He came stumbling out of his car and darted toward her. She noticed him immediately as she walked beside a friend near midnight on campus at The University of Arizona. How couldn’t she — he was shirtless, stroking his penis, pants near his ankles. At first, she thought it was a fraternity initiation, a stupid prank. She remembers initially smirking at the spectacle, preparing to be mooned.
Within seconds the man approached her and viciously slammed her to the ground. Her friend froze. A male bystander looked on in shock. The deranged man wrestled to unzip her pants as she squirmed furiously beneath him to avoid his assault. The bystander, paralyzed by fear, finally shouted, “Hey!” as a siren in the distance spooked the assailant, thwarting his assault.
I know her. She is my sister.
My parents were phoned that night from an inconsolable voice they could hardly recognize. My sister was nearly raped and forever scarred. It was traumatic for my entire family — a moment that found all of us in tears.
My sister is one of thousands of women who suffer sexual violence by men. National Organization for Women’s website states, “According to the National Crime Victimization Survey, which includes crimes that were not reported to the police, 232,960 women in the U.S. were raped or sexually assaulted in 2006. That’s more than 600 women every day.” A majority of assaults are unlike my sister’s — they’re perpetrated by acquaintances. Additionally, “A significant number of crimes are never even reported for reasons that include the victim’s feeling that nothing can/will be done and the personal nature of the incident.”
If that doesn’t boil your blood, I don’t know what will.
Some of us are disturbed enough to take action. I, along with pal and Student Government President Nate Bronstein and approximately eight other men, are part of a group called Men Creating Change (Tuesday nights at 6:30 in McKinley 101). We discuss many complex issues in order to redefine titles like masculinity and strength. We share ideas about how men can become enablers for the safety and prevention of violence and harassment against women. Last week we had a guest, Joseph Vess from Men Can Stop Rape, join our chat. His organization, “…mobilizes men to use their strength for creating cultures free from violence, especially men’s violence against women.”
I asked Nate what compelled him to join the club. He said, “Since my freshmen year, seven more of my friends, here and elsewhere have been sexually assaulted or raped. It kills me each time to know I couldn’t do anything to prevent it. So this is how I am beginning to make my impact.”
While Nate bears no responsibility for the horrific actions of evil men, we believe men can coalesce to help create a culture rich not with traditional machismo, but integrity and respect. Men can create a culture where respect for women is exhibited openly, not hidden through a charade of phony toughness or selfish insouciance.
Some men may read this and think, well, I’m not a part of this, so I don’t need to do anything. They don’t need to, but they should. We’re in this battle together. It’s about the safety of your sister. It’s about the livelihood of your girlfriend and friends. It’s about taking a stand and playing an active role in a culture we can help shape. We welcome and encourage your participation. The club is open to all male students. We’re stronger and more credible the larger we become.
We all have loved ones who’ve been affected by the rage and power of men. Let’s “man up” in the true sense of the word, and do something about it.
Conor Shapiro is a graduate student in the School of International Service and a liberal columnist.