Now I want to make a few general statements here:
- The majority of men do not assault others. The majority of men, young and old, are appalled that sexual assault exists and do not support those who assault people.
- Young women who like sex are not “bad girls” or “sluts”.
- Revealing clothes are not an invitation; they are a fashion preference.
- Young men who “convince” another person to do something sexual that they do not want to, are not manly.
- Men can “control themselves” if they see someone in revealing clothes. They are not passively subjected to the demands of their hormones. Treating them this way is an insult to them.
- Sexual assault is not sex. It is an act of violence. It is not “boys being boys”. It is not “girls asking for it”.
- Some people like sex; some people do not like sex; everyone who is ready for sex has gotten to that point at a different time in their lives. This is the crux of why you need to know for sure that your partner wants sex before you go there. Otherwise, you are assaulting that person.
Some people think that a video clip here or an audio recording there shows an unusual event or occurrence. But I really believe what we are seeing these days (especially during this election campaign) is a bright spotlight exposing what happens to many girls, women and others every day. The analogy for me is that cyber-bullying has been shown to occur at the same rates and by the same people that do regular old-fashioned bullying. But seeing it in the bright light of the internet really exposes it for the harm that bullying can cause.
I am so fortunate not to ever have been subjected to assault, but I can tell you that I just one woman, and for most of my life I have been subjected to inappropriate and unwanted interactions.
- At 15, a friend’s step-dad tried to kiss me (I had never even had a real kiss by that age!)
- At 18 in college, I was helping a friend deal with what I now realize was her PTSD from being raped in high school.
- At 20, a PhD and a supervisor for a summer internship in a lab, grabbed me and tried to “kiss” me and physically held me back when I was trying to get out of his car after he gave me a ride to my student housing at the end of a work evening dinner. I was counting on him for my recommendation for medical school and I was terrified what it would say. My college counselor reassured me that “this happens all the time” and that she would check the recommendation to make sure it was appropriate.
- At 28 or 29, in residency, one of my married attendings (what we call our supervising, teaching physicians) made a big pass at me that I declined but then he leered at me for weeks after that. He knew I was married too.
- As a mature adult with 2 kids, during a business trip a colleague rearranged assigned seating to allow himself to “invade my personal space at dinner” (Biggest. Understatement. Ever.). Another on that same business trip was joking with me that I must have been a pole dancer before medical school. I laughed along. Not because it was funny, but because, what could I do?! I was thousands of miles away from home. Fortunately, I had a male friend that looked out for me the rest of the trip since honestly I was not feeling comfortable walking to my room alone.
Okay, this isn’t an exhaustive list, but rather a few examples of what women face every day. I personally don’t even think I’ve had it that bad!
So what words of wisdom do I have?
- First of all, let us not stand passively by when a few entitled people continue to assault and threaten others. A single person who is left unchecked can repeat their crime again and again. In general, rapists are repeat offenders.
- Be aware that:
- Have a buddy system.
- Watch your drinks – never leave them out of your sight.
- Don’t allow jokes about rape and assault to be accepted. That is simply crossing a line and a way to try to normalize this criminal behavior.
- If you see someone at a party that looks like they are really drunk, and another person looks like they are trying to persuade them to go upstairs, or whatever – intervene – just ask, “Are you OK? Do you know where you are?”
Any other ideas or suggestions? Share them in the comments below.
Each generation helps our society continue to evolve and improve. Let’s keep moving the right direction.