May is Sexualized Assault Prevention month and once again we’re talking about women.
Don’t men also suffer from unwanted touching, sexual harassment and even rape? Isn’t it problematic that our society doesn’t provide safe spaces for male victims to openly share how they have been violated?
Both are valid questions.
Yet this doesn’t change the fact that, according to a 2013 StatsCan report, Canadian women are 10 times more likely than men to be the victim of sexual assault and four times more likely than men to be victims of intimate partner homicide. Or that 82% of all victims of sexual assault under the age of 18 are female.
It doesn’t change the fact that in 99% of incidents of sexual violence against women in Canada the accused perpetrator was male. Or that in 75% of sexual assaults the female victim knew her attacker.
It doesn’t change the fact that sexual assault is the only violent crime in Canada that is not declining.
For a long time I felt that sexualized violence against women is not an issue I need care about because I don’t feel I’m in danger of sexually assaulting a woman. Many men I talk to about this feel similarly: “I’m a good guy. I don’t act this way, so this is not really my issue.”
What drew me into becoming involved with White Ribbon Yukon, part of the largest effort of men in the world working to end violence against women, was the growing awareness that I know, work alongside, and care about many amazing women. I would be devastated if any one of them suffered violence or sexualized violence. I would be ashamed if I had done nothing to prevent it.
I would be ashamed because I had not stepped forward to engage in conversations about how to make things better, how to “flip the script” – the theme of the Yukon Sexualized Assault Prevention month campaign. Being ashamed that I had not contributed a single ounce of energy to raising awareness that sexualized violence is not okay; that we urgently need to make conversations around consent part of our daily lives, part of our sex education. Being ashamed that I had wasted time feeling hurt because #NotAllMen commit sexual violence instead of spending any time at all considering the awful fact #YesAllWomen experience some form of it in their lifetime.
Rape, harassment, unwanted touching, stealthing (the practice of removing a condom during intercourse without a partner’s consent), feeling entitled to sex because of the drink, meal or taxi you paid for – these are men’s issues and more men – an awful lot of men – need to engage with them if we are going to help women feel safer around us, if we have any chance at all of flipping the script on how much sexualized violence there is in our society.
Our unwillingness as men to consider how the women around us have been subjected to sexualization and unwanted advances from too early an age; our unwillingness to see conversations around consent as an opportunity to create safety and intimacy instead of a barrier to getting what we want; our unwillingness to lend our voices to this cause that is overwhelmingly carried by women in our community, only serves to act as a cover for the men among us who commit sexualized violence against women.
The time to step forward is now.
Visit www.EndViolenceYukon.com for information and resources on how you can speak up, get consent and support those affected by sexualized violence.
On May 30 retired CFL player J. R. LaRose (B. C. Lions) will be at The Old Fire Hall from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. speaking about the impact of men’s violence against women and girls. LaRose is part of the Be More Than a Bystander project, which provides tools, language and practical ideas about how to speak up and how to communicate that violence and abuse is not acceptable.
White Ribbon Yukon is recruiting new board members. Please reach out via the Facebook page (www.Facebook.com/WhiteRibbonYukon) if you are a man or woman interested in addressing and ending this epidemic of male violence against women.