaders during his time at the academy, Packard said.

Kilmartin
has previously worked with the U.S. Naval Academy to revise its sexual
assault and harassment prevention curriculum. He also wrote a script for
an Army
training film on the same topic.

His knowledge of military culture “gives him credibility right from the start,” Packard said.

Another trait Packard says will serve Kilmartin well at the academy: his sense of humor.

Kilmartin is also a stand-up comedian.

“I
think the cadets will gravitate toward him,” Packard said. “More
importantly, I think commanders and leadership will connect with him as
well.”

During Kilmartin’s two-plus decades of teaching courses on masculinity, the majority of his students have been females.

That’s less likely to be the case at the academy, where the majority of students are male.

“One
of the biggest struggles in teaching that area is getting men into the
room,” said Kilmartin, the author of the textbook “The Masculine Self.”

“The
way gender roles are constructed, a lot of men don’t feel comfortable
expressing interest in it. It takes a pretty self-aware man to get
interested in gender.”

Kilmartin’s fall class will examine how
masculinity is constructed, how men are socialized and how individuals
form gender ideology.

“There’s a lot of theory in the first part”
of the class, he said. “The second part includes discussion of men’s
issues: work, mental health, physical health, relationships, sexuality,
violence, and contemporary topics like the prison problem, pornography
and prostitution.”

As part of their coursework, Kilmartin will
assign his students to journal about gender stereotypes they observe in
their everyday lives.

“It’s a really powerful assignment, he said.
“By mid-semester, they realize it’s everywhere. Then they get mad at me
because they think they can’t watch TV anymore.

“Before, they
tend to look at things uncritically. When they get a new pair of lenses
to look at the world,
it can be annoying. You can pay a price for it,
but it can be of enormous benefit as well.”

His spring class will
offer an opportunity to examine violence committed by males, a topic
that is often overlooked because “people in dominate groups have the
luxury of having their identity remain invisible,” Kilmartin said.

It will also examine the origins and consequences of, and remedies to, interpersonal violence, he added.

Kilmartin’s
short-term goal is to increase sexual assault reporting rates at the
academy so that perpetrators, most of whom are serial offenders, are
stopped, he said.

“I’m not going to come in there and do magic,
but I’d like to do something,” he said. “Sometimes we forget that these
are young adults
, that many of them don’t have a lot of experience with
relationships and sexuality. We forget that because we put them in
uniform and they look like these machines and we think they have it all
together. But they’re kids in some ways. We need to talk with them like
kids.”

His ultimate goal is to “take a public health approach and
reduce the incidence of sex assault at the academy and the military at
large
.”

Arming cadets with knowledge on the topics of gender and violence isn’t just the right thing to do, he said.

It’s good for their careers.

“We
wouldn’t dream of sending leaders out into the world without computer
skills, management skills, leadership abilities,” he said. “There is no
way any commander is going to get out in the world and not have to deal
with people in his or her command who are women, who are gay men,
lesbians, maybe even someone transgendered.

“If you don’t
understand these different forms of identity and how they play out in
your organization, you’re just not going to be a good commander.”

During
the 2011-2012 academic year, sex assault reports involving Air Force
Academy cadets increased by about 50 percent over the previous academic
year,
accounting for the majority of reported assaults across the
nation’s three military academies
, according to a Defense Department
report released late last year. (NOTE: West Point, Annapolis, and AFA at Colorado Springs are not the only military academies in the U.S.. There is a Coast Guard Academy at New London, CT..)

Cadets have attended annual sexual
assault prevention training since 2005. An increase in reporting rates
is a sign that those training sessions are working, victim advocate at
the academy told The Gazette in January. (By Erin Prater)

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One thought on “Expert on Gender and Violence To The Rescue

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