There is one common complaint when working with males in regards to prevention, and that is some level of frustration that lectures make them feel pegged as potential perpetrators. So many facilitators have restructured their programs to recognize that the vast majority of males do not perpetrate sexual violence and that rather than pontificating “do not rape” we should teach males and females how to recognize when an assault is about to occur and how to intervene.
This way of looking at males, as the defenders against rape rather than the perpetrators of rape, is a new way of looking at an old male responsibility. A great breakdown of the history of sexual assault can be found in Brownmiller’s “Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape” (1975). Brownmiller gives several examples of how rape does not occur in the animal kingdom, it is a violation that is unique to humans; however, this also exemplifies the fact that the male instinct to protect their females is a trait shared by many species.
We have tried for years to prevent sexual violence by telling males that ‘no means no’ and have seen no drop in number of assaults. I believe part of this to be because a presentation given to 100 males might contain one guy who is an offender; and when we focus solely on making males responsible to not rape, the remaining 99 participants leave the talks with a very similar sense of responsibility as they started. However, a presentation in which we teach participants to help in the prevention of sexual violence by intervening distributes responsibility to bystanders as well. Therefore, the message is no longer “do not rape,” but also “do not stand idly by.”
A presenter once gave a clear visual of this to me: if less than one percent of males perpetrate against an estimated 30% of females how are they not stopped by the remaining 99% of males and 60% of females; the answer is that the remainder turn their back rather than step in. More succinctly and famously worded by Edmund Burke: “all that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”
So a message for all the good men out there, do something.