KENT, Ohio — Two weeks ago, I attended a conference on sexual assault. The conference was being held in regards to a female activist who had been sexually assaulted by a man that many local activists knew and trusted.
Going into the conference, no one was prepared for what we would experienced. The men listened as woman after woman told their painful, personal and horrific stories of being raped, abused, violated,, attacked and sexually assaulted..
Many had never shared these experiences before, or had told only a few people. I wish I could relate these heartbreaking stories to you,, but they are not mine to tell. These women showed an amazing amount of courage and trust by exposing their innermost wounds to us.
Everyone at the conference was an activist, and many of us were currently working on sexism issues. We already knew the shocking statistics. According to John Hopkins University, we knew that at least one in three women have been assaulted.
According to the “Rape in
America” report, We also knew that in the United States, more than one million women and girls are raped each year, usually by people they know. We even knew that these statistics were vastly underestimated because many survivors are afraid to report the crime. After knowing this information, we were still stunned when we heard the testimonies of the women we knew and cared about.
I already understood that sexual assault is a very serious issue, but now it’s personal. I want all the men reading this, to realize that this is personal to them also. You may or may not experience being sexually assaulted (– it happens to at least one in 10 males), but somebody you care about probably will. In fact, chances are they already have.
Another thing we need to realize is that violence against women is not an isolated phenomenon. It is an inevitable symptom of a sexist, patriarchal and misogynistic culture that glorifies the domination of women.
Rape thrives because we allow it to.
Keeping these two points in mind, I challenge men to think about how they contribute to a rape culture and how that affects the women in their lives.
Every time you laugh at a sexist joke, use disrespectful slurs or objectify women, think of your girlfriend, your daughter, your sister, your grandmother and realize that you’re encouraging other men to hurt the women you love.
Men must take action to stop violence against women.
We can do this by examining our own lives, making sure we’re respectful and consensual in all of our actions.
We can confront sexism and pro-rape messages whenever we see them.
We can talk to (and LISTEN to) the women in our lives about these issues, and support survivors in any way possible. We can join groups that fight sexism and other forms of oppression.