by Danielle Johnson | Columnist
With the exponentially rising issue of sexual violence initiated by men, particularly focused around the recent “Me Too” movement and the controversial Kavanaugh case, women everywhere are gaining the courage to stand up for themselves and speak out about their experiences as victims. This momentum in the world of women’s rights has played a large role in making more men aware of the harassment that women all over the world face each and every day and have helped men learn to stand up for the women in their lives.
However, despite the increasingly positive response to the women of the world who are speaking up and the unending support and encouragement from fellow victims, the momentum has hushed the voices of men who have been victims of sexual violence themselves.
According to the Center for Disease Control in 2015, 2.6% of men in the United States have been raped during their lifetime. When compared to the 21.6% of women who have been raped, this percentage may seem minuscule, yet I think this 2.6% of men would agree that it is still 2.6% too high.
Men, in our society, are expected to maintain the constant appearance of strength: to be tough; to be aggressive; to repress their emotions. Men are not supposed to be victims, let alone be assaulted or injured by a woman: they are not allowed to express feelings that may give them the appearance of being weak or in need of help.
This stigma attached to the idea of men displaying vulnerability has created a world where it is wrong for a man to speak up about his experience being sexually harassed or even raped, because “he shouldn’t have allowed a woman do that to him,” or “he should have been stronger.” It’s the same kind of thing society does to a woman when she speaks up about being sexually harassed: they say, “she should have known better” or “she shouldn’t have put herself in that situation in the first place.”
The difference is, though, that this stigma is finally being altered for women. Society is paying more attention to women who open up about their experiences being sexually harassed, thus slowly decreasing the amount of attention that is paid to men in the same position. This is not meant to downplay the seriousness or reality of what women specifically are experiencing, because it is true that sexual harassment is much more common for women than men. Rather, this is meant to raise awareness of the men who try to speak up but aren’t validated or helped, or the men who are reluctant to share their stories because of the fear of being ignored.
Just because men don’t experience sexual harassment quite as often as women do, doesn’t mean their experiences and feelings aren’t valid. The amount of anxiety, depression, and PTSD experienced after occurrences of sexual violence doesn’t depend on the gender of the victim and shouldn’t be downplayed solely because the victim is male. Don’t let the rise of women speaking up, close your mind off to that fact that men go through the same things, even though they are more reluctant to open up about it. Men deserve just as much of a voice in this issue as women do, and I believe that, if society starts to listen, men will start to speak.