Mothers as Agents of Social Change in the Movement Against Sexual Violence
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My dissertation examines how the #MeToo movement is changing generational understandings of sexual violence. Through this research, I examine how sexual violence is both a cause and a consequence of systemic gender and race inequality. Using eighteen in-depth semi-structured interviews of mothers with at least one child aged five-years or older, I investigate three sets of questions. First, how are mothers evaluating their own experiences with sexual violence post #MeToo movement? Second, how is sexual violence part of mother-child conversations about sexual behavior? Third, how do mothers; social location contribute to how they feel about the #MeToo movement and how they teach their children about sexual violence? My findings suggest mothers are transmitting new understandings of sexual violence to their children. Specifically, mothers are teaching their children that appropriate touch, sexual or nonsexual, cannot be determined using a binary yes or no standard of consent. Their approach to sex education is driven by their own experiences with sex that was violating and/or nonconsensual and consideration of their own and their children's social location. Overall, my findings demonstrate the #MeToo movement and other associated events have ushered in a change in mothers' rape consciousness which is facilitating change in children's sex education. If successful, mothers will have contributed to decreased prevalence of sexual violence as these children age into adolescence and adulthood.