Male Responsibility: Taking Ownership of Sexual Assault on Campus
Image credits: International Socialist Review.
Men, this one is for us.
We have a serious problem on our hands. This problem manifests itself in all settings and in all walks of life, but is all too apparent on university campuses. That problem is our inability to stop committing sexual assault and other acts of gendered violence.
It’s time we take a serious look in the mirror and acknowledge that male perpetuated assault in university is a systemic and chronic problem. And it doesn’t just happen by itself; it happens because of the decisions we make and the actions we take. It happens because of the rape culture we have created.
Campuses should be the safest of spaces, but in reality they are anything but. It’s time we stop searching for excuses and admit that this is our problem.
Before going any further, I know what some of you are thinking: “Women commit sexual assault as well.” Sure they do, but the rates are nowhere near the same. SACHA, a sexual assault center based in Ontario, estimates that “between 15% to 25% of North American college and university-aged women will experience some form of sexual assault during their academic career.” These numbers are already extremely high, but even still they fail to paint the entire picture. Due to a lack of support resources for victims and for a fear of being victim-blamed or targeted further, a large majority of assault cases on university campuses go unreported. Recognizing that the rate of reported cases was extremely low, the University of Ottawa conducted an internal survey and found that “as many as 44 percent of female students experienced some form of sexual violence or unwanted sexual touching while attending the university.” Campuses should be the safest of spaces, but in reality they are anything but. It’s time we stop searching for excuses and admit that this is our problem.
Building a consensual environment means more than watching one training video at the beginning of your undergrad. It means abiding by those principles on a daily basis. It means talking about it with your friends. It means contacting the proper disciplinary authorities when you see or hear about a situation of assault. It means being an ally and providing whatever support you can.
Sexual assault and other gendered violence can be perpetrated by anyone: your friend in your dorm; someone you met in your Frosh group; a teammate; a classmate; someone in your club; someone who you advocated with politically and who you thought shared your values; the president of your student union. We have to be aware. We have to realize that our male privilege manifests itself in so many ways that, for the most part, one may not even realize.
We have to be aware. We have to realize that our male privilege manifests itself in so many ways that, for the most part, one may not even realize.
Males on university campuses need to take ownership of the damage we cause as a result of sexual assault. We have to hold our educational institutions to higher disciplinary standards but we must also make the hard decision to report our friends when we see or hear about cases of assault. There is simply no excuse for perpetrating or refusing to report sexual or gendered violence. There is no excuse for standing by and offering nothing but vague platitudes condemning specific acts - our opposition must be comprehensive and decisive. We cannot deem it acceptable to steal someone’s future from them. We have to be better. ALL OF US.