Obama is tackling sexual violence—and he gets it
“Our society does not sufficiently value women. We still don’t condemn sexual assault as loudly as we should.”
Obama announced a public service campaign, called “Its On Us” to stop sexual violence on college campuses. This campaign will target both men and women, but will particularly focus on men. As stated by the New York Times, “Mr. Obama called for a “fundamental shift in our culture” in the way women are treated and in the response to victims of sexual assault.” Men will be challenged to step up and see sexual violence as their personal responsibility to prevent.
Do you realize how incredibly rare this is? A sexual violence prevention campaign targeted towards men?
We’ve all seen our share of victim blaming, violence, slut shaming, and worse—and the statistics never seem to get any better. It’s still true that for every five women who enter a college campus expecting to have the notorious ‘best four years of their lives’, one will leave a victim of sexual violence (according to the Department of Justice). And of all violent crimes rape is the least reported with only 11% sharing their story. I believe nothing has changed or improved with regard to violence on campus, because most of the help and education has been focused on women.
When I was a freshman in college, all the freshmen women attended a seminar about sexual violence. We were told how to recognize a predator, never to accept a drink we didn’t see poured, not to walk home alone, and that it was risky to go back to his room if we didn’t intend on having sex. We learned that the men we had to be the most careful around were those that we knew. We were encouraged to carry mace and to speak up if someone didn’t take ‘no’ for an answer. We were told it was never our fault if something happened to us, but there were ways to play it safe.
The men didn’t have to attend any seminars.
During the Q+A, I remember a heated discussion starting over the audience that I didn’t fully understand at the time. One brave woman said that telling women how to behave to ‘avoid being raped’ was blaming the victim. She called it rape culture. Another woman challenged her from the back row, saying that while women aren’t at fault, we also “shouldn’t be stupid”.
The brave woman hesitated and then told her story of a high-school acquaintance not understanding the word ‘no’. She insisted that when women are told the right way to behave to avoid sexual assault, they blame themselves if sexual violence touches their lives. She said she blamed herself for what happened. And then she sat down.
Many of us know about blaming ourselves.
There were so many things we could have done differently. We shouldn’t have slept at the party. We should have noticed that he was a ‘bad guy’. We shouldn’t have been so drunk. We should have dressed more modestly. We should have fought back. We should have known what would happen.
I believe that sexual violence is the greatest tragedy we face today. I don’t want to send my daughter to college unless the statistics change. There’s no greater burden than women (and men) living with shame over losing the right to choose. And Obama understands this truth, in conjunction with the famous quote from Edmund Burke:
We have a President who doesn’t think the answer to sexual violence is going around telling women to dress more modestly or be more careful or take self-defense classes. Whether or not we agree with his politics, I think we can all agree this campaign is exactly what is needed on college campuses. I’m praying for courageous men on college campuses around the country to stand up and tackle this tragedy with courage. We need you.
What is your experience with sexual violence on college campuses?
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