How men are necessary in the movement to end sexualized violence

This piece by Rachel Halder is cross-posted from Our Stories Untold, a blog provoking conversation and allowing women and men to tell their stories about sexualized violence within religion, specifically the Mennonite Church.

“Most men in their lives will not commit sexual violence,
but most acts of sexual violence are committed by men.”

Joe Campbell from Calgary Communities Against Sexual Abuse


In order to end sexualized violence against women, children and men, we need men.

To end child abuse, domestic violence, verbal and physical abuse, we need men.

To end misogyny, we need to look to our young boys, teens, and husbands to assist in the fight for women’s rights. We need men.

It is when we see rape as only affecting the female victim that we’ve lost an important truth in the world. When we view the physical and psychological repercussions of abuse as damage only impacting the victim, we are missing a vital point. Rape and sexualized violence–whether it’s being committed against a man, a woman, or a child–destroys our collective humanity. It destroys our communities and institutions, even when we turn a blind eye or don’t admit that it’s there. Sexualized violence seeps into the cracks of our consciousness and it wiggles its way into our understanding of the world, gender roles, and where the blame should fall when such violent and horrible crimes are committed. This unawareness of rape is what allows rape culture to thrive. It’s what allows situations like Steubenville happen. And when we ignore it and act like we are separate or somehow different from these crimes, we are lost.

Last Wednesday evening I spoke for the first time at a Mennonite church about Our Stories Untold, as well as my experience with abuse and what needs to be done about sexualized violence. Becoming a public speaker on topics of sexualized violence is my goal, so speaking Wednesday was a successful test-run. Though nervous, I was able to deliver compelling statistics and dispel common rape myths within churches that only point to the obvious: sexualized violence surrounds us no matter what community or religion we are a part of.

Everyone in attendance agreed on the fact that men are necessary in the movement towards stopping violence against women. Rather than excluding men or making men out to be only perpetrators, we must embrace their presence and encourage them to use their strength in positive ways by taking a stance to eradicate misogyny, fear, and sexualized violence. We need their help to transform shame and guilt into support and love.  As a collective whole we can all stop violence before it ever happens.


Poster from

I posted this poster on Our Stories Untold Facebook page about the “10 Things Men Can Do to End Violence Against Women,” created by Voices of Men, a one-man play working to end male violence against women. Through expanding on these points I hope both men and women can find several points that resonate. Then, start practicing them today:

  1. Break out of the “Man Box”: What are the traditional images of manhood that keep you from taking a stand? This question depends on the age and background of the male identified person reading this question, yet there are some general male expectations that men and boys feel pressured into fulfilling. For example, children who use the word “raped” on the playground–as in “Oh man, he totally raped me when he stole that ball away!”–may not understand what they’re saying. If they do, then they may be afraid to correct others using their word in fear of being picked on. Adult men often let their pride and ego get in the way of taking a stand. They may be reluctant to speak up in a church about how women who wear “provocative” clothing when raped still deserve support. Break out of the traditional “man box” and take a stand.
  2. Ask how you can help if you suspect abuse or an assault. And, if you are abusing others in any way, stop and seek professional help immediately. I wouldn’t leave it here, either. You should also ask those involved in movements on how you can assist them. When I spoke at church I had a lot of people tell me what I should be doing with Our Stories Untold. All these ideas were great and supportive to the movement, but I already know the direction I want to take Our Stories Untold. Therefore, rather than suggesting someone to take on your own ideas, what if you owned those ideas and created projects out of them yourself? Acknowledge the abused.
  3. Teach your children that “no” means “no” and that “stop” means “stop.” After speaking the other evening I had a woman tell me that when her children were young she always taught that if they were tickling someone, and that person said “stop,” then it was absolutely necessary to immediately stop. After watching her sister in an abusive relationship she understood it was important, if not vital, to explain these rules to children. Providing clear guidelines early on will assist in these types of situations as children, young adults, and parents.
  4. Don’t buy the argument that sexual and domestic violence are due to mental illness, lack of anger management skills, chemical dependency, stress, testosterone, or other excuses. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve had people say to me, “Well her husband had some major anger management issues.” That is just an excuse, and it means accepting such behavior as inevitable.  It’s the whole “boys will be boys” mentality that we cannot let continue any longer. This argument also feeds into the idea that “all men rape,” which is a horrible viewpoint to take. The fact is that one in three women in the world will be raped, beaten, sexually coerced, trafficked or otherwise abused in her lifetime. But the average rapist has attacked 14 times. Do you see the disconnect?
  5. Stand up and Speak out! Silence affirms and supports sexualized violence. We need to amplify voices, and the way to do that is to speak out—always and everywhere. This means when you hear a friend make a misogynistic, sexist, or hyper-sexual comment, you call it out. In order to create change, we must be willing to swallow our ego and speak out. Remaining silent allows rape culture to thrive.
  6. Look in the mirror: Do your own attitudes and actions help support the objectification and de-valuing of women and girls? What kind of jokes do you make with your friends? What comments do you make about “scantily dressed” women? How do you view women in your life? Do you treat all women the same way you would treat your sisters, aunts, or mother? If you don’t, then you should work on changing your attitudes.
  7. Be a model for youth. Mentor a boy. Teach boys with your words and actions that being a man means respecting women. Again, when I was speaking the other night I had a lot of people comment about how we need to teach the boys how to be respectful towards women. I agreed. But you don’t need me to stand in front of your church for you to do this. YOU can do this every day you interact with a child. YOU can do this by teaching a Sunday School class. This is collective action — we need YOU.
  8. Educate yourself. Listen to and learn from women. Attend programs and events and learn how to end sexualized violence. I think the “listen and learn from women” component of this point is extra important. A dilemma I often see from feminist-minded men or organizations like the Good Men Project, is that “male allies” often end up using their male power to dominate the scene and take away the voices of women themselves. Without intending to, they perpetuate the shaming and dis-empowerment of women. What women need are men who support them, not men who speak for them–there’s an important differentiation.
  9. Step up to create a culture shift that doesn’t tolerate disrespecting or degradation of women. Make this a HUMAN ISSUE. I reiterate what I stated before: Rape and sexualized violence–whether it’s being committed against a man, a woman, or a child–destroys our collective humanity. This is a human rights issue, not just a women’s issue. We need men to make a cultural shift in rape culture and violence against women.
  10. Host a video discussion or presenter through work, school, church, service club, sports team, or other organization. Same as I said in point #2, own your good ideas about what to do about this topic and create the projects yourself rather than expecting someone else to do the work for you. Think of how much change we can create when everyone starts believing in themselves.

We need men to eradicate sexualized violence. Join the collective movement. Ask how you can assist with Our Stories Untold. There’s no better time than today.

Comments (12)

  1. Kristine Regehr

    Thanks for this, Rachel. It’s very timely for me.

  2. Rachel

    You’re very welcome, Kristine. I’m glad it came at an appropriate time for you!

  3. Tim B

    I’ve read this post countless times and, as I’m the resident player of Devil’s Advocate here, I need to to step in. First, I don’t recognize any of these ten items as being anything. They are way too vague to present any real solutions. Even the ones that aren’t (don’t tell sexual jokes) may not have any correlation toward sexual violence. Lastly, much of this seems to be aimed at education. As if sexual predators and those who commit rape simply don’t know any better. This isn’t Pakistan or India where violence against women is routinely justified. People in the states know that rape is bad. The issue isn’t calling it out or educating people or hosting some warm-fuzzy lecture/video on the topic. Rape isn’t acceptable. Virtually all employers have some sort of sexual harassment policy and training. Most colleges have resources set aside for this sort of thing. People know rape is bad. The people committing rape know it’s bad and either justify it or are compassionless.

    So the question isn’t one of educating the potential or current rapist, it’s one of prevention and punishment.

    In my 33 years of life I’ve never had a friend who I suspected of rape. If one out of 14 men rape either I’ve been lucky and not known any, or I’m unaware of their activities. I’ve known lots of men, so how do I spot a rapist when I befriend one?

    I’ve known men who beat their wives and girlfriends. I can’t seem to talk any sense into either party. The police have been involved. How do I proceed?

    You say “What women need are men who support them, not men who speak for them–there’s an important differentiation.” Amongst all of the vague ‘ideas’ you contribute I find this one the most perplexing. What in the heck does this mean?

    Of all the things here that are clear, none seem to tackle the direct issue. For instance, it’s a great idea to not use the word “raped” lightly or casually. But does using the word “raped” on the playground, as you suggest, really lead to further violence to women or is it simply uncouth? Likewise, calling out a sexist comment is probably a gentlemanly thing to do but does stopping a friend from saying something stupid mean you’ve thus stopped him from becoming a violent sexual predator?

    This list, while well intentioned, is far too vague to accomplish anything. Once again, I find myself staring at words and phrases that don’t mean much.

    This may not go over well, especially in Anabaptist circles, but probably the best way to prevent rape is called a “.38 snub nose” and tucked away inside a purse. I think we can both agree that a potential rapist will learn very quickly how to not rape when he lacks the ability to do so.

    Good luck out there.

  4. amyshowalter

    Tim B. you write that you’re the resident Devil’s advocate, but isn’t that just code for arguing for the sake of argument, even when you don’t truly believe in what you’re arguing? I wonder, is that an argument that really needs to be given voice?

    But you also went on to say some things you seem to actually believe, so I’ll address those.

    Your general critique seems to be that the “10 Things Men Can Do” list is too vague to present real solutions. You mention being frustrated that most of the steps are just education, and seem to cite the existence of sexual harassment policies and training as proof that people who commit rape know better and are simply able to justify it or lack compassion.

    I think the steps appear vague because they’re attempting to address an issue that permeates our culture. I’m sure you’ve heard of “rape culture,” which to me refers in part to a culture in which it’s okay to tell sexual jokes that disrespect and degrade women. It’s a culture where sexual harassment policies are in place but women and men are still subjected to inappropriate words, touching, and advances and are made to feel guilty when they report or confront the individual who is harassing them. It’s a culture where everyone knows rape is bad, yet people are still able to justify their actions because she was wearing a short skirt, he was asking for it, etc. Education is never just education. Understanding a problem (through education) is the first step to addressing a problem.

    You wrote that you’ve never had a friend who you suspected of rape. To that I would say people are complex. I’d like to think that none of the men or women I have known have offered unwanted sexual advances, but they have. I do hope you’re right about your friends though.

    I’m sorry you have friends who are in domestic violence situations. As to how you should proceed, I think engaging in this dialogue is a good start. I know that answer is vague and you might consider it unhelpful, but it’s what I’ve got. Domestic violence is another one of these overwhelming issues that seems rooted in culture. So take a firm stand against domestic violence, beginning with jokes. Because it might not be a joke to someone who overhears it.

    As to the perplexing statement“What women need are men who support them, not men who speak for them–there’s an important differentiation.”

    I have two thoughts, though of course I can’t speak for Rachel who originally posted.

    Supporting women means allowing them a space to speak. It may mean not playing Devil’s advocate on a post, letting a woman have the last word without “clarifying” her argument or dismissing it as unhelpful. (Let me be clear that I think you had things to say in your comment, and were not necessarily playing the Devil’s advocate as you first suggested.)

    My second thought piggy-backs on a personal experience. In college I had an acquaintance who often touched me in a friendly manner, that made me uncomfortable. One time after a particularly unsettling experience I ran into my older brother on our Mennonite college campus, and his immediate response to the story was perfect: you have the right to tell him not to touch you. Later in the conversation he may have offered to talk to the peer involved (because my brother’s a stand up guy and would do that sort of thing) an offer which I would refuse. But what mattered was his immediate supportive statement (and also listening to me when I said “no, don’t talk to him”) of my right to decide who touches me.

    I, and other women I know don’t always feel that right. This is part of “rape culture.” The sexist remarks, jokes, and name-calling adds up, even when they’re used casually. So perhaps calling out a friend isn’t so much for the sake of the friend not becoming a sexual predator, but more to create an environment where all of your friends (male and female alike) will feel respected and valued. Addressing these small things lead to larger cultural change.

    For the record, carrying a gun would not make me feel safer. I’d rather not add the psychological damage of hurting another individual (even if they meant to harm me) to an already traumatic experience. Plus I think Jesus would want me to be a little more creative.

    And thanks for the heartfelt “good luck out there.” Seriously. Some days we really need it.

  5. Tim B

    I think I would like to know how and where women are raped. You always see these statistics that say one in four women will be raped. That’s sad. I’d like to know how? It seems to me that many people when they think of “rape” picture a woman being abducted off a city bus and raped in an alley. And while that’s the image we have, it doesn’t seem realistic.

    Where are women raped?
    How can they prevent this?
    How can men see if one of their friends is acting in a suspicious way?

    Those are questions worth asking.

  6. TimN

    Tim B,

    In response to your first question, there’s pretty good statistics on how and where women are raped. Here’s a couple that speak to this question:

    Your second question, “How can they prevent this?” artfully points to the whole argument of the article: prevent sexual violence is not just about what “they” (women) can do. It’s also about what men can do. One place to start is education. For example, you said rape is “sad” but apparently not emotionally moving enough to simply Google the answer to your own questions.

    More importantly, Amy Showalter graciously responded in detail the first time you raised this question and laid out what men can do to support women in challenging rape culture. Yet you completely ignore her points in your follow up post. It’s like she doesn’t exist.

    This doesn’t even live up to your own self-identified role of “resident player of Devil’s Advocate here.” What it does fit with is with a story I heard from a friend in May 2010. He said that you were were bragging on Facebook about creating a “shitstorm” here on YAR. The goals of those who enjoy creating shitstorms (often known as trolls) and those playing the devil’s advocate are subtle, but important ones. Your response to Amy shows your hand.

    By taking the shitstorm approach here on YAR, you consistently keep conversations at the 101 level. In other words, there isn’t much room for going deeper into the nuances or subtleties of an argument. Rather, every argument with you goes back to basics, like: Does systemic racism exist? or Is nonviolence viable?. After 6 years of this from you, I’ll admit that I’m less and less convinced that its helpful for anyone, including you.

    That said, this is a 101 level discussion that I don’t think we’ve had here on YAR before, so I’ll finish with answering your third question:

    According to the Groth typology of men who rape women, there are three types of rapists: anger rapists, power rapists and sadistic rapists. According to the US Department of Justice:

    • Anger rapists are motivated to rape “as a means of expressing anger and hostility that has built up over time.” These rapes are often triggered by “precipitating life stressor, such as an argument with a girlfriend or wife, or a significant conflict in the workplace.”
    • Power rapists “are primarily motivated by power.” These rapes “are about ‘conquering’ women to demonstrate their ‘manhood.'” The trigger in this case is “perceived threats to the offender’s competency or masculinity.”
    • Sadistic rapists “experience a great deal of pleasure and excitement–including sexual arousal–from inflicting harm on their victims, and enjoy watching the victim’s fear and suffering.” These are the rapists most likely to kill their victism. Victims of sadistic rapists “are often targeted and then stalked because of specific physical or other attributes” and “these crimes tend to be the product of considerable planning and premeditation.”

    According to this aticle, together, power rapists and anger rapists account for 74% of all rapes. If you’d like to make sure your friends don’t become an anger rapist, helping them confess their anger (particularly towards women) and let go of it would be good. If we look at power rapists, it seems clear that reducing expectations that men be macho and sexist would be helpful. Also, challenging the idea that women are possessions and objects is important. In the case of sadist rapists it sounds like signs of that would be stalking and obsessiveness about specific physical attributes of women.

    In all three cases, there’s lots that men can do do help prevent rape and challenge the culture that enables it.

  7. Tim B

    Oh, come now, TimN, this place is a lot more interesting with me in it. From the 12th to the 19th this post got barely any love and now look at it! Every great story line needs a villain and I’m more than happy to be yours. :)

    I take exception to your comment that “[Amy] doesn’t exist.” Amy didn’t ask me any questions so I didn’t respond to anything directly. See, that’s why I take everything here such a huge grain of salt. Everywhere you turn all you progressive liberals can see is sexism and racism and bigotry. Amy answered all of my questions so I asked some more then you take issue with that. WTH? I asked, like, six questions and she had none of her own (outside of why I like being the local thorn in your side.)

    You also take issue with the fact that I keep conversations at the “101 level.” Hogwash. There wasn’t even a conversation going on before I got in this thread. Nor is there rarely on this site without my involvement. In fact, my involvement and my questions have made both you and Amy provide competent answers on the matter at hand. My posts are the exact opposite of keeping anything at the “101 level” because they require more of you. Since my involvement, there are more references, more statistics, and more clarification. If I’m a “troll” then I’m the least name-callingest troll ever. A troll who asks questions and gets you to clarify your own position. I’m a troll who asks you to bring more to the table. I can be a a royal pain in the ass but every conversation I’m in is better because of it. Read back through and tell me it isn’t so. Neither you nor Amy could have had thoughtful posts in the comments section without me.

    I appreciate creating a “shitstorm” on YAR. And, hell, you’d think you’d appreciate it. Between your advocacy of anti-war protests on military training facilities and Pink Menno at MCUAS’s biannual conference isn’t YAR all about creating “shitstorms?” Come on, Tim, you and I, we’re not so different. (For the record, if you hear gossip in the future, maybe email me? Or call me?)

    So let’s get back to the matter at hand. I said the original post was stupid because it wasn’t specific enough. It didn’t detail what men could actually do to prevent rape. It was only my “trolling” that got something out of you.

    Let me tell you story. I know you think I’m some male chauvinist who’s always grabbing his crotch and making grunting noises (only one of those is true, BTW) but that’s not the case. About three years ago I was working in a cell phone kiosk in the mall after being laid off my job.

    We had a new hire, he was male but foreign (you’d like him, I guess). Anyway, first day on the job he starts taking pictures of a female coworker, down her shirt, her backside. He was telling other people who worked in the mall how much he wanted to bang her. Basically stuff that is an HR nightmare.

    I didn’t work that day but the next day I did. The gal, let’s call her “Kelly” was in tears. She just came in to work and she knew she had to close with this guy. Our manager didn’t fire him (Because retail management is especially horrid). So it’s me, Kelly, and this new hire Sangreit. When the guy comes in I tell him “Dude, you’re fired. Get out of here. Go home. Don’t come back. This lady is in tears because of what you’ve done to her.”

    Anywho, I wasn’t even a shift manager, just a lowly employee making $6 an hour in this stupid kiosk. Next thing I know I’m getting nasty calls from the District Manager and HR back at Corporate telling me I didn’t have the authority to fire this chump. I told them where exactly they could shove it and that if they wanted him they could bring him back, which they never did.

    So when you’re trying to tell me that my opinion of rape as simply being “sad” is somehow insufficient, let me say that I don’t think there are words to describe how much despise it. I haven’t and won’t tolerate sexual harassment. With that said, there are times when it’s obvious that some **** is going down. But if rape is this prevalent, it’d be nice to know how and where it is going to happen and under what circumstances.

    So, yeah, when you try to make it out like I perpetuate “rape culture” all I can say is “man, you don’t know me.” You may think you do because I’m here in this digital space. And you think because I like pushing you out of liberal advocacy bubble that I’m totally down with sexual harassment from time. That’s not true. It’s not true at all. Just because I love being a pain to you, doesn’t mean I disagree with you.

  8. amyshowalter

    Tim B.

    1. You say “man, you don’t know me” in the same post that you refer to YAR posters/readers as progressive liberals who can only see sexism, racism and bigotry. This seems hypocritical. You can’t ask to be seen as an individual as you lump others into groups. Please allow me the same respect you ask for yourself.

    2. You seem to think you inspired a “thoughtful” post from me. Perhaps this is true. But you also made me angry – I spend too much time being reminded of the need to think and educate about these issues, and you just added needlessly to the hours and energy I put into this ongoing struggle. You wasted my time.

    3. You write: “But if rape is this prevalent, it’d be nice to know how and where it is going to happen and under what circumstances.” I agree. But as TimN pointed out, rapes occur in our homes, in the homes of our friends, and in public, by strangers and people we know. Rape can occur anywhere at anytime, inflicted by the people we least expect. That’s an exhausting reality to live with as a woman.

  9. Tim B

    1) I’ve been here long enough to know my assumption is correct; however, point taken & fair enough.

    2) What about my comments made you angry? Again and again I ask questions, I never call anyone names. I’ve re-read my first post twice and I fail to see what could possibly make anyone upset. I really didn’t even disagree with anything you said, I merely said it was too vague to be useful, a criticism I stand by.

    3) It may be an exhausting reality, but I disagree that asking for specifics is somehow wrong. If you’re saying “rape is occurring a whole bunch, we need men to help stop it” I want to know when and where it’s happening and by who. For instance, lung cancer is caused by many things, but the #1 cause is cigarette use. If we can limit cigarette use lung cancer will decrease dramatically. Is it too much to ask what/where/when the major risks of rape are? Am I being combative just by asking for information?

    Once again I find people here amusingly seeking offense. To my memory I’ve never called a single person on this site a name (though I’ve thought it a time or two!). And while I frequently find your ideas silly, I’ve never belittled them in a juvenile manner. (Though I don’t find “rape” or any sort of violence silly.)

    I’ll end with this, if you’ve found anything I’ve said to be mocking, juvenile, or “troll-like” in any way you can freely email me Put in the subject line “YAR” so I don’t mistake it for spam.

  10. Pingback: Week’s Links |

  11. Shems

    Are you aware of the First Man Standing campaign run by Restored?

  12. Ron

    Anabaptists are a group that is opposed to violence in all forms. Other groups make all kinds of various distinctions about when and where violence is appropriate. Violence in war- ok. Violence by cops- ok. Violence against police- not ok. Violence on movies, video games- ok. Violence in sports- ok. Violence of man against woman- not ok. Violence of man against man- ok if the cause is appropriate. Violence of woman against man- ok because man probably deserved it, etc.

    What is missing is any clear rule. Many people are incapable of making all these various distinctions. It’s too difficult to follow all these distinctions and people who are used to being violent in socially acceptable ways- military, police, etc. have a hard time switching and analyzing every situation to see if this is an appropriate time to use force.

    As a society, we are unwilling to say that all violence is wrong. We train people to use violence and then punish them if they use their training in a way that doesn’t comply with the long list of distinctions and exemptions.

    I don’t believe that a campaign to emphasize one type of violence is the answer. Non-violence is the answer.

    You and domestic violence groups are just realizing this. Rather than demonizing men and alienating them from the movement, they should be brought into the movement as allies.

    However, just telling men to be allies is unlikely to be successful when they feel demonized and alienated already. The movement itself needs to be more inclusive. It should be a non-violence movement, against violence of all forms, not just one particular type of violence.

    As you say, “Make this a HUMAN ISSUE”. Why should it not include male victims of sexual violence? Isn’t exclusion of men just buying into sexual stereotypes that men are strong and can take it and women are weak and are victims?

    By making it gender neutral and inclusive, rather than exclusive, you are inviting participation and making it a human issue. Also, you are avoiding gender stereotypes that are part of the problem in the first place.

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