For the Record: A Letter to My Male Friends

Dear Men, our friends,

You are the good guys. We women know you’re out there. Having written all these posts about attacks and violence between the sexes, I’m feeling dragged down and depressed about the relationships between men and women. As male readers, you’re probably not feeling the love either.

So here’s the deal. Good guys, we love you and respect you more than you know. You really make our day and make our lives better in so many ways.

We can’t tell who the good guys are are by looking at you. The stranger who comes up to me wanting to kidnap, rape, and murder me looks the same as the stranger who’s offering to load my groceries into my car out of genuine helpfulness. The guy who has just decided to beat me, rape me, or kill me looks exactly like the boyfriend I’ve been dating for three months–oh wait, it is my boyfriend.

The guy who throws me down in the bedroom intending to rape me looks just like my husband (because he is my husband). The person who only wants to chat with me about the book I’m reading while I’m riding public transportation looks just like the guy who intends to rape me when I get off.

I can’t tell whether he’s going to rape me until/unless he rapes me.

So, good guys, I’m telling you about the love so you can feel the love in spite of the fact that many women you see and meet every day are going to be wary of you. They don’t have any reason to be wary of you, but they don’t have any way to know that. Don’t take it personally.

Put yourself in their situation: Women are responsible for their own safety and –if they’re attacked — will be blamed and shamed for not doing everything right. But they’re also expected to be open and friendly to any man they meet — that’s the social expectation. Of course they’re wary. If you’re a good guy, that wariness isn’t about you.

It’s about my safety, maybe even my life. Those are high stakes. Don’t get upset with me for acting in accordance with how high the stakes really are. Bad guys are just as likely to be bigger and stronger than I am as good guys are, and I’d rather not be attacked, raped, or murdered.

It’s probably easy to think that the women in your life overreact. You may not have realized that in order to protect themselves, women have to react to the maximum threat that an unknown man might pose, not to his actual intentions, because a woman has no way of knowing what his true intentions are. Even if a woman knows a man, he could still attack her. (Most male-female rapes are committed by a man the woman knows.)

There needs to be a developed history of consistent good and non-sexist, non-creepy behavior between the two of them, so that the woman can know she’s safe. Keep in mind that if the man rapes a woman, she gets blamed for not being careful enough. This happens even if the rapist ends up in court, which is rare. So encourage her to be careful; don’t ridicule her for being careful.

If you’re trustworthy, if you’re a good guy, you’ll already understand why I’m nervous and wary, and it won’t bother you because you know it isn’t directed at you. It’s directed at Jack the Ripper down the street–who looks like you. Just a guy. No way around that, but I’m open to ideas.

And know how high you, as a good guy, stand in women’s regard. Being a good guy in a sexist society isn’t easy. Your manhood is the real thing. So you get the real respect. I guarantee you that the women around you who have known you longer — they know you’re a good guy.

In return, know that we as women–women as a group–love you and regard you as men. We love your voice, your shoulders, your guy-ness. It’s different. It’s cool. Nothing in our lives as men and women could ever replace the presence of each other (and that still stands no matter what your sexual orientation is; variety is the spice of life).

So don’t read this blog thinking it’s for man-haters or people who sit around looking for more reasons to blame men. Men are awesome, amazing and irreplaceable. There are plenty of haters on both sides of the gender war. My goal with this blog is to help people who are in trouble by providing information.

Sometimes men are stalked or raped or harassed; that’s why many of the resources on this blog are for both sexes. I’m also trying to help the largest possible number of people, and it is true that women are victimized by men in these ways in much greater numbers than the reverse.

Yet I constantly work to maximize the blogroll and other resources that are available for both sexes. If you know of resources I’ve missed that I should post to support men, let me know.

So please continue to stand with us, and we stand with you too. We’re a team, men and women. I’m not made smaller by your strength and dignity, and you’re not made smaller by mine.

OK, that’s my starry-eyed idealist speech for today. If we don’t dream it today, it certainly won’t happen tomorrow. So today, I dream of eradicating sexual assault — for everyone.

Define Stalking

Text on background: "Real Fear Real Crime"Definition of Stalking

Stalking: An intrusive (not necessarily overt) pattern of surveillance directed at a specific person that causes a reasonable person to be unnerved or afraid for her/his safety.

Some one in 12 women is stalked in her lifetime, and over 75 percent of women murdered by a husband or boyfriend were stalked by them first. Did you know that most stalking victims aren’t celebrities, and that most victims aren’t stalked by strangers, but by people they already know?

Considerably more women are stalked than men, but some men also experience stalking.

For more information about stalking laws, statistics, myths, and resources:

Define Sexual Harassment

 

Graphic of steps, with text about harassment.

Definition of Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment: Persistent or unwanted sexual advances or sexualized environment, whether overt or covert; sexually-based and gender-targeted behaviors that ordinary people (encompassing women’s and men’s differing life experiences, physical size, and social power) find disturbing or frightening.

Types of sexual harassment are many and varied. According to several sources, these include but are not limited to:

  • Street harassment
  • Workplace harassment
  • Initiations or hazing rituals
  • Retaliatory harassment (against someone who has made a complaint or report about the harasser)
  • Cyber bullying
  • Stalking

Many resources have already been listed in this blog. Wikipedia’s sexual harassment page is another helpful information source for a basic definition, although there is more to the topic than what is listed on Wikipedia.

Define Street Harassment

Nametag: Hello, my name is NOT HEY BABYDefinition of Street Harassment

Street harassment: The experience of women from all walks of life of being heckled, whistled at, rated, propositioned, leered at, fondled and in other ways assaulted and humiliated by men as they go about their daily lives in public spaces.

Surprisingly, there are several terrific resources just for street harassment. There wasn’t even a name for this until recent years. It was an experience women had when they went out in public. (And still have routinely today.) Books listed below can be located and ordered through sites such as Amazon.com, Bookfinder, Ashworth Books, and Alibris.

Interestingly, while Wikipedia lists 10 types of sexual harassment, street harassment is not listed. Even under the strict “sexual harassment” item in the list, it says sexual harassment is most common in the workplace and in schools. No reference to the constant and pervasive stress women can experience whenever they walk out of a building into a public space. Its “See also” section even mentions cyber-bullying, historically a very recent development…but not street harassment, which has been around for all of recorded history. We now have resources, but we still don’t talk about it much.

[Update in January 2012: If you type “street harassment” into Wikipedia it directs you to the sexual harassment page. No change there. It no longer has a list of 10 different types of harassment; the whole page has been reworked and added to. It’s a lot longer now. While I’m happy for more information, there is still absolutely no mention of street harassment — the most common, everyday experience of it that women have.]

Having said that–here’s some of what’s now available.

  • Back Off: How to Confront and Stop Sexual Harassment and Harassers, by Martha J. Langelan.
  • Her Wits About Her, by Denise Caignon and Gail Groves. Out of print–you can search for used copies at the sites listed above.
  • Tolerance.org, especially this article on street harassment. There are so many links to other resources and other information here that you’ll be here awhile.
  • The Street Harassment Project located in New York. Particularly check out their Links page.
  • Anti-street harassment organization in the U.K.
  • One of my all-time favorites on this topic, Hollaback New York City. Here women share their icky experiences and what they did to fight back. Even better, they snap cell phone photos of their harassers and post them with a narrative of what they did. The women often ask for permission to take the photo and many of these guys are flattered and think it’s a favorable reaction to their behavior. Hard to believe, but true. You can submit your own photo here (they welcome stories and submissions from anywhere in the country).
  • Read this article on activists turning the tables on street harassers.
  • Cool new interactive blog (it has stories, photos, video, you can submit your own) called Don’t Be Silent.
  • One woman’s blog entry about street harassment. Read the responses too. Her thinking on the issue is so clear–she articulately encapsulates the entire issue for women.
  • Article: “Just Looking: A View of Street Harassment.”

Define Sexual Assault

I wish some of this material could be posted directly here, but it is all under full copyright. Resources are not available to purchase the material or the rights to republish it. But here are direct links to the exact information.

Definition of Rape

Any type of penetration (using body parts, objects, etc.) of any body orifice (nostrils, anus, etc.) perpetrated by one person on another by the use of intimidation, force, violence, or victim’s lack of consent (i.e., a person who is drunk, drugged, or developmentally disabled, for example).

Differentiating between the terms rape and sexual assault

The word rape has been used historically to refer only to penile-vaginal rape. Today it is often replaced by the term sexual assault to apply to a wider range of types of assaults committed by both sexes, on both sexes. Groping and harassment are defined as types of sexual assault, but they’re not types of rape. So the difference between the terms is technical: Rape in its strictest sense refers to penile-vaginal or penile-anal rape, while sexual assault has a much broader meaning and includes all kinds of sexually-based attacks. All are devastating.

Be aware that in many cases, the two terms are used interchangeably. If you’re attentive to context this won’t be a problem.

Definitions and research

The American Medical Association has prepared a terrific report defining and describing sexual assault. Read the first paragraph of the report on page 4 in particular. About 20 percent of women–one in every five–have been sexually assaulted by age 21. This is based on estimates, because the reporting rate on rape is so much lower than the actual number of rapes that occur.

Also read the Medem article from the ACOG Educational Bulletin called “Definitions of Sexual Assault”–at least the first few paragraphs–to learn more about the definition and get statistics about different kinds of sexual assault. (ACOG stands for American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists–the first national medical group of its kind to recognize rape as a public health issue.)

The information founds at these links above will tell you that not all rape is committed by men, and that is true. The vast majority of rapes are committed by men, but a small minority of rapes are committed by women. I can’t help thinking how much money the U.S. (government, companies, communities, and individuals) could save if we could find a way to use funding to prevent men from raping women, instead of just helping victims recover after the fact.

As a country, we’re spending a truckload of money on all sorts of victim assistance programs–worthy programs that currently need to continue–but I can’t find any federal bills like this aimed at actually preventing men from raping women. No training programs, no national tours by respected male athletes or other public figures, no TV commercials, nothing. It all seems aimed at women. Research shows that that’s because women listen. They need to listen for their own safety. Men as a gender won’t go to a “Stop Rape Now” type of event because they don’t need to–they’re generally not in danger of being raped. And a rapist is certainly not going to attend. Other solutions have to be created and funded.

A couple of years ago I conducted a highly unscientific straw poll of my male friends, asking them what could be done to prevent male sexual assault of women (not merely treat the victims afterward). One said there wasn’t any way to prevent it. Another suggested that the only way to get to a rapist before he raped someone was to “train him from birth.” A third thought a moment and said, “A gun.” All took the issue seriously, but none were even willing to go as far as confronting other males on sexually entitled behavior, assaults with alcohol, or sexual bullying. Male-to-male confrontation is a vital part of the fight against rape.

Although this was unscientific, it was exactly the correct first step we need to take in the U.S. (Our country is very near the bottom of the list among First World countries for its high sexual assault rate, rape penalties, and conviction rate.) Ask men how to prevent rape, including (especially) asking rapists. Listen to their answers. Begin formulating plans.

Whatever our views, we can contribute very effectively to this issue for the future by

  • raising our sons never to commit or accept violence against women, and by
  • raising our daughters to expect never to be violated, and to reject permanently and at the first occurrence all men who do violence to them. That’s right–no second chances. Your daughter is worth it. Your mother, your sister, your girlfriend or wife, is worth so much that she should not tolerate violence. Period. This doesn’t cut the man off from having love in his life. It gives him the chance and the motivation to change his ways, find another person to love, and not do violence to her.
  • It has come to my attention that the above concept wasn’t explained or clear for marriage or a committed relationship. Within that type of relationship, you wouldn’t necessarily end the entire relationship with the first episode of violence. But you would leave immediately for your own safety. Then, as is commonly and wisely advised, you would communicate to the violent partner (be prudent–just leave a letter behind) that if they want the relationship to continue, they must go to individual therapy, join in couples counseling when the therapist says they’re ready, and not pressure you to return to the relationship. The goal here is a permanently zero-violence relationship–a completely reasonable requirement of any civilized partner who truly loves you. A therapist of course can’t guarantee zero violence, but can work extensively with the violent partner to develop new and better habits and make sure those habits are in place before putting you two together again. When the therapist indicates the time is right, you should begin couples counseling together at the same time your partner is still in therapy for the violence. The two of you will probably be advised not to live together until both types of therapy have progressed far enough.
  • Please note: A violent partner’s promises to stop being violent or go to therapy are not an acceptable substitute for actual therapy. Study after study has shown that the violence continues. Sadly, in many cases, the violence only ends with death. You must leave. This keeps you (and your children, if any) safe, and it puts the pressure of the violent relationship on the violent partner, where it belongs.
  • A note for anyone who has experienced partner violence: Nothing you do excuses your partner’s violence, and you don’t deserve it. If your partner blames your behavior for his/her violence, that’s a way of making you take the responsibility and pay the price for someone else’s actions. It’s the equivalent of a three-year-old hitting his mother, and when his mother says, “No, you mustn’t hit Mommy,” the three-year-old replies, “Bad Mommy!” Blaming the victim is classic behavior for a violent partner.
  • The zero-tolerance policy never changes–no one gets a free pass to be violent to you–but your handling of the situation will be different depending on the relationship.

If we trained our children with the “zero tolerance for violence” policy, it would make a tremendous difference in our national crime statistics for the next generation.

Here are outstanding books I’ve personally read on the subjects of self-defense. I can also recommend from personal experience the Impact/BAMM self-defense courses.

For emergencies, crises, referrals, or emotional support (all confidential):

  • Emergency number: If you are assaulted or in imminent danger, call 911 directly.
  • (For the record: If a man is standing outside your locked door–especially if he’s armed with a gun or knife–trying to break it down and yelling that he’s going to kill you, that’s imminent danger. Call 911.)
  • (For the record 2: If a man is standing outside your locked door, unarmed, trying to break it down and yelling anything threatening whatsoever at you, that’s imminent danger too. Call 911.
  • National rape hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). For TDD call 1-800-787-3224.
  • RAINN national rape hotline (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network): 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).
  • SARA hotline (Sexual Assault Resource Agency): 1-434-977-7273.
  • Disturbing statistics on their home page, unfortunately accurate.
  • Victim hotline (National Center for Victims of Crime–open for calls from 8:30 am-8:30 pm Monday through Friday): 1-800-FYI-CALL (394-2255)