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A chart about sexual assault prevention is going viral. Here’s the story behind it

Amidst the current investigation into sexual assault allegations against Judge Brett Kavanaugh, the stark contrast between what women and men say they do to prevent sexual assault have emerged on social media in the form of a chart.Saul Loeb/Pool Image via Associated Press

Whenever Jackson Katz asked people during lectures what they did each day to prevent being sexually assaulted, the responses in the “Women” column on the board would fill up fast.

“Hold my keys as a potential weapon.”

“Don’t go jogging at night.”

“Be careful not to drink too much.”

And so on.

For the men, the responses were typically more direct and didn’t go beyond a single answer: “Nothing. I don’t think about it,” they usually would say, according to Katz.

“Part of the exercise was that it illustrated just how pervasive this stuff is,” Katz, cofounder of Mentors in Violence Prevention, said in an interview with the Globe. “Women’s fears of sexual assault were a daily reality in their lives.”


In 2006, Katz used the stark contrast in answers as the preface for his book, “The Macho Paradox: Why Some Men Hurt Women and How All Men Can Help.”

But amidst the current investigation into sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh; President Trump’s comments this week about it being a “very scary time for young men” in America; and the momentum of the “Me Too” movement, the frightening comparisons have emerged on social media in the form of a chart that’s gone viral.

“It’s everywhere,” said Katz, who was the first man to earn a minor in women’s studies at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. “I was even riding in an elevator with someone earlier who said she was reading about [it].”

Katz, a leader in the global movement around how men can promote gender equality and prevent gender violence, isn’t sure of the origins of the chart that’s being widely shared online.

But in recent days, it’s been cropping up on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, often with the hashtag #believesurvivors.


“Somebody typed it out and maybe took a picture of it and then posted,” he said, “and so it’s become a powerful visual representation of inequality.”

Meanwhile, others have posted the preface from his book verbatim online.

While his name has been attached to the chart, which was based on his book and the exercise he often conducts during lectures, Katz said he can’t take full credit for the idea behind it all.

“It wasn’t completely original from me,” said Katz, who started doing the exercise in the 1990s. “What I did was I took some of the earliest feminist ideas, and then I put them together into this exercise.”

In all the years that he’s been doing the exercise, however, the results have almost always been the same.

“The men’s side is always almost completely blank, and the women’s side is always almost completely full,” he said. “I think for all of these reasons it makes sense that it would go viral.”

Katz, a Harvard Graduate School of Education graduate and North Shore native, said he’s encouraged that people are using the content on social media because it enables the message to go farther.

“How many lectures do you have to give to reach the number of people you can reach in 10 minutes on social media?” he said. “I’m an activist and activist educator, and this is education on a much wider scale than we are talking about in more traditional terms — it’s public consciousness-raising on a potentially global scale.”


He said he views the dissemination of the chart on social media as a good chance for women’s experiences with physical and sexual violence to be heard and validated, while at the same time giving men the opportunity to witness — point-blank — what women go through every day.

“And I think women are eager for that,” Katz said.

Steve Annear can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.