If you logged on to social media at some point this week, you likely saw dozens of posts about #MeToo. The hashtag took off after an actress posed the question: “If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.”
Wendy Sellers believes education is the best way to prevent sexual harassment and assault.
Sellers is a retired Registered Nurse and co-author of the Michigan Model for Health. She saw a gap in health education in the United States and developed a supplementary health curriculum called Puberty: The Wonder Years for 4th, 5th and 6th graders. This curriculum is currently being taught by over 2,000 educators in schools across 28 states.
Wendy's curriculum educates students about their bodies, puberty, sexuality, respect, healthy relationships and communication.
After writing a response on her website to the #MeToo campaign, Sellers sat down with Stateside’s Lester Graham to discuss solutions to the problem of sexual harassment and assault in the United States.
See highlights of their conversation below, or listen to the full interview above.
On education as a solution to sexual harassment and assault
"We need to start young because these types of behaviors begin at a young age and continue into adulthood. And so, one of the answers to these issues is educating young people about what healthy relationships look like and how to develop the skills to have healthy relationships, as well as what to do to intervene if a person is the object of sexual harassment or sexual assault."
On removing the silence and stigmas that surround puberty and sexuality
"In our culture, we have this expectation that we will not talk about sexuality, we don’t talk about puberty. Many young people begin to experience changes that are normal and natural as they experience puberty, and they’re caught off guard by that. That creates a lot of curiosity and mocking at times.
By having repeated conversations and conversations that occur between a trusted adult and children, that can remove that stigma. So that if people do have a problem with being sexually harassed or assaulted, they’ve already developed the skills and relationships to be able to talk to someone about those things."
On the frequency of sexual harassment and assault in the U.S.
"I believe that this is so embedded in our culture that we take it for granted. While this was shocking to most men that so many women were coming out with #MeToo, it’s not shocking to most women. And it’s something women have not been encouraged to come forward about. If you look at the rates of prosecution for sexual harassment and sexual assault, the rates of prosecution and conviction are very low because many times, women have been punished for coming forward. They’ve been publicly humiliated, and their reputations have been besmirched because of victim-blaming and people not believing them."
On how men can learn from #MeToo
"I think adult men that are sincere about understanding this issue need to talk to women about it and need to try to have conversations about what is respectful behavior, what is frightening, disrespectful behavior, and how can they be supportive. I also think that men could invest some time in reading about these issues to try to understand them further. And ask a trusted partner for feedback on their own behavior, and then modify it if they get feedback of something they could improve."