Let's talk about rape. No, not the rape of women and girls that seems to consume the media, and has become a staple for just about every drama on television these days. I'm talking about the conversation that nobody is having; the rape and sexual assault of men and boys.
What does it say about us as a society, that we consistently neglect to acknowledge the fact that men and boys are regularly victims of sexual assault? Why do we continue to avoid this crucial conversation? Lastly, what message does this send to our sons, and our daughters as well?
There is a persistent, extremely detrimental ignorance that is inadvertently encouraging rape culture, causing both men and women to be put at a disadvantage. In almost every regard, our society does not want to believe that men can be raped; that is, outside of the standard "prison" scenario. I am not going to get into the numbers regarding sexual assault in prison, although those statistics are staggering. I'm talking about our military, our schools, our children's sports teams.
We see the deliberate minimization of this issue every day, such as when a news article pops up about an adult teacher that "had sex" with an underage male student. Or when the only portrayals of military sexual assault depict female victims. (Mind you, of the 26,000 reported military sexual assaults, around 14,000 were male victims; and because of the increased hesitance of men to report, that number is estimated to be much higher). Or when a story about a boy's rape at school is labeled a "hazing attack."
I have a son and a daughter whom I love to the moon and back. I want a world in which both feel equally comfortable talking about sexual assault. One should not be made to feel a heavier burden of shame because of his gender, and the other should not automatically assume herself a victim of her gender.
However, media continues to perpetuate harmful stereotypes of men and women, and what it means to be a man or a woman. The messages that our children receive tell them that boys and men are invincible, and must enjoy sexual activity under all circumstances; while women and girls are victims, who should be cautious of sexual activity. If something were to happen to either one of my children, I'd like to know that they would have no problem going to authorities and seeking justice. Sadly, statistics continually show that men and boys are far less likely to go to authorities, and approximately 90%-95% of male rapes are never reported.
We will never see the cultural shift that we want to see regarding sexual assault against men and women, until we break away at the gender barriers and myths that stand in its way. Let's be clear: sexual assault is not a gendered issue. Sexual assault can and does affect men, women, boys and girls. This is an issue that needs to be addressed collectively, ensuring it does not solely focus on one gender and only their stories and struggles.
For our children and the generations to come, we will start this conversation. Today marks the day that we will combat sexual violence by bringing it to light and dissolving the myths that encompass it. Let's talk to our sons and daughters about what appropriate behavior is, and what is not. Let's emphasize the importance of consent. Let's make it clear to both that either one of them can be a victim of sexual assault, and neither should feel shame or guilt if they find themselves a victim. And finally, let's tell them that we love them and that they will always be able to come to us, no matter what.