One Brave Girl
“…. police say dozens of teens gawked, laughed and took photographs while a 15-year-old girl was brutally gang-raped and beaten outside a Richmond High School homecoming dance.
But one brave girl, who was not even there, wouldn’t stand for it.
“I was watching a movie, and my brother-in-law came in and he told me ‘I don’t know what to do, because there is a girl back there and she has been raped. I’m scared,’” 18-year-old Margarita Vargas said.
“I’m like ‘We should call the cops because that’s the right thing to do.’ I didn’t think about it twice.” Vargas said she called police because she would want someone to do the same if she ever was in that situation. “
I’m a big fan of the What About The Men arguments, and that bolded bit is why. Whenever there is a discussion of rape-culture and how it ultimately manifests itself in situtations like the Richmond ‘gang’ rape, I like to pipe up and say stuff like: ”what about the men! men would care about rape if they heard more about male on male rape!” More often than not people disagree with me, or say that I am minimizing rape committed against women, but I believe it’s imperative for all of us – men and women – to be able to imagine ourselves “in that situation”.
Many recent prevention and awareness efforts aimed at men highlight the “active bystander” approach, encouraging men to learn to recognize and discourage sexist or violent jokes, comments or behaviors; these images show the basic approach. Everything is framed in the standard ‘woman as victim’ way (yes I agree that’s usually who the victim is) which genders the perception of the violence and makes it that much more difficult for men to “imagine themselves in that situation” as a victim, which in turn further enforces the passive bystander effect that current awareness efforts target. Empathy, being able to identify with the vicitm, is a crucial part of deciding to take action when we see a crime, yet in sexual assault preventions we fail to use the most effective empathy inducing tool available.
Sexual assault awareness is about teaching people how cultural attitudes inform us about what is “acceptable” and how we can better recognize these harmful attitudes, and how we can act to prevent violence and intimidation from happening. Men are asked to try to understand how women feel living in a rape-culture, we ask men to understand that women are at increased risk of assault because that culture, we remind them that their mothers, sisters, and daughters could be victims, but we never cite the examples and heartbreaking stories of men who’ve been victims of rape, even though doing so would make it far easier for them to “imagine” what rape victims feel. It’s cutting off our nose to spite our face when, out of fear that we might minimize the issue of rape commited against women, we won’t use the powerful mind-changing examples of men who have been victimized.
Consider a middle school boy who’s just had his head shoved into a toilet while his tormentor uses his underwear as a device of painful control. That, to me, is a sexual assault, and it should be treated as such. It should be treated as such when we teach kids about bullying and harrassment and stranger danger, because so much of rape and sexual violence is bullying and harasment taken to extremes. If we teach the next generation of boys that they too are victims – and that the head in the toilet scene we are all familiar with from the movies is an example of it, they will be less likely to view victims of sexual violence as the “other”, which could help in the cumulative efforts to teach rape and sexual violence prevention as that generation ages into adulthood.
I’d like to see a rape prevention ad where we see a cluster of onlookers and we can see that there is a victim being held down, but we can’t see any detail of who it is - then as various people walk by and as they worriedly decide to scurry away - the screen would flash and cut to a close up of the victims face, contorted in pain and struggle and fear, and we’d hear the laughter and jeers from the still faceless crowd, but the face of the victim would be the face of the passerby. The passers could be men and women of all ages and builds and ethnicities, and all of them would be inserted into that victim role… because it can, and does, happen to anyone, and any one of us could find ourselves face down in the dirt fighting for our lives, and all of us should help all of us should help all of us should help all of us. Etc.