Trigger warning: This article contains language about sexual assault and rape and may not be suitable for some readers.
A study from the University of North Dakota in 2015 showed that 31.7% of the men surveyed answered affirmatively when asked whether they would follow through on “intentions to force a woman to sexual intercourse.”
That is nearly one in three men attesting that they would go through with rape if there weren’t any consequences.
This is more than just a staggering statistic; it’s a powerful indicator that violence against women is nowhere near disappearing. It is not only a failure of our justice system, but a failure of our culture. This is a culture where having powerful dominance over women is not only normalized, but desired. Hearing “no” is unimportant, if not pleasing. The only thing holding back (and ineffectively so) these one in three men is a criminal justice system where women are questioned, dismissed and disregarded.
We have all heard the phrase “not all men.” It is used to talk over women who are expressing that they are fearful of men. It is used to stroke the egos of men who can’t address their privilege. It is used to inject complacency into an already slow-moving call for progress by taking the blame off of the “nice guy.” But the men that do this aren’t exclusively the lurking men who hide in the bushes, waiting to jump out. They are your friends, classmates and all the “nice guys” that get away without accountability.
We are scrutinized for being afraid, and we are gaslit into thinking that the world is safe for us, that this country is safe for us. A 2018 study from the Thomas Reuter’s Foundation ranked the United States as the 10th most dangerous country for women in the world. This study analyzed overall risks faced by women, specifically regarding healthcare, access to economic resources, customary practices, sexual violence, non-sexual violence and human trafficking. This alone proves that this country is not safe for us.
Many scholars have pointed out that rape is inherently a men’s issue. Men must take the steps to address their privilege and culture for the end of violence against women to make any progress.
Men need to address the actions and circumstances that have made women fearful.
For those of you who talk over survivors saying, “not all men” and pushing the point that we have no reason to be afraid, why don’t you tell that to the one in five women who experiences rape or attempted rape in her lifetime? Why don’t you tell that to the one in three women who experiences sexual violence in her lifetime?
So no, I don’t want to hear about how far we’ve come. I want to hear about the deep cultural changes that need to be made. I don’t want to hear about all the “nice guys” that would never do that. I want to hear about the accountability that we are going to hold men to.