Washington, DC – The recent opinion column in the American University student newspaper – and its ensuing media coverage – fails to accurately represent the reality of sexual assault on college and university campuses. Rape is not an “incoherent concept” for the estimated one in four college women who will be raped by classmates, boyfriends, friends, or dorm-mates during their college career.
Rape is any form of penetration without consent and by force or threat of force; in nearly every state, someone who is intoxicated cannot legally consent to sex. Even though we know that rape is a felony, we are taught that the line of consent is blurry – perhaps even malleable. When a woman drinks too much at a party, or goes home with a certain guy, or goes into his bedroom, consent is too often taken for granted. It is not only the survivors who lose because of these problematic assumptions. On the one hand, eighty percent of survivors know their perpetrators, making it nearly impossible for women to distinguish “safe guys” from “potential rapists.” On the other hand, while the vast majority of these perpetrators are men, most men do not rape women.
Many of the college men that Men Can Stop Rape works with nationwide are engaged around this issue precisely because they have seen firsthand the devastating effects of sexual assault on the women they care about. These men know that the two percent of false rape reports are not the real problem; and they focus on supporting the millions of women – like family, friends, classmates, coworkers, and service members – who are sexually assaulted every year. These men work with women as allies in creating safe, healthy relationships and behavior.
It is not likely that the media will stop victim-blaming unless more people speak out against attitudes like “rape is an incoherent concept.” Last week on April 1st marked the beginning of Sexual Assault Awareness Month. There is no better time for individuals, especially men, to learn how they can stand up, be strong, and take action to prevent rape and date rape.
Five things college men can do to prevent date rape:
1. Does kissing mean that a person wants to have sex? How do you know? When a situation is unclear, asking before you act will ensure safe and healthy sex for everyone.
2. Accept when consent is withdrawn. Even after a person has given their consent, that person can withdraw it at any time. We all deserve the right to change our minds.
3. If a person is drunk or high and can’t give consent, back off and wait until you both are sober.
4. You’ve heard of designated drivers. Now use the same principle to prevent rape. At a party, designate someone among your group of friends to keep an eye on a guy that might be behaving in ways that could lead to sexual violence.
5. You probably will never see a rape in progress, but you will hear attitudes and see behaviors that degrade women and promote a culture of violence. When your friend tells a rape joke, let him know it’s not funny.
Men Can Stop Rape (MCSR)’s mission is to mobilize men to use their strength for creating cultures free from violence, especially men’s violence against women. Named by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation as one of the world’s most innovative violence prevention programs, Men Can Stop Rape has reached over 2 million youth and professionals since 1997. MCSR has provided youth and college programming, public awareness materials, and training for the Department of Defense, Office of Health & Human Services, Liz Claiborne, Inc. (Love is Respect), DCPS, California Coalition Against Sexual Assault, and more. For more information, please go to www.mencanstoprape.org.