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Mentoring Marines to prevent sexist and violent behavior against women: a leadership program in the Family Life Development Center trains senior Marines to mentor their fellow Marines in holding themselves to a respectful code of conduct toward women.

The scenario titled "Illegal Motion" starts out like this:

"At a party, you see a squad member trying to get an obviously drunk woman to have sex with him. She's not just buzzed; she's stumbling over her own feet. You know the woman--a civilian--and she seems reluctant."

The hypothetical bystanders are then asked: As a Marine, what should I do in this situation?

The only unacceptable option is to do nothing.

Getting men to step up to the plate when women are verbally harassed, and worse, is the idea behind a sports playbook of 13 scenarios depicting common forms of violence against women: from verbal harassment ("Talkin' Trash") and pressure for sex ("Blocking the Plate") to battering ("Slapshot") and gang rape ("Piling On").

"Ninety percent of Marines have been in at least some of these situations," writes one young Marine who took part in guided discussions that started with reading a scenario and imagining what he would do were he the unwitting witness. "The scenarios are right on target," he goes on, "they put the person who needs to act in a gut-wrenching situation."

And so they should do, explains Brian Leidy, principal investigator and director of the Family Life Development Center's Mentors in Violence Prevention--Marine Corps (MVP-MC) Project. This program was created at the Corps' request to ratchet-up male leadership in what has traditionally been characterized as "women issues."

"Most men think that other men think a lot of this behavior is OK," Leidy says. "They assume they are the only guy in the room who thinks it's wrong."

But participants quickly learn otherwise when their senior noncommissioned officers--who initiate the discussion--and their fellow Marines share what's on their minds. A bystander's "train of thought" is included to jumpstart the discussion as well as introduce key concepts, including relevant aspects of the military code and civilian law.

In the case of the "Illegal Motion" scenario, it goes like this:

"They're both adults. But she can't be fully consenting if she's drunk, can she? What about my relationship to the guy? Is he older than me? What's his rank? Does that matter? Will he even listen to me? Is it part of my responsibility as a squad member and/or friend to provide him with some guidance? After all, Marines are supposed to help Marines. What, if anything, am I supposed to do in a situation like this?"

When senior Marines put their junior Marines on the spot in this way, it sends a strong message that they don't condone sexist or violent behavior. And it provides an opportunity for young men to discover a lot of their peers don't either.

A list of options for action makes up the third component of the training. In this case, five suggested actions start the discussion and include talking to the squad member about intoxication and legal consent and urging one or more of the woman's friends to take her home. The group is encouraged to come up with additional options. As each is discussed, senior Marines make clear which are the responsible choices.

"We know men will change their behavior if given 'permission' to do so by men with more status in the male hierarchy," Leidy explains. "It imparts the idea that you don't have to be the alpha male to step in."

What's more, the discussions serve to quell young men who might, themselves, be inclined to be disrespectful or abusive toward women, since they now know that their leaders disapprove and are watching. Also, playbook scenarios highlight the power of the bystander, sending the message loud and clear: if you don't contribute to the solution, you're contributing to the problem.


Even so, discussion leaders are trained not to shy away from talking through the real-world consequences of standing up against a fellow Marine, especially, says Leidy, when the guy is pursuing the kind of sexual conquests he's been brought up to believe are part and parcel of American manhood.

In male youth culture, late adolescents and young adults--who make up the Marine Corps talent pool--spend a lot of time coaching each other on how to "score," Leidy points out. "Most times you aren't tagged a hero for being the stand-up guy, so we talk about that," Leidy says. "There's a lot to overcome: fear of physical reprisals, of being ostracized."

Yet Leidy counts on the fact that with the right modeling from senior Marines, a young man's pride in being a Marine and his desire to exemplify the Marine Corps Code of Conduct will win out.

"The code--honor, courage, and commitment--is a very high one," Leidy says. "As part of it, Marines are taught moral courage, the responsibility to stand up and do the right thing, even if unpopular, and especially if it keeps another Marine from getting in trouble."

Essential to Marines' toolbox Marine Corps Headquarters staff view MVP-MC training as an essential part of a Marine's toolbox, alongside knowing how to assemble their rifle. MVP-MC, which was first introduced into the Marine Corps in 1996 as part of a larger domestic violence prevention initiative, was thrust into greater prominence after the invasion of Iraq.

An alarming rise in sexual assaults in the war theater prompted the Department of Defense to convene a 90-day task force of all branches of the service in early 2004. Each service was directed to select and train uniformed victim advocates to provide support to military men and women in the field. One outcome for the Marine Corps was the creation of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, which now contracts for MVP-MC directly with the Family Life Development Center (FLDC).

"FLDC's extension audience is the men and women of the armed services and their families, wherever they are in the world," says co-principal investigator Marney Thomas, a senior extension associate, who for the past 14 years has been director of FLDC Military Projects for the Army and Marine Corps.

Over the years the FLDC has created command briefings and training materials for military service members and military family support providers, conducted research on new parent support programs, studied various prevention strategies for child and spouse abuse, and is currently evaluating some of the effects of parental deployment on family stress and coping. A major focus in the last several years has been to teach evaluation strategies to installation staff as they document outcomes for a wide variety of programs that support military families including coping with relocation and deployment, spouse employment, financial readiness, and special programs for families who have adults and children with exceptional needs.

Known for their expertise in advocacy in the areas of child and spouse abuse, Thomas and her military projects staff at FLDC were asked to develop the core training for the Army's Unit Victim Advocates, uniformed personnel who support military victims of violence in a deployed environment. As a result of the new Department of Defense regulations, sexual assault victims in all services can choose to get confidential help without a requirement to report to law enforcement or the chain of command.

It's the FLDC's access to evidence-based information that the military finds so valuable.

"They see the university as being objective in providing the kind of training and technical assistance it offers; we're not invested in any one approach," Thomas says.

Train the trainer The long-term goal of MVP-MC is to change the institutional culture of the Marine Corps. For this reason, the playbooks are introduced in a "train the trainer" format to instructors at all of the Marine Corps Staff Noncommissioned Officer Academies in the continental United States, Hawaii, and on Okinawa. As MVP-MC trainers, the Academy instructors then teach the program to senior enlisted personnel who come to the schools to take courses pursuant to a promotion to a higher rank. These individuals--sergeants, staff sergeants, and gunnery sergeants--then return to the fleet and use the concepts and playbooks with Marines under their immediate command.

To date, 2,350 Marines have been introduced to the program, and 600 Marines have been trained as trainers. More than 20,000 Marines have gone through the program and they are encouraged at the end of the session to keep the playbook in their locker and join the discussion whenever and wherever it occurs. (Training material also includes the legal definitions of assault, informed consent, rape, etc., which most young men don't know.)

Leidy administers pre-training attitude surveys and conducts evaluation interviews at the end of the two-day session, following up with the newly trained instructors over the next six months to document the implementation of the program. The program itself, the training sessions, and the materials all get high marks for effectiveness: Marines report awareness is heightened and behaviors changed. The materials are constantly evolving to reflect new situations and the changes mandated by the Department of Defense for restricted reporting and changing support systems for domestic violence and sexual assault victims.

"We've found the bystander approach, which doesn't point the finger at individuals, works with 90 to 95 percent of men," Leidy notes. "It says, 'We know most men and Marines are honorable people who will stand up and do the right thing.'"

more information?

Brian Leidy

Cornell University

Family Life Development Center

First Floor Beebe Hall

Ithaca, NY 14850


Marney Thomas

Cornell University

Family Life Development Center

First Floor Beebe Hall

Ithaca, NY, 14850


RELATED ARTICLE: Community Education Projects Lead the Way

1 Relatives as Parents

The number of grandparents stepping in to care for grandchildren when their own parents falter is startling. More than six million American children, 143,000 of them in New York State, are cared for by kin--most often grandparents--when divorce, death, immaturity, mental illness, teen pregnancy, substance and physical abuse, and even prison sentences render their own mothers and fathers unable to provide a stable and secure home.

In the three counties of the Mid-Hudson Valley alone, more than 4,500 grandparent caregivers face a host of challenges in caring for children who suffer from the loss of their own parents and are themselves often sick and disabled. How to afford the medical, psychological, and developmental services those children require without jeopardizing their own financial footing is but one of the many issues with which grandparents receive guidance from Cornell Cooperative Extension's Relatives as Parents Program (RAPP).

Through informal get-togethers and one-on-one information sessions, RAPP offers personal and emotional support as well as an array of legal, financial, medical, advocacy, and networking information needed for individuals to be effective parents under those circumstances. All services are free.

The content of the RAPP program is disseminated through Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) educators in Orange, Ulster, and Dutchess counties (with similar efforts getting underway in 20 other CCE associations). Information is continually revitalized by the latest research findings of college faculty, notes Josephine Swanson, associate director of Cornell Cooperative Extension and assistant dean of extension and outreach for the College of Human Ecology.

"In that way, it remains fresh and innovative because there is the constant infusion of new information," Swanson notes.

Rachel Dunifon, an associate professor in the Department of Policy Analysis and Management who is an expert in family social and economic well-being, is the most recent faculty member to join the lead educator Denyse Variano of Orange County on the seven-year-old RAPP program. Dunifon recently received the prestigious W. T. Grant Young Scholars Award to conduct research on the role of grandparents in the lives of adolescent grandchildren.

"Being part of RAPP gives me a unique opportunity to take my research on grandparent caregivers and apply it to the 'real world,'" Dunifon says.


2 Energy Efficiency

Skyrocketing fuel bills create an urgent problem facing many New Yorkers. In response to this widespread problem, the internationally renowned housing specialist Joseph Laquatra, the Hazel E. Reed Human Ecology Extension Professor in Family Policy in the Department of Design and Environmental Analysis, spearheaded a partnership with the New York State Energy and Research Development Authority (NYSERDA) to create the Consumer Education Program for Residential Energy Efficiency.

"This program has mobilized our local associations of Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) throughout New York State to respond effectively to concerns people have about rising energy costs. We are able to apply the latest research findings about energy efficiency to help people lower their bills by an average of 40 percent."

In 2003, the first year of the program, extension educators in 23 counties and New York City got the message out about how to become more energy efficient to 1.3 million homeowners, home buyers, tenants, students, and builders and other housing professionals. Today, that number has risen to 15 million individuals in 35 participating counties.

CCE educators--among them Jeanne Darling, executive director of CCE in Delaware County--conduct public education workshops, foster media contacts, and answer individuals' questions. In addition, they promote New York Energy $mart[SM], a NYSERDA initiative that seeks to overcome market barriers, to increase supply, and to stimulate the demand for energy-efficiency products and services and renewable resource technologies. The New York Energy $mart[SM] Loan Program offers an interest rate reduction of up to 4 percent from participating lender rates to residential and commercial borrowers to encourage energy-efficient improvements and renewable technologies.

3 Youth Development

Advancing Youth Development (AYD), another faculty-led Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) program, creates coalitions to bring broad-based support to individuals serving the needs of New York's youth population.

"The AYD Partnership demonstrates that cooperative leadership from state agencies and systems can provide efficient, low-cost, and high-quality professional development for adults who work with young people," says principal investigator Stephen Goggin, a senior extension associate in the Department of Human Development. The principal partnership members include CCE, New York State Office of Children and Family Services, the Association of New York State Youth Bureaus, and ACT for Youth Upstate Center of Excellence located in the college's Family Life Development Center (FLDC). Jutta Dotterweich of the FLDC directs the program with Kay Telfer, Broome County CCE educator, as the co-director.

The program aims to institutionalize positive principles of youth development in New York State agencies, increase community networks that serve youth, and recognize and bolster the professionalism of youth workers. More than 2,200 community youth workers across the state have participated in AYD training, and interagency training teams deliver local training in virtually all New York State counties.

A recently completed five-year retrospective study makes clear the program works. Report data show that "youth workers are integrating new concepts in their work with youth, feel validated as professionals, and are moving from a problem focus to a mind-set that recognizes youth strengths, capabilities, creativity, and energy."

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Author:Winter, Metta
Publication:Human Ecology
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2006
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