Opinion: Instead of criticizing women, we must educate men


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Women are taught how to defend themselves against a male attacker. Meanwhile, men are rarely taught about the dangers women face. This creates an unsafe space for women to come forward with their traumatic experiences, leading to a general lack of discussion regarding sexual assault. In order to fight the increasing assault statistics, we need to hold men accountable for their actions and educate them on the dangers women face.

Content warning: This story contains themes of sexual assault

Every woman I know shares one common fear — seeing a man out after dark, especially when alone. There have been far too many cases in which a woman walking home alone has been kidnapped, murdered, or sexually assaulted by a man. 

Having a variety of safety precautions is great and helps crackdown on the number of kidnappings and assaults, but it glazes over the bigger issue. 

— Op-Ed Editor Rachel Laposka

If you have been on social media at all these last few weeks, you may have noticed the name Sarah Everard trending. Everard was a 33-year-old London resident who was abducted and murdered on March 3. Investigations are underway regarding her murder, with a majority of the allegations pointing toward a London metropolitan police officer.

Cases like Everard are far too common. One might think that with our current technology, cases surrounding kidnappings and sexual assault amongst women would be rare. 

We have countless tracking apps that can allow women to share their locations with others if they feel unsafe. Not to mention, basic safety tools like tasers and pepper spray also provide a sense of security.

Having a variety of safety precautions is great and helps crackdown on the number of kidnappings and assaults, but it glazes over the bigger issue. 

Women should not have to take so many precautions just to be outside at night. Women are taught how to defend themselves from a young age. We are taught to hold our keys between our fingers, carry pepper spray and tasers, and check the backseats of our cars before entering.

Oftentimes, the blame is shifted to the victim rather than the person who assaults them. Teaching women to take so many precautions to avoid something that they will inevitably take the blame for is absurd. 

People may shame her for the clothing she was wearing at the time of the attack. They may criticize her for the route she took home. They may blame the entire traumatic experience on the woman rather than put forth the effort to find her attacker.

With the media being quick to jump on cases regarding sexual assault, it would be valid to assume that they would assist the victims in their recovery. This is the case sometimes, but more often than not, mainstream media will sympathize with the abuser, leaving the victim fending for themselves. 

Whenever a woman comes forward with her traumatic experience, the media tends to dissect the situation in a way that will be used against her. We see this constantly on apps like Twitter where countless women have come forward sharing their stories and instead of receiving support, they are met with harsh backlash from people who wish to invalidate their trauma.

People need to teach their brothers, fathers, partners, and friends the dangers women face by simply going outside after dark. 

— Op-Ed Editor Rachel Laposka

These people will rebuttal by saying things like “not all men” and “men get assaulted too,” which are both accurate statements, but it only adds fuel to the ever-growing stigma of sexual assault. Due to the harsh reactions these women often receive, fewer than 40% of women come forward with their traumatic experiences.

Yes, men get assaulted too and not all men are assaulters. However, these points are rarely brought up as an individual conversation. These statements are primarily used to silence women and their trauma. 

One in five women are sexually assaulted, yet 60% of those women do not come forward with their stories for fear of further harassment. In order to combat this plague against women, people need to change.

If people do not change their mindset from one of silencing women to one of helping women, then this stigma surrounding speaking out about sexual assault will only worsen. Change begins with basic human empathy and a willingness to learn. 

We need to teach people that it is never the fault of the victim, but always the fault of the abuser. People need to teach their brothers, fathers, partners, and friends the dangers women face by simply going outside after dark. 

There are zero excuses for people who do not wish to change their mindset. The change can be as simple as a man crossing a road to ease the nerves of a woman walking alone at night or as plain as reading up on the struggles and dangers women face on a daily basis.

We are tired of being terrified to leave our homes after dark. We are tired of being told to cover up our bodies when we are in the presence of men. We are tired of having to live our lives around the male gaze. 

If we do not educate others on this pressing matter, then the statistics will only worsen. Women will stop coming forward with their stories and their safety will be scarce. It is time we put an end to the violence toward women. We are tired and angry, and we have every right to be.

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