This school year Temple teamed up with the “It’s On Us” campaign. Initiated by President Barack Obama in 2014, the campaign aims to end sexual assault on college campuses, and it specifically strives to include men in the effort.
It’s important that “It’s On Us” and other campus-wide efforts continue to include male students in the conversation surrounding sexual assault, which often is only addressed as a women’s issue.
“The ‘It’s On Us’ campaign is specifically targeting men and trying to get them involved,” said Molly Sapia, a sociology Ph.D. student who is researching “It’s On Us” and its progress on college campuses nationwide. “Since we all live in this culture … it does affect all of us.”
The university has worked with “It’s On Us” to raise awareness about sexual assault throughout this semester, and I hope events continue throughout the rest of the year.
If only about half the population is working to end sexual assault, we will not see change anytime soon. We need everyone to join in this fight.
“The reality is, we have a lot of men in power, so the more that they talk about it, the more it gets brought to light,” said Silvie Drouillard, community outreach worker for Women Organized Against Rape.
Lately, some poor male role models have downplayed the importance of consent. Almost two weeks ago, a 2005 video of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump went viral. In the video, Trump is heard using vulgar language and suggesting he doesn’t need to obtain consent from women because he’s famous.
Later, he justified his actions by claiming his words were just “locker room banter.”
It is important that men, especially leaders, do not normalize this type of language or demonstrate this type of behavior.
“That candidate has raised the bar, or lowered the bar, on what is acceptable in public discourse and it’s really unfortunate,” said Laura Levitt, a professor in the gender, sexuality and women’s studies program and religion department.
Highly publicized instances like this make it even more important that men, especially male students, are included in the fight to end sexual assault.
“We want to not only raise awareness, we want to be able to stop it,” Drouillard said. “That way, it stops happening. That people understand what consent is, that people understand what it means to respect boundaries, and be safe.”
Additionally, men are often excluded from these conversations because society has made many feel like they can’t speak about these types of sensitive topics.
“The thing for men that’s hard is that they’re taught not to have these type of difficult conversations or to break some sort of ‘bro code,’” Sapia said.
Men should feel obligated to speak out, not only because they can intervene when they see sexual assaults occurring, but also because they too can be sexually assaulted.
While many may have heard the statistic that one in five women will be sexually assaulted while in college, it is also a fact that one in 16 men will be sexually assaulted during their college years, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.
“Men can certainly be sexually assaulted, and they are,” Sapia said. “Not statistically as often as young women are, but for a man who is sexually assaulted it could potentially be even harder for him to try and get help.”
“It doesn’t strip away your traditional manhood, it’s just one of those things that, once again, you were in a vulnerable state and somebody took advantage of you,” said Lee Cannady, education and training specialist at WOAR.
Regardless of gender, it’s necessary that we respect all survivors and include everyone in the conversation surrounding sexual assault. Anyone can intervene when they see someone taking advantage of another person or promoting rape culture, and it is important that they do.
I hope “It’s On Us” stays active throughout the entire school year and encourages discussion on Main Campus, especially amongst male students, to eventually end sexual assault.
We need everyone to speak up in this fight, but first we need to make it easier to do so.
Jayna Schaffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.