Why Men Must Speak Up about Sexual Assault
- Meg Gemelli Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2017 20 Oct
What do they want me to do? I love my sister (wife, mom, aunt) and of course I want her to be safe, but I’ve never assaulted anyone.
What ever happened to “turn the other cheek?”
What about all the women who fake attacks for attention?
Where was she when it happened? What was she wearing?
In the wake of #MeToo, these are men’s comments posted to social media as they process women’s bold admissions of traumatic experience. From graceful to uncomfortably blunt, these statements reflect citizens’ fledgling understandings of the scope of the problem.
To give credit to the masculine worldview, the plight of the woman can be difficult to grasp. From biology and socialization to nuances in communication, our differences are obvious.
Perceptions of safety and vulnerability is a great place to begin the conversation on sexual assault; for instance, when asked where and when they felt the most vulnerable to physical harm, women mentioned these places:
The grocery store.
Walking down the hallway in hotels.
Peaceful, but secluded hiking trails.
Walking to and from class.
In my own home when my husband is working third shift.
Rest areas along the highway.
On school grounds after hours.
On the side of the road if my car breaks down any time of day.
If you’re a male, some of these answers may have surprised you. Women often live in a state of fear, innately aware of their physical strength (or lack thereof) in relation to those around them. Casually meandering throughout the community while attending class, going to or from work, and running errands without worry is a privilege many take for granted.
Women need support when it comes to assault, degradation, and other types of abuse. Here are three reasons why:
1. Men are Brothers, Fathers, Cousins, and Sons of Women Like Dinah.
Their’s was a fierce love, the brothers of Dinah. They’d watched their only sister grow from just a child into the beautiful young woman they’d come to know. One day, however, life was shattered as Dinah ventured out to visit the “daughters of the land.” Her innocence was stolen by a man named Shechem, whose “soul was strongly attracted” to her.
For those of you who are familiar with this story found in the book of Genesis, you might remember that it didn’t end well for either tribe. The Hivite men were slaughtered by Dinah’s brothers for Shechem’s evil act, and their women and children were taken captive.
In that time, “laying with her and violating her” was a heinous act. The honor of the entire community was marred by the degradation of a single member. As adoptees into the family of God, we’re siblings too. We need our brothers to stand up for us, as daughters of the same Father. We need the fierce love and protection of men who are willing to fight to defend our honor, regardless of vast changes in the societal norms of the day.
Though the consequence of their retaliatory sin was dire, I suspect that Dinah was secretly overwhelmed with gratitude by the protective response of her tribe. Women today still need tribes, especially ones with men who are willing to seek justice where justice is due—men who bravely give voice to the invisible shame of sexual violence, whether or not they’ve experienced it personally.
2. Men Add "Strength and Legitimacy" to the Cause.
In 1920, women in the United States of America cast their votes for public office for the very first time. My great-grandmother, Irene, whom I still remember well, was just twelve years old at the time.
Just two generations separate me, a thirty-five-year-old working professional and active citizen, to an ancestor who had no voice in her country. At the time, women were seen as mere extensions of their husbands. Within the letter of the law, they sacrificed privileges such as land ownership, income, parental rights, and inheritance at the moment they entered into marriage. Even upon a spouse’s death, it was common for a son to receive the benefits wives would have been apt to manage.
Women such as Lucretia Mott (Quaker minister, reformer, and abolitionist) and the infamous Susan B. Anthony (among many others) worked side-by-side with big names such as Frederick Douglas and William Lloyd Garrison. They also became the wives of men who worked tirelessly to remedy the issues women faced at the time—many of those husbands being ministers, abolitionists, philosophers, and women’s rights advocates themselves.
In her book, Remember the Ladies, author Angela P. Dodson revealed this about the power of men and women working side-by-side for social change:
“(Men’s) presence lent legitimacy to (women’s rights conventions) and underscored their importance. They brought parliamentary, political, and business expertise that few women could have had in that era. They also occasionally provided security. Other men sometimes came as curiosity seekers, hecklers, and agitators.”
While taking a stand on an issue as pervasive as sexual assault in the modern day, today’s “reformers and abolitionists” must follow in the footsteps of the spiritual giants who’ve gone before.
3. Men Listen to Men, and Men Create "Male" Culture
The abstract concept of “culture” isn’t usually created by a single leading personality, surrounded by his or her supporting minions. Culture is created over long periods of time with statements of repetition being used over and over again in public discourse, eventually evolving into shared beliefs.
When men speak out against the assault and unwanted touching of women…
When men model respect to women in front of their friends…
When men honor their sisters in public discourse…
When men refuse to degrade, make fun of, objectify, or tear down members of the opposite sex…
Just like our Jesus, they create a culture of unity, mercy, and love.
Won’t you please lend your voice to the cause, brothers? That’s a church body I’m proud to be a part of.
“Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause…” (Isaiah 1:17).
Meg Gemelli—Writer. Marriage and Family Therapist. #Boymom. Earns Crossfit participation trophies. Disaster cook, but still winning at "wife." Visit theGrittyPearl.com to join conversations on faith and family.