Men Can Help Fight Sexual Assault Against Women, Too
Sexual assault is increasingly becoming a discussed issue. More advice than ever is dispensed towards potential victims―most frequently, female victims. Women are told where is and isn’t a safe place to be, how to dress and how to interact with men. These lessons are well-intended–after all, the goal in mind is to prevent sexual assaults. In a way, teaching women how to avoid these situations should theoretically empower them. However, this is entirely the wrong approach to this problem.
The fact that males aren’t rigorously taught that they have control over these situations, that the assailant is the one instigating the attack, is a serious problem that will impede advancement in the decrease of sexual assaults. This generation has been much more compassionate towards bullied children than any other previous generation. Though there are still people who tell the bullied to “toughen up” or fight their aggressors, there is also an increase of awareness of the devastation this takes on the child.
Do we criticize a child for being the smallest in his class? For being different? For incurring a random wrath based solely upon perceptions of his vulnerability? Rarely. And when someone blames the bullied, it is considered insensitive and offensive, and the person is publicly shamed for being cruel.
Nearly every day, there is a story about a preteen or teen who attempted (or committed) suicide because of relentless bullying, and for the first time in American history, this has become a prosecutable offense.
We are acknowledging that it is not the victim’s fault but the aggressor’s. Anti-bullying campaigns have sprung up all over the nation and that is essential to the improvement of our society. Yet, why hasn’t this happened more with sexual assaults? It is not an easy topic to discuss, but it needs to be discussed more to ameliorate a stigma, sexual assault needs to be faced head-on.
Even side-stepping the notions of problematic views on masculinity and femininity, slut-shaming and rape culture, there is still a very disturbing conclusion to be drawn: Decreasing sexual violence starts with educating potential attackers, and we almost never do.
Let’s talk about the case of Stacey Rambold, the teacher in Montana who raped his 14 year-old student who subsequently committed suicide. This travesty finally put the struggle of rape survivors in the spotlight, albeit via tragic means of a painful life cut much too short. An article from the NY Daily News dated April 30th spoke of the public backlash that occurred when Rambold was sentenced for merely 30 days. The attention on this heinous case is inspiring because finally a sexual assault case is widely talked about and inciting public fury.
The case has since been kicked up to the Montana Supreme Court, which has ruled that the punishment was absurdly miniscule. Nevertheless, there are still enormous problems, including a link at the bottom I used for reference which reads: “…a district judge misruled when he sentenced Stacey Rambold to days in jail for sex without consent with one of his students.” Last time I checked, “sex without consent” is considered rape. The euphemism, which promotes negative ideas about sexual assault, is completely unacceptable.
However, the star-studded “1 is 2 Many” PSA created by the White House, which came out on April 29th, inspires hope in how society treats these crimes. Social change begins at the grassroots level: Ordinary citizens who seek to change things. The more the issue is discussed and faced head-on, the easier it is for victims to speak up and get help before suicide is a consideration.
This is an issue that will always be present, but it can be reduced by help from very high-up places, which encourage men to be mindful of their actions, not just as potential perpetrators but as bystanders, too. Such attention breathes new life into a tragically common struggle that plagues not only women, but society as a whole.
1 is 2 Many PSA