PICKART: Men must be allies to women

Denim+Jeans+are+decorated+and+hung+by+the+Raynor+Memorial+Library+to+honor+Denim+Day.+Marquette+Wire+stock+photo

Denim Jeans are decorated and hung by the Raynor Memorial Library to honor Denim Day. Marquette Wire stock photo

One in five women will be raped at some point in their lifetime according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s 2015 report. Women account for 91% of victims of rape. In 80% of rape cases, the victim knew the person who sexually assaulted them. Every 73 seconds, a person in the U.S. is sexually assaulted. One in five college-aged women are sexually assaulted in college. Eighty-one percent of women experience some sort of sexual harassment.

These statistics deeply concern me, and it is essential that there has to be immediate, concrete change for the safety and well-being of women. 

Men: you should be uncomfortable; you should feel disappointed and concerned; you should feel as if you are responsible; you better be wondering what you can do to make this world a better place for the women in your life and the women in this society. 

Men: we should be disappointed and concerned in ourselves; we are responsible for our behaviors and the behaviors of our peers; we have to hold each other accountable and educate ourselves and our peers; we have to start actively making this society a safer place for women.  

Women everywhere deserve to grow up in a society that is safe and their personhood respected. I refuse to be complacent and allow for such injustices and harm to persist and perpetuate the lives of women. 

Marquette and the international community celebrated Denim Day April 28, which is a day aimed at increasing the awareness of sexual assault and sexual violence that continues to persist against women in society.

Denim Day came to be after a 1992 Italian Supreme Court ruling where the justices claimed the survivor of rape had too tight of jeans on, so she had to help the rapist take off her pants; therefore, consent was implied. After the completely unjust ruling, women of the Italian Parliament stood in jeans outside of the Italian Supreme Court in solidarity with the survivor of the rape. 

It has been an international day of awareness for over 20 years where individuals are encouragedto wear denim in solidarity with survivors and victims of sexual assault.

Jeans were hung along Marquette’s campus with encouraging phrases supporting the survivors of sexual violence. Jean-themed masks were also passed out to students, who were encouraged to wear them in solidarity.

Witnessing Denim Day on Marquette’s campus was a beautiful, empowering and inspiring experience, one that I truly am thankful for. 

Yet, among increase in awareness, there has also been new studies explaining the long-term effects for survivors of sexual assault, such as an increase in suicidal and depressive thoughts, an increase in drug use, a higher risk of sexually transmitted infections and an extremely negative impact on survivors’ relationships with family, friends and colleagues.

The traumatic experience remains with the survivor and continues to negatively and drastically affect their livelihood and life experience. It is an ongoing battle, one that affects each survivor differently. 

Men have to do better for women and survivors of sexual assault. We have to do better for their comfort, safety and well-being. There are no excuses. Any objections are invalid.

It starts with the simplest, most basic things.

When women are walking alone, leave distance between you and her and cross the street so she knows you are not following her.

When survivors share their experiences, listen to them and encourage them to report it, but understand they may not be comfortable to do so and let them decide for themselves.

If you see a woman being bothered, check in on her and support her.

We have to start listening to women who have the courage to share their experiences and their vulnerabilities and not dismissing their experiences. 

Do not question their stories. Do not ask what they were wearing. Do not ask if they had been drinking. Do not even try to tell a woman she put herself in a bad situation. Do not blame a woman for wearing certain clothing.  There is absolutely no blame or responsibility of a woman who has been sexually assaulted. The survivors cannot and should not ever take on any blame. The aggressor and assaulter bears all fault, always. 

I am sick and disgusted of men who use any of the aforementioned excuses as to why a woman would be sexually assaulted or harassed. 

Stand in solidarity with women. Believe their experiences. Show up for them. 

We have to start showing up, actively: signing petitions, writing letters to legislatures to prompt legislations and funding for responses to domestic violence and sexual assault in Milwaukee, check in on the women in your life and offer to walk your friend home from the library. Women deserve to grow up in a society in which they do not need people to walk them home or share their location. Make sure your actions are pro-women, always.

Last, and perhaps most importantly, hold other men accountable: no locker room talk, no sexist terminology, no degradation of women’s bodies or clothing and make it evident that any sexual jokes about women or non-consented actions are an act of hate. 

Bottom line is that we, as men, have to do better, to listen, to offer support and to stand in solidarity with women and survivors of sexual assault. 

This story was written by Max Pickart. He can be reached at max.pickart@marquette.edu