For far too long, sexual assault has been a women’s issue and all of the responsibility has been placed on women. While it is true that women are more likely than men to be sexually assaulted, putting the responsibility on women (typically the victims) completely ignores men’s role in sexual assault (typically the perpetrators) and contributes to victim-blaming.
There are many actions men can take to combat sexual assault, primarily educating themselves on the prevalence and harmful effects of sexual violence. Many men feel as if sexual assault won’t happen to them and therefore won’t affect them, so they live without the ingrained fear many females grow up learning. While men may not view themselves in the role of the victim of sexual assault, they can act in the role of advocate, ally, bystander, and/or intervener.
When men take a stand against sexual assault, it changes the social norms in their friend groups and communities. Men can speak out against sexual assault and shut down rape jokes, making their fellow male friends and peers change their views, and potentially join the cause. When we allow rape jokes to be said, we perpetuate a rape culture. We create a hostile and unsafe environment that allows sexual assault to be deemed acceptable.
This summer I will be working at White Ribbon, a nonprofit in Sydney, Australia that focuses on men’s roles in combatting and preventing violence against women, including sexual assault and domestic violence. I’m looking forward to learning firsthand what actions White Ribbon takes to encourage men to join the cause.