There’s been a lot of talk posted recently about sexual harassment policies, rape jokes, and the like. Somehow people have developed the idea that complaining about harassment is the root problem, and that it’s ok to make jokes about sexual assault. The handful of people who have spoken out against these ideas have been attacked and threatened online. Perhaps this is a general symptom of the internet’s distance and relative anonymity, but I see it as something far worse: a pervasive idea that sexual assault is a women’s problem, and they should deal with it silently and in private.
Sexual assault is not exclusively a woman’s problem. While the vast and unfortunate majority of reported victims are women, at least one estimate states that roughly 10% of sexual assault victims in the US are male. According to the CDC, 6% of men experience sexual coercion at some point in life. Our machismo culture may even be skewing the reports, as some authors suspect that even fewer men are willing to come forward than women.
Today, that ends for me.
I, a straight male Caucasian, am a survivor of sexual harassment/assault.
I was roughly 10 years old and going door to door in my neighborhood to raise sponsorships for a charity walk. At one house, the old man invited me inside and asked for my sales pitch. [I’m shaking as I write this, so I am going to skip the intermediate details. Suffice that he made me kiss him on the lips, then went upstairs to “get his wallet.” At that point I fled the house, returned home, and told my parents. They chose not to make a report. Thankfully, I never saw him again.]
I know that I am very fortunate, in that the nature of the assault was far more limited than most suffer. However it was assault. It was wrong.
Why am I announcing this to the world? I can’t possibly expect justice so long after the fact. I have long ago come to terms with the experience and accepted that I was not at fault, that he was wrong, and that I can continue a normal life. Yet the recent uproar in JREF and other groups clearly shows that sexual assault is stigmatized as a “woman’s problem”, be it rape, harassment, inequitable treatment, or a lack of support for victims. This is wrong, and I believe this is part of why so many men refuse to take a stand against it. Even laying aside the HUGE issue that harassment and assault are simply wrong behaviors, men need to realize that they are potential victims as well. On those grounds alone, ‘enlightented self interest’ should make them stand up and speak out.
Guys, if you won’t stand against harassment for the women’s sake, then stand against it for your own.