Sexual assault is everyone's issue

  • Published
  • By Sheryl McMullen
  • 71st Flying Training Wing Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office
Frequently in our sexual assault prevention trainings, I will ask the question, "Is sexual assault just a women's issue?" The responses are always interesting and frequently very insightful. It is the goal of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office to involve everyone in the process of preventing the trauma of sexual assault. Toward that end, below are just a few reasons why sexual assault is everyone's issue.

1. Because men are raped. We don't like to think about it, and we don't like to talk about it, but the fact is that men are also sexually assaulted. Men are not immune to sexual violence, nor are male survivors safe from the stigma society attaches to rape victims. Male survivors are often disbelieved and blamed for their own victimization when they report being assaulted. Frequently, they respond, as do many female survivors, by remaining silent and suffering alone.

2. Because men know survivors. At some point in every man's life, someone close to him will likely disclose they are a survivor of sexual violence and ask for help. Men must be prepared to respond with care, sensitivity, compassion and understanding. Not responding well or being judgmental can hinder the healing process and may even contribute to the survivor feeling further victimized. A supportive male presence during a survivor's recovery, however, can be invaluable and can help both men and women feel safer speaking out about being raped and letting the world know how serious a problem rape is.

3. Because rape confines men. When someone is raped and when the vast majority of those who are raped know the person who attacked them, it becomes virtually impossible to distinguish men who are safe from men who are dangerous, men who can be trusted from men who can't, and men who will use violence from men who won't. The result is a society with its guard up, where relationships with men are approached with fear and mistrust.

4. Because men can stop rape. You will probably never see a rape in progress, but you will see and hear attitudes and behaviors that degrade others. When your friend or co-worker makes demeaning remarks, confront him or her. Words are very powerful, especially when spoken by people with power over others. When we use language that demeans others or labels them as inferior, it becomes easier to treat them with less respect, disregard their rights and ignore their well-being. Changing that behavior starts one person at a time and requires the courage to speak up.

The informal motto of the SAPRO is "RESPECT": respect for self and respect for others. This simple word, put into action by all of us, can have a tremendous impact on preventing sexual assault. For more information, call 213-5597 or 213-5598.