Statistics, though, are funny things. See, they’re only based on the data available, not all the data in existence. We base it on reports, we base it on extrapolations, we base it on what we know. You’ve likely seen a huge number of women show that aforementioned bravery by posting with the hashtag #MeToo or using the two words on a social media post. Please don’t think that if someone is silent then she is not someone who survived those things. I would run out of fingers and toes if I tried to count the number of women who chose to keep those experiences to themselves. They’re not selfish or against the cause; they’re women who are still sorting through it, holding on to the only modicum of control they have over the situation (privacy), are in danger for disclosing it, are still experiencing overwhelming shame or guilt, or simply don’t want to. The whole point is that it’s theirs, not ours. They choose what to do and we are not qualified to judge.
Often we hear about sexual assault and sexual harassment being women’s issues. That’s like saying that drunk driving is a pedestrian or telephone pole issue. We measure our sexual statistics in how a woman is impacted instead of focusing on what is causing the impact. These aren’t women’s issues unless the “w” and “o” are typos. Women are not responsible for men’s actions, ever. No one is responsible for an individual’s actions other than that individual. Period, always, end of story, without exception, forever and always. If “He pushed me first!” didn’t get you out of trouble in kindergarten, then how does, “Yeah but that dress she wore” somehow justify a sexual assault now?
Men, though, we have an unbelievable amount of work to do. Again, this is not a women’s issue in the least, it’s our issue. We are the ones with the sense of entitlement that a woman’s dignity and existence is at our convenience. We are the ones who think that adding, “I’m just kidding” or “come on, don’t be so sensitive” somehow makes it okay. We are the ones who perpetrate these horrific acts. Whether or not we think that we’re somehow excused or justified for whatever reason is completely irrelevant. It is a behavior that is taught each time we tell our sons how good they are at things and tell our daughters how pretty they are. It is something that we teach when we focus on how a woman can be less likely to be another “Me too” instead of teaching our sons that we treat women with respect. It is something that we teach when we excuse a person’s own sexual crimes because of his celebrity or swim time or bank account. It’s active, not passive. If your child doesn’t know to look both ways before crossing the street without you telling him a million times, then how is he going to know to respect a woman’s mind and body?
It’s not a woman’s responsibility to say “no”; it’s our responsibility to ensure that there is uncoerced and unimpaired consent. Wearing her down with requests is not okay. Getting her drunk is not okay. Assuming that a previous or present action is consent for a future one is not okay. Not believing her is not okay. Thinking that it doesn’t matter is not okay.
This is a men’s issue. It is our responsibility, not as people with mothers or sisters our wives or daughters, but as people with fathers and brothers and sons and friends, to not let this happen in the first place. Guys, we have a ton of work to do. Let’s get started.