TW: mention of rape and sexual assault.
My name is Josh, and I’m the male Representative on the Committee of It Happens Here.
I’m writing this because there is a perception in society that makes my participation in this effort appear and even at times, feel, strange. This perception, often seemingly subconscious, is that rape, sexual assault, and the promotion of consensual sex are “women’s issues”. This is not only wrong, but dangerous. It slows the crucial progress that needs to be made in eradicating a culture where sexual violence takes place without repercussion, with abandon, and with an appalling tendency for blaming the survivors of sexual attacks.
I am writing this to, respectfully, challenge this perception, and offer in its place an ideal whereby not only would it not be considered strange for a man to be involved in tackling these issues, or to call themselves a feminist, but expected of one.
This is not a female or a male issue, it is a human one.
Men are perpetrators of sexual violence, men are survivors of sexual violence, and even more they are witnesses and often bystanders.
400,000 women a year in the UK report being sexually assaulted. 80,000 report being raped. It is believed that only approximately 15% of rapes are reported. Not only are women being raped and brutally assaulted by men on a sickeningly large scale, men are allowing and driving a culture of victim-blaming. One so embedded into women that they don’t feel like they can report being horrifically violated for fear of being called a slut, or worse, dismissed by the very authorities there to protect them, ones usually dominated by men. It is only slightly less stupid than suggesting that men aren’t involved in this, to suggest that they can’t and even shouldn’t be part of the solution.
I won’t list every shocking statistic and detail every gross injustice against women in this area, because my female colleagues can do that, and it would be patronising for me to speak about issues concerning women specifically when far more eloquent and qualified women have done, are doing, and will continue to do so. Save to say that; this does not mean myself and other men cannot stand proudly behind them, and the countless women who dedicate so much time, even their lives, to preventing or at least limiting the damage caused by endemic sexual violence against women.
Women are not the only victims of this particularly grotesque form of violence. It is true that men make up only 11% of the 15% of the British population who have survived sexual violence. However, it is estimated that an even smaller proportion of male survivors of sexual violence come forward than female. It is felt to be a show of weakness, of something having overpowered you, and left you hurt and in need of help. Something which society’s ludicrously narrow conception of what it is to be man has made it almost impossible to do, without having your identity questioned. In addition to this, the Office for National Statistics has shown that 60% of male survivors are under 16. Children. Your younger brothers, your sons, your neighbours. They’re not asking for help because they don’t think they will receive or even deserve it. They need to be shown otherwise. Despite what society teaches them and us, men are not invincible, and are affected differently, but no less, by violation than women. Male survivors need voices too, that is another reason why I’m putting mine behind this effort to rid our society of all sexual violence, against all genders.
Finally, men are witnesses and sometimes bystanders. Do not underestimate the effect of turning a blind eye or thinking “its none of my business”. It is your business. As someone whose loved ones can be attacked, as someone who could be yourself, as a human being who presumably does not enjoy watching innocent people suffer, it most certainly is your business. I am not suggesting that every rape or sexual assault is at all the fault of those who did not perpetrate it, but also could not or even would not stop it. I merely want to make it known how easily such awful things can sometimes be prevented by awareness of sexual consent and a willingness to expect the same from your peers or even from strangers.
As one final note, you may have noticed I used the word survivor in place of victim when describing the people who have been through this kind of trauma. To come through this kind of ordeal and be able to cope is truly to survive where many do not, and to stand up to say that enough is enough, is a demonstration of courage. It is one of the great privileges of my life to have stood with them and for them in a small way, and to be one of them. I will therefore continue to do so and hope that we continue to grow in number, whatever gender, whether they are a survivor or even a past perpetrator or bystander, or just anyone. This fight desperately needs every hand it can get, willing to be raised and counted.
Josh Rampton, Male/Minority Gender Rep
Photo credit: Dustin Scarpitti via Unsplush