Ending sexual violence starts with everybody. It starts with your family, friends and you. This is an issue beyond just women and men, and it should not be something categorized to a specific gender because anybody, no matter their race, sexuality, gender or even age is at risk.
Rape is commonly thought of as a “women’s issue” because women and girls experience sexual violence at higher rates than men. Gender-based violence happens all over the world and for many different reasons but mostly due to social inequalities between men and women. The gender socialization of boys and girls starts at an early age and can be attributed to many different factors such as culture, family, religion and education to name a few. This socialization greatly influences how we relate to all kinds of sexual violence.
From an early age, girls are told how to dress to not bring unwanted attention to themselves. Girls are told to learn how to protect themselves from assault. Boys are raised to be afraid of emotional sensitivity, raised to believe that they should not be as fragile as their female counterparts. If most rape cases show that men are the perpetrators then that is a “men’s issue.” It is a problem that should bring more concern to how boys are raised rather than girls. But generalizing that idea is also complicated because it lacks acknowledging that women are just as dangerous as men.
The best way to lower this violence is by decreasing the amount of effort society puts into creating a social norm and instead redirecting that effort into introducing a more gender-equal community. One person’s pain should not be a reason to downplay another’s.
The real problem with sexual violence lies in society. Because women are mainly seen as sexual victims rather than rapists, their victimization might lessen male-victim stories and further add onto a toxic stigma on what a common rapist looks like. Minimizing sexual assault has less to do with victimization and more to do with gender stereotypes. The best way to lower this violence is by decreasing the amount of effort society puts into creating a social norm and instead redirecting that effort into introducing a more gender-equal community. One person’s pain should not be a reason to downplay another’s. In many instances, men tend to be the perpetrators and women the victims of sexual assault. This is not to say that men should have any less of a voice than women when it comes to rape or abuse. On the contrary, it is very important that men find a voice when it comes to speaking up against sexual violence, not just for themselves but also for anybody who has experienced such trauma. Sexual assault on men by men can appear humiliating to some and instill a fear of weakness in the victims causing them to question their sexuality or masculinity, according to The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. But it has been found that female perpetrators are more common than we like to think. This can include abuse by a woman on other women and men, especially in prisons where the majority of the population is gender-segregated.
The current construction of gender roles is inherently harmful when it comes to arguments about sexual violence. Men should not be ashamed of appearing or acting more feminine. They should not be persuaded to be more aggressive, upholding attitudes that can further charge sexual assault cases. Sexual violence becomes an “everybody issue” when we recognize the causes of the problem. In reality, anybody can be a victim or a perpetrator, and when we rid ourselves of a cliché, more people can be heard. Sexual violence has nothing to do with how you dress or look but it has everything to do with how you choose to think.
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