I grew up in a family that consisted of multiple sexual assault survivors. I know, through their own heart-wrenching admissions to me, that my mother was molested at a young age by her father and that both of my older sisters were molested, also at young ages, by our paternal grandfather. The palpable pain, grief, dysfunction, and depression that I watched them suffer through as adults was, I now know, largely a direct result of these offenses that were committed against their youthful bodies and spirits.
Witnessing Christine Blasey Ford’s searing testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on September 20th, and the subsequent misogynistic mistreatment and heinous mocking of her and Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s other two accusers, powerfully reminded me of my own family members’ horrific stories and their decisions to stay silent for years about the crimes committed against them.
It has also caused me to sob uncontrollably again and again at the prospect of the lifelong suffering of all the victims of sexual assault—and to ask myself what else I can possibly do to help to begin to stop this catastrophic cycle of sexual assault and victim blaming that our society is currently mired in.
After these last two weeks, I am emotionally drained, like I know a lot of us are. If I am being redundant with my words and ideas in this post considering my previous posts about countering rape culture, the legacy we can leave as men, and the sexual misconduct of men, I ask for your forgiveness as a reader. The concepts that I am expressing today, are in my mind, worth repeating.
So, here goes. I believe that every man that cares about sexual assault and its victims should repeat these words and express these feelings to every woman in their lives. Men, if you are with me, please repeat after me:
I unequivocally state today, as a man, to every woman who has ever been a victim of sexual assault—that it was not your fault.
I don’t care what you were wearing, what you were doing or not doing, where you were or weren’t, how much you were drinking or whether or not you were even inebriated—if a man proceeded sexually against you after you told him to stop (at any point) or if you were in no condition to say no and he did the same then he, and he alone, is guilty of the crime committed against you.
You did not ask for it, deserve it, secretly need it, or wish for it, regardless of what anyone says—or what our society says—to the contrary. Any shame or guilt that you are made to feel about your attack is categorically wrong and should be seen for what it is—a further offense committed against you.
The culture that allows sexual assault to be so prevalent in our society relies heavily upon encouraging the silencing of its victims through shaming and fear tactics, and I pledge to you to call out all my fellow men from this point on when I recognize that this is happening.
As a man, I can no longer avoid dealing with this issue because of the way that it not only affects the women in my life but women everywhere. I will no longer just talk about the safety of my daughter, my wife, or my mother, but the safety of all women because all women should feel safe as they go about their daily lives.
Through my own lack of accountability and silence, I have allowed this despicable culture of pervasive rape and sexual assault to thrive around me, but no more. My shirking of my responsibility for its existence and my silence ends today.
So, there it is. That’s where my mind is at today. It is my sincere hope that I am not alone in my thinking.
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