*This post originally appeared on Sexual Trauma Services of the Midland's blog
After giving a presentation on behalf of the Sexual Trauma Services of the Midlands, a young woman walked up to me and thanked me for coming to speak to their group. She then went on to say that it was really nice to see a man speak about preventing sexual violence as it is often seen as a woman’s issue. I was taken aback by this because men are the majority of sexual violence perpetrators so they should definitely have an active role in stopping sexual violence. Additionally, because so many men are perpetrators of sexual violence, men can offer a unique role in standing up to their peers.
Men do not even have to volunteer at a lovely place like the Sexual Trauma Services of the Midlands to prevent sexual violence (though doing so is a great idea!). Men can help prevent sexual violence from following a few steps explained by Jackson Katz, an expert in sexual violence prevention. Katz stresses how society should put the burden on men to prevent rape and sexual violence if we really want to eliminate it. He argues that blaming victims that are women instead of the male perpetrators will keep perpetuating the problem and I totally agree. Katz created a list of ten ways that men can help prevent sexual violence and I will address the first three here as I feel they can help everyone, but especially men. The first suggestion Katz has for men is:
“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.”
Like I mentioned previously, it is helpful to first see how men can play an active role in preventing gender violence because they can confront their peers. A man who does not confront other men when they express abusive behavior to women in front of them perpetuates the problem. Another suggestion from Katz is:
“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.”
When men remain silent, they tacitly approve of abusive behavior. If the perpetrator is never met with any resistance from his peers, it makes total sense that he would continue the abusive behavior. This starts with disrespectful language towards women as it creates perpetuates the notion that women are just pleasure objects for men without their own thoughts and intentions. The last tip from Katz that I'll mention here is:
“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.”
I feel like this one is difficult for many people to do, but perhaps the most important. It is tough to critically evaluate oneself. When someone accuses us of problematic behavior, we might be quick to be defensive and dismissive of their claims. However, this is counterproductive for meaningful discourse or progress of any nature. It is always important to constantly evaluate your beliefs and be willing to modify them based off of evidence. While men are not responsible for all sexual violence, they are the majority of perpetrators. Thus, men have can have a special role in preventing sexual violence by speaking up to their peers and also listening to the experiences of women.