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A Man's Issue

Content Warning

The following article describes issues of sexual violence and harassment which can be sensitive for some readers. If you decide not to proceed, you are still strongly encouraged to skip to the end to find resources available to you at the University of Miami.



How does one prevent sexual assault and harassment against women? Too often the burden of a man’s thoughts and actions are put on to their female counterparts. We live in a world where young girls are taught this is acceptable starting as early as primary school, getting sent home to change because their spaghetti straps are distracting their male peers, as if showing shoulders are a bigger threat to education than missing school. This internalized narrative fosters a culture where women being told “you must cover up to not provoke the unwanted attention of men” turns into “well what was she wearing?” after she becomes a victim of abuse.


Whose Issue is it Anyways?

When we talk about violence and harassment against women, men are frequently left out of the equation. “It’s a women’s issue”. This itself tells women that they are the problem, and they are responsible for fixing it. They must be more careful and prevent their own assaults. The language and conversation of “violence against women” itself depicts the issue as one sided. It’s always “This happens to women”, never “This happens to women because of men”. In reality, this is a man’s issue. When we don’t hold men accountable for their actions or include them in the discussion in which they should be the topic, we not only create a gateway for more abuse, but for the next generation of men to continue the cycle. According to a 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey conducted by the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 90 percent of perpetrators of sexual violence against women are men. In turn, 93 percent of sexual assaults against men are done by men. Calling this a “women’s issue” and leaving men out of the conversation greatly trivializes the role men play in the environment of abuse they dominate.


The Elevated Risk of College Women

One in five women will be raped in their lifetime. 42.2 percent experienced their first rape before the age of 18, 79.6 percent before the age of 25. Women in college (ages 18-24) are 3 times more at risk to be sexually assaulted. For decades, we have witnessed a pattern of abuse subjugating the lives of women. With college women being a vulnerable population, it’s safe to assume that college campuses foster normalized abusive behavior. It is important that we address the issue here at the University of Miami with the demographic most likely to become the perpetrator, men.






How Can We Change This?

This takes us back to our first question, how does one prevent sexual assault and harassment against women? Surprisingly, the answer is simple… don’t sexually assault and harass women. While this might seem obvious enough to most, this response isn’t always intuitive. Many will instinctively place responsibility on the victim, “Don’t walk alone at night”, “Always be aware of your surroundings”, “Be careful when rejecting men just in case they’re violent”, “Dress modestly so that you don’t give him the wrong idea” (the list could go on forever). The problem with this is that, although it might be well-intentioned, it paints men as beings incapable of self-control. “You must control yourself because he can’t” and if you don’t then “you were asking for it”, “you let him take advantage of you”, “boys will be boys”. Denouncing the excuses we make for men is key to greater change.


Being an Active Agent here at the U

Dismantling rape culture is essential to solving sexual violence of women by men. Internalizing the idea that women are not objects, but rather individuals deserving of respect and body autonomy is the first step towards progression. Keep your hands to yourself! It is crucial that the boundaries of women are respected even if meant in a playful and friendly manor. The disregard for making women uncomfortable further promotes a culture of rape and harrasment. No means no and stop means stop, sans grey areas. Unlearning what society has taught is acceptable is not encouraged, it’s expected. The second step is to be a vocal ally. When you are constantly encouraging and condoning the harmful and disrespectful actions of your male peers, you are fueling behavior that has the potential to escalate to dangerous means. Call them out! Being silent does more harm than good. Not partaking in the behavior alone isn’t enough. Whether it’s the inappropriate joke your friend told in small company, or you noticing that they are making a woman uncomfortable or attempting to take advantage of her, speak up! Showing women that you are more than a bystander complicit in their oppression makes a world of difference. The third step is to stop surrounding yourself with people who display this behavior. It is a reflection of what you are willing to tolerate.


Supporting survivors and victims come in many forms. One of those being helping connect your peers to the resources they need so that they feel confident in their ability to get help. According to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN), 80% of college women don’t report when they have experienced sexual violence. This is due to a multitude of factors, but it is important to remember that sexual violence and harassment can have serious and long term effects on women. If a friend confides in you, point them to the resources we have here at the University of Miami and support them every step of the way. Services provided at the U are confidential and range from mental health to reporting resources. Taking this extra step can be the difference between students suffering alone and getting the help they need. Canes care for canes.


The Safety Society

There is a harsh reality that goes along with the effort to reeducate men to protect women. Unfortunately, the world we live in is too far behind for every man to get the message in time before another woman is put at risk. Because of this, some women have taken their safety into their own hands and are striving to help other women do the same. One of these women includes sophomore, Jamie Williams, here at the University of Miami. Williams created a business called the “Safety Society” where she started selling defense key chains after numerous encounters of being harassed by men. The general fear and unease of the potential dangers these encounters reflected, prompted Williams to create the “Safety Society” as a way to provide women with an extra level of physical and mental security against potential dangers. These defense key chains sell for 30 dollars and come all included with an Off White lanyard, personal alarm, pepper spray, door opener, a kubotan that doubles as a window breaker, and a decorative puff ball for added style. You can follow the “Safety Society” on Instagram @the.safteysociety or check out Williams’ wide range of key chains on her website https://safety-society.com/ .


UNIVERSITY OF MIAMI SEXUAL VIOLENCE RESOURCES


Sexual Assault Resource Team

Call: 305-798-6666

Website: miami.edu/sart

- Confidential

- Ideal resource to talk about your thoughts and feelings

- Available 24/7


Counseling Center

Call: 305-284-5511

Website: miami.edu/counseling

- Confidential

- Ideal resource to talk about your thoughts and feelings

- Available 24/7

- Mental health resources available


It’s On Us

Call: 305-284-8624

Website: itsonus.miami.edu

- Reporting resource

- Confidential

- Ideal resource to talk about your thoughts and feelings


UMPD

Call:305-284-6666

- Reporting Resource

- Available 24/7


Concerned for a friend?


‘Canes Care for Canes

Website: miami.edu/canescare

- Confidential

- Mental health resources available


REPORTER: Nevaeh Williams

THE CITY, Gravity Magazine, 2021.

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