Tisha Swart-Entwistle | Combined Arms Center Public Affairs Office
Dr. Wendy Patrick spoke about “Organizational Approach to Eliminating Sexual Assault” during the Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention Academy Professional Forum Feb. 4 in the Lewis and Clark Center’s Marshall Lecture Hall.
Patrick is a San Diego, Calif., deputy district attorney, author, educator and international speaker and has been prosecuting cases involving sexual assault for more than 23 years.
During her years in the field, Patrick said, one of the biggest changes that has been a blessing as well as a curse is technology and the mobile devices everyone has with them all the time.
“We are able to obtain great evidence through devices now; however, the fact that we are all more tied to our devices leaves us less time to engage in the kind of perceptive skills that might help us prevent a sexual assault,” Patrick said. “Prediction is one thing, but prevention is the goal — wouldn’t it be great if we would all learn the tools we need and could become committed to being the kind of community that looks out for one another?”
Patrick said it could be as simple as paying better attention when out with friends instead of being tied to electronic or mobile devices.
She said that the majority of the cases that she sees are acquaintance rape, and the most frequently used defense is consent.
“If consent is the defense, what we really need to do on the front end is to prevent the dynamic from progressing to the point where there is going to be a case of dueling narratives at the end of the day that sometimes polarizes social groups, especially when the two belong to the same social group,” she said.
Patrick said she wants to let people know that it is important that survivors continue to be part of the work that is done in the field of sexual harassment and sexual assault. Patrick said she likes to co-present with survivors because they impart what she cannot.
“Survivors connect with victims because they’ve been there,” Patrick said. “They bring a skillset and an insight that practitioners don’t have unless they have walked in the victim’s shoes.”
Even with the “Me Too” movement and the recent high profile cases in the news involving very successful, powerful people, there is still a lot of misbehavior and there is still work that needs to be done, Patrick said.
The quarterly SHARP forums are organized by the SHARP Academy and are open to the community.