Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Preventing Sexual Assault Begins by Educating Men

 I’ve heard some appalling statistics about sexual assault out there:

  • 1 in 4 women will be sexually assaulted in college.
  • 44% of victims are under the age of 18 and 80% under 30
  • 54% of sexual assaults are never reported to police
  • 97% of rapists will never spend a day in jail

To Prevent Sexual Assault, Educate Men

Countless resources reach out to women about sexual assault: steps to prevent getting sexually assaulted, how do defend yourself if being sexually assaulted, where to go for help if you have been sexually assaulted, there are even apps for your phone to call for help. These are great and all, but they ignore the real issue. The problem with sexual assault isn’t the women, it’s the men who are doing the assaulting. I’m speaking very generally here for there are indeed women who sexually assault, and men who are victims of assault; but 99% of cases are from men against women.

Most women who are sexually assaulted think it is their fault for some reason, and society completely cuts men out of the equation when dealing on the subject of sexual abuse. In a way, it’s almost like society waves the issue as if men will be men and there’s nothing we can do to change their inherent nature to sexually assault women. Society treats it like taking preventative measures against a natural disaster. But it’s not natural.

All men were once boys. Innocent children with wide eyes. They weren’t born with an inherent desire to rape and assault women, so where did the idea come from? Multiple factors in society nurture and shape our boys into men. A paper by Alan D. Berkowitz points out how men struggle with their own masculinity and identity and the tendency to devalue and objectify women is a direct result of them trying to fit into their psychological idea of virility.

Berkowitz argues that the way to truly approach rape prevention is by addressing men, not just women. He also believes reaching out to men will not be as hard as it might seem, for men suffer extreme gender role conflicts to fit into their perceived masculine ideal. Encouraging men to open up about their discomfort of fitting into this ideal could potentially be the key to major preventative measures. However, he stresses that men who have a history of sexual assault need more intense medical and judicial measures.

Gang Rape Amongst Groups of Young Men

The Steubenville Rape Case hit the media last August and opened up the nation’s eyes to a subject that’s normally swept under the rug. I’m sure you’ve heard of it. A high school football team gang raped a team member’s ex-girlfriend while she lay unconscious, and shared pictures and photos bragging about the event on social media sites. There are a lot of other factors that made the event even more horrific and significant, but what terrifies me the most is that this team was self-proclaimed as the “Rape Crew” having had a history of doing this sort of this in the past.

It terrifies me that it was a sports team full of testosterone-filled boys trying to prove their masculinity to the others by defiling a young girl.

  • 55% of gang rape occurs by fraternities
  • 40% by sports teams
  • 5% by other groups

You can’t deny that there is a correlation here. Fraternities and sports teams are groups where boys fraternize as a way to develop friendships as well as learn how to grow up as men together. Generally, society frowns upon men getting in touch with their feelings and opening up with their emotions. This is considered feminine and, in society’s eyes, a negative. Instead, they are forced to prove their manliness by keeping emotions inside and prove they are big, strong, and dominant in comparison to the rest. Sports teams and fraternities are particular outlets where boys can get in touch with their primitive cave men roots; and if they have any qualms about what they do in their groups, they smother them in fear of appearing weak. It’s honestly a confusing situation for men. Women are more fortunate to live in a society that approves of them sharing emotions and inner thoughts.

What Now?

As a society, we need to teach our men that they can be masculine without objectifying women, and give them freedom to express their emotions without feeling weak or scrutinized for it. Not only will this ultimately reduce the amount of sexual assaults, but create healthier and more mentally stable men.