By Naomi Law
Elm Staff Writer
The story of Brock Turner, a college athlete at Stanford University who raped an unconscious student behind a dumpster, set the media ablaze with outrage in June of this year. Turner was sentenced to a mere six months imprisonment, as opposed to the six years requested by the district attorney, on grounds that, “a prison sentence would have a severe impact on him.” When I first read about the Brock Turner case, the reality is that I did not react with the same shock and disturbance that I once would have. As a female student, I am aware that one in five women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime.
However, there exists an important part of the Brock Turner case that is often overlooked in comparison to his heinous crimes. I am referring to the two Swedish international students, who approached Turner during the assault on the victim, intervened, and held him down until law enforcement officers arrived at the scene. I find this detail to be important because Peter Jonsson and Carl-Fredrik Arndt, the two heroes of this story, are male. I believe that this highlights an extremely overlooked area of sexual assault discourse: the men who are trying to end rape culture and prevent sexual violence. When over 90 percent of rape victims are female, it is easy to marginalise forced sex as a women’s issue. Surely women should educate themselves on how to stay risk-free? Surely women should report the crimes committed against them in order to assist in ending sexual violence?
In reality, rape, both the perpetuation and prevention of it, is at least as much as men’s issue as it is a woman’s. If you recall, Brock Turner’s victim was unconscious during her attack. Without the bystander intervention of those two cyclists, Turner’s crime could have remained within the 54 percent of rapes not reported. Instead, this story demonstrates what happens when men regard rape as more than a women’s issue. It shows what happens when men choose to intervene and protect women from sexual violence.
Statistically, men commit the great majority of all sexually violent crimes. Men also fall victim to rape, with one in sixteen males being sexually violated at some point in their lives. However, even when men are sexually victimised, other men are most often the perpetrators. While this does not prove that men are more susceptible to raping someone by any means or standard, it does demonstrate that men are not immune to the epiidemic of sexual violence, and therefore not immune to educating themselves on the topics of consent and rape.
California was the first U.S. state to make sexual consent classes mandatory. Currently, high schools and colleges nationwide have consent programs in place, with other establishments following suit by adding programming or revising past education to focus on teaching the ideas behind affirmative consent. However, the compulsory classes have received widespread backlash, especially from the male student body. An online campaign emerged in the aftermath of the initiation of these courses, sparked by a UK university student who wrote an online article claiming that he “didn’t have to be taught not to be a rapist.” This triggered the reproduction of a number of controversial photographs, depicting college students holding up signs stating “this is not what a rapist looks like,” “I do not consent to being called a rapist,” and “don’t teach me not to rape.”
This is a clear-cut example of when men fail to understand the epidemic of sexual violence we are in and how they are able to play a vital role in ending it. This is an example of people who misunderstand the purpose of consent training. Sexual consent training does not exist to call all men “rapists.” It exists to ensure that everyone, whether male or female has a detailed understanding of sexual consent and to en-sure that everyone on campus remains safe. It is important to understand that the more we talk about sexual violence, the more we assist in breaking down it’s surrounding taboo.
We live in a nation where world leaders have been verified as rapists and widely accused of sexual assault, with someone who is currently running to be the U.S. president openly admitting to groping and touching women without their consent. It is so imperative that we talk about sexual assault even when it makes us uncomfortable. Especially when it makes us uncomfortable.
Matt Leibowitz contrasts the behaviour of those opposing sexual consent classes, demonstrating the good that can occur when men stand up against sexual violence. Leibowitz, a recent graduate from Wesleyan University, in which he was a member of Epsilon Pi, founded the nationwide movement “Consent is So Frat.” The organization represents his belief that Greek life can play a vital part of the movement to end sexual crime on campuses. Other nationwide campaigns have launched with similar beliefs. This includes #AllMenCan, a social media project that encourages men to share the ways in which they protect women from violence and encourage female empowerment. As an international exchange student I have not yet experienced the annual “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” event, in which our male student body walk down Washington Avenue in bright red high heels to raise awareness of sexual violence issues and to raise funds for a nonprofit that offers counselling and support for victims of rape. However, I was here to receive an email in the aftermath of two sexual assaults on our campus from the three main on-campus fraternities, Phi Delta Theta, Kappa Sigma, and Kappa Alpha. Within this email the men stood in solidarity, condemning sexual assault and standing together against sexual violence and I felt so proud to not only have the privilege of knowing some of these men, but also to be a student of this school.
No matter how it is viewed, rape is as much as a male issue as it is a female issue. I am proud of the good men on our campus and the good men in my life who empower themselves by becoming aware of the prevalence of rape, by educating themselves about bystander intervention, and by standing up for anyone, male or female, who is victim of sexual violence.