What Men Can Do to Prevent Sexual Violence
All men can play a vital role in rape prevention. Here are a few of the ways:
- Be aware of language. Words are very powerful, especially when spoken by people with power over others. We live in a society in which words are often used to put women down, where calling a girl or woman a "bitch," "freak," "whore," "baby," or "dog" is common. Such language sends a message that females are less than fully human. When we see women as inferior, it becomes easier to treat them with less respect, disregard their rights, and ignore their well-being.
- Communicate. Sexual violence often goes hand in hand with poor communication. Our discomfort with talking honestly and openly about sex dramatically raises the risk of rape. By learning effective sexual communication -- stating your desires clearly, listening to your partner, and asking when the situation is unclear -- men make sex safer for themselves and others.
- Speak up. You will probably never see a rape in progress, but you will see and hear attitudes and behaviors that degrade women and promote rape. When your best friend tells a joke about rape, say you don't find it funny. When you read an article that blames a rape survivor for being assaulted, write a letter to the editor. When laws are proposed that limit women's rights, let politicians know that you won't support them. Do anything but remain silent.
- Support survivors of rape. Rape will not be taken seriously until everyone knows how common it is. In the U.S. alone, more than one million women and girls are raped each year (Rape in America, 1992). By learning to sensitively support survivors in their lives, men can help both women and other men feel safer to speak out about being raped and let the world know how serious a problem rape is.
- Contribute your time and money. Join or donate to an organization working to prevent violence against women. Rape crisis centers, domestic violence agencies, and men's anti-rape groups count on donations for their survival and always need volunteers to share the workload.
- Talk with women... about how the risk of being raped affects their daily lives; about how they want to be supported if it has happened to them; about what they think men can do to prevent sexual violence. If you're willing to listen, you can learn a lot from women about the impact of rape and how to stop it.
- Talk with men... about how it feels to be seen as a potential rapist; about the fact that 10-20% of all males will be sexually abused in their lifetimes; about whether they know someone who's been raped. Learn about how sexual violence touches the lives of men and what we can do to stop it.
- Organize. Form your own organization of men focused on stopping sexual violence. Men's anti-rape groups are becoming more and more common around the country, especially on college campuses. If you have the time and the drive, it is a wonderful way to make a difference in your community.
- Work against other oppressions. Rape feeds off many other forms of prejudice -- including racism, homophobia, and religious discrimination. By speaking out against any beliefs and behaviors, including rape, that promote one group of people as superior to another and deny other groups their full humanity, you support everyone's equality.
- Don't ever have sex with anyone against their will! No matter what. Although statistics show most men never rape, the overwhelming majority of rapists are male. Make a promise to yourself to be a different kind of man -- one who values equality and whose strength is not used for hurting.
From Men Can Stop Rape
Jackson Katz, a leading sexual violence prevention educator, suggests these ten things:
- Approach gender violence as a men's issue involving men of all ages and socioeconomic, racial and ethnic backgrounds. View men not only as perpetrators or possible offenders, but as empowered bystanders who can confront abusive peers.
- If a brother, friend, classmate, or teammate is abusing his female partner-or is disrespectful or abusive to girls and women in general-don't look the other way. If you feel comfortable doing so, try to talk to him about it. Urge him to seek help. Or if you don't know what to do, consult a friend, a parent, a professor, or a counselor. Don't Remain Silent.
- Have the courage to look inward. Question your own attitudes. Don't be defensive when something you do or say ends up hurting someone else. Try hard to understand how your own attitudes and actions might inadvertently perpetuate sexism and violence, and work toward changing them.
- If you suspect that a woman close to you is being abused or has been sexually assaulted, gently ask if you can help.
- If you are emotionally, psychologically, physically, or sexually abusive to women, or have been in the past, seek professional help now.
- Be an ally to women who are working to end all forms of gender violence. Support the work of campus-based women's centers. Attend "Take Back the Night" rallies and other public events. Raise money for community-based rape crisis centers and battered women's shelters. If you belong to a team or fraternity, or another student group, organize a fundraiser.
- Recognize and speak out against homophobia and gay-bashing. Discrimination and violence against lesbians and gays are wrong in and of themselves. This abuse also has direct links to sexism (e.g. the sexual orientation of men who speak out against sexism is often questioned; a conscious or unconscious strategy intended to silence them. This is a key reason few men do so).
- Attend programs, take courses, watch films, and read articles and books about multicultural masculinities, gender inequality, and the root causes of gender violence. Educate yourself and others about how larger social forces affect the conflicts between individual men and women.
- Don't fund sexism. Refuse to purchase any magazine, rent any video, subscribe to any Web site, or buy any music that portrays girls or women in a sexually degrading or abusive manner. Protest sexism in the media.
- Mentor and teach young boys about how to be men in ways that don't involve degrading or abusing girls and women. Volunteer to work with gender violence prevention programs, including anti-sexist men's programs. Lead by example.
A few more pointers from a volunteer at The Listening Ear, a sexual assault counseling center in Mt. Pleasant, MI:
- Be Aware of Language: Language is a tool to dehumanize others. Referring to women as "whores," "ho's," "sluts," "cunts," "bitches," etc. causes men to stop seeing woman as human and start seeing women as mere sexual objects. This is one of the first steps in rationalizing sexual assault.
- Be Aware of Actions: Unwanted grabbing, kissing, pinching, and fondling are all forms of sexual violation. Men are often taught that these actions are acceptable when performed "in good fun." But nobody has the right to violate another person's body. And if you're not sure a woman is comfortable with something, ask!
- Don't Give Up: Sexual assault is an overwhelming problem, but every voice makes a difference.
Men Can Stop Rape - Seeking to mobilize male youth to prevent men's violence against women.
Men Stopping Rape - Actively involving men in the eradication of sexual violence.
Men Stopping Violence - A social change organization dedicated to ending men's violence against women.
One in Four - Formerly known as NO MORE RAPE, One in Four provides rape prevention programming.
White Ribbon Campaign - The largest world-wide effort of men working to end men's violence against women.
Male Survivor - Preventing, healing, and eliminating sexual victimization of boys and men.