Let me be clear when I say that I have the utmost amount of respect for the men and women who put their lives on the line to defend this country every day.
But the recent arrest of the Air Force’s Chief Sexual Assault Prevention Officer for sexual battery highlights one of my growing concerns about complacency over sexual assault in our country to date.
It is no longer enough to say “we are so much better off” than we once were and that we can “all lead by example.”
Case in point – despite the changing sexual assault policies in the US Armed Forces, reports continue to climb significantly among all three branches of the services. Despite a focus on values congruence, fraternity men continue to actively engage in rape culture promotion, harass victims of sexual assault, and chapters continue to be investigated for sexual assaults on premises each semester. This year has also seen several high profile investigations regarding athletes and sexual assault (in both high school and college). It isn’t just groups either – institutions of higher education also have a major role to play in sexual assault prevention as well as contributing to the problem. Despite changes to policies regarding Title IX and Clery Act as well as the adoption of the College SAVE Act (under the Violence Against Women Act) several high profile institutions are being investigated by the Department of Education for failing their obligations to investigate claims of sexual assault and support victims or going so far as to discourage victims from seeking help and filing reports.
While I do not believe that rape is the exclusive purview of the military, fraternity men, and athletes, these groups do exist in the spotlight not only for the risky behavior certain members continue to engage in BUT also for their extraordinary capability to make a difference in their communities.
All of which brings me back to my original point – yes, being a good guy is important. Not raping someone (for lack of a more diplomatic turn of phrase) is a necessary part of who we have to be. But here’s the problem, modeling good behavior is not enough. Silence in the face of so many overwhelming examples of men hurting others will not dispel the myth that all men are rapists. Silence will not tell the men who do hurt others that their actions are harmful. Silence will not tell the victims that they are safe and supported by their friends, family, communities, and the world around them.
So here’s a message for my fellow men. Enough is enough. You know that strength, independence, resiliency, and leadership we’re so fond of talking about? Time to put that into action. Break the silence, stop the violence, and help make a difference in your community. Violence is as acceptable or unacceptable as society permits it to be. Society is not just one gender, one race, one religion, one sex, one class, or one sexual orientation.
We all have an obligation to work with each other to promote a safer, healthier, more respectful environment.