Today: Apr 21, 2024

Men taking action: Group standing stronger against gender violence

JAMES HOFFECKER — Special to Southern News

Silence is often taken as approval.  I have made this statement countless times in presentations to the campus community around the topic on gender violence prevention.  Why is this statement so important?  Because it’s true.

  We all look to others for approval; it is part of what it means to be human and part of what it means to be successful.  We learn how to dress, talk, and act by trial and error. When we do the wrong thing, whether through words or actions, our friends, family and partners all tell us we’ve crossed the line and vice versa.  Hopefully we have a degree of introspection the next time we act and monitor ourselves to make sure we don’t make the same mistake again.

It’s important to consider this as we work toward shaping the world we want to live in.  Unfortunately, we live in a society with statistics such as these: one out of every four college women are victims of sexual assault; one out of every six men have experienced unwanted sexual contact; one out of every five college relationships are abusive and unhealthy; and nine out of every ten rape survivors know their attackers. We have a lot more work to do.  

As a man, I realize the responsibility I share with other men to combat gender violence.  Men are the perpetrators in over 99 percent of reported rape cases (U.S. Department of Justice).  This means men have an important role in stopping their friends from doing something wrong.  Our generation grew up hearing the phrase, “Friends don’t let friends drive drunk.”  In other words, “Be a good friend.” Think about substitutes for “drunk.”  Friends don’t let friends make inappropriate jokes.  Friends don’t let friends harass women. 

It is important to realize that nobody starts out as an abuser; they start with harmful words and comments which eventually become sexually abusive and/or violent.  It is our responsibility as the vast majority of people who do not commit sexual violence to stop it before it progresses to that stage.

We need to keep in mind that the survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence have been, or could be, our sisters, best friends, partners, or neighbors and that we would do anything to prevent and stop that.  Stopping that progression requires us to be willing to tell our friends that the jokes or comments they make are inappropriate. 

We all have a vital role in working toward shaping the community and world we want to live in.   Gender violence should not be tolerated in our society, and it won’t if we hold each other accountable for the words and actions we make. It is our responsibility as friends, family members, partners and/or neighbors to hold the members of our society who are abusive accountable for their actions.  Visit http://www.southernct.edu/womenscenter/themensinitiative/ for more information about the Men’s Initiative and how you can help end gender violence.

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