“I don’t want to sound crazy” is a phrase that has become all too prevalent from victims of sexual assault struggling to make the decision to report an incident of abuse. Similarly, it is all too common that support is not given to a woman revealing that she has been abused. She is ridiculed. She is doubted. Thus, her victimization is replicated; she has not only been physically violated, but is now blamed for her aggressor’s actions. Rather than a society designed to uphold justice, we instead have one that reinforces archaic perspectives rooted in sexism, executed through degrading victims with slurs such as “that bitch.”
Women who come forward are often told they are lying, but Roger Williams University reports that 2 percent or fewer of all reports of sexual abuse are falsely reported. The potential humiliation and backlash that women can face from society as a result of speaking out is a major contributing factor to why many cases of rape and other forms of sexual assault go unreported.
The National Sexual Violence Resource Center estimates one in five women are sexually assaulted in college and that nearly 3.5 percent of all women who attend a college or university are raped. According to Binghamton University’s 2015 Annual Security and Fire Report, the number of forcible sexual offenses, rapes and other nonforcible sexual offenses between 2013 and 2015 all amount to fewer than eight cases per year. Unfortunately, the reason for the gap between these two data sets likely reflects a lack of reporting of sexual aggression rather than BU having fewer sexual assault cases.
Multiple dimensions of rape culture encourage sexual aggression and discourages women from reporting them. As a male, I cannot fully address some of these dynamics, but I feel compelled to speak out. Not because I can tell you that it was my mother who raised me or the fact that I have four sisters, but because this is an issue that affects all of society. I have been moved to discuss one major cause of rape culture that I believe we can transform: the virtual absence of male ally-ship.
Some men seem to adhere to an automatic reaction to highlight that women can also be rapists and that men are also raped. This is valid, and male victims of rape should not have their experiences discounted. However, given the facts that roughly 91 percent of sexual abuse victims are female, and that men are the abusers of 98.1 percent of female victims and 93 percent of male victims, it cannot be denied that male perpetrators are the root cause the problem. If men are such a large part of the problem, they can and should be a part of the solution.
On college campuses, men can become allies and demonstrate solidarity by engaging in the conversation of rape culture. As men, we have not done enough and we should take a few concrete steps to become effective allies. In addition to acknowledging this issue of oppression, men should be empathetic with victims and not simply dismiss women as being “crazy” or “liars.” Men need to understand how much courage it takes for someone to come forward and talk about their experiences. Men should see this courage and lend emotional support, as sexual aggression can be exceedingly traumatizing.
Subsequently, men should hold other men accountable. If we see another man even attempting to take advantage of or violate another human being, we must act. Whether it is touching someone without consent or attempted rape, we must intervene by explicitly voicing opposition and separating the predator and their intended target. If we cease to act, behaviors some of us might consider normal could manifest into far more violent acts. Our silence is enablement. Be them acquaintances or friends, we still should act and hold them responsible for their transgressions — even if that means ending friendships.
Finally, as men, we should acknowledge that all of us have been given varying degrees of male privilege afforded to us by historically patriarchal social systems. Therefore, we must help to build a more equitable society, which can start with being empathetic to our fellow human beings and understanding that no one chooses to be sexually assaulted.
At BU, like many universities and colleges, we students are surrounded by different political ideologies and some of the most visible ways they are echoed is through stances on social issues. When it comes to rape and sexual assault, we all need to grasp that though progressives have been more vocal expressing their concerns, this issue affects all of us. It shouldn’t be politicized. This is an issue of basic human rights, and as men, we have not contributed to the current discourse, but we can start with empathy and accountability.
Hooman Ibrahim is a senior majoring in business administration.