Time to Educate our Young Males
By Valerie Sadler
Chair of WAWG
Director of Inasmuch House -Mission
Services of Hamilton
The training starts early for women. Be
careful walking in parking lots at night. Dark stairwells are a no-no. Be
mindful when pumping gas or visiting an ATM after dark. Always walk with a
buddy on campus after dusk.
We‘ve been shown how to hold our keys to
form a pseudo-weapon in the event of a stranger attack. We've been taught to
scream loudly and we know just where to kick. Our parents warned us that "you
don't know who's out there." Great advice that can't be ignored, but it may
create a false sense of security because women are so busy focusing on the
places they have been warned about that they fail to protect themselves from
people they know.
Women face the greatest risk of sexual
assault from men they know, not strangers. Statistics Canada reports that seven
out of ten women who are sexually assaulted are assaulted by men known to them.
Most sexual assaults occur at home and half take place in broad daylight.
Sexual assault is any unwanted act of a
sexual nature imposed by one person upon another. Rape is forced, unwanted
sexual intercourse, and it is always about power, not sex. Date rape has the
lowest reporting rate of all forms of sexual assault with only an estimated 1%
of dates rapes reported to police. The concern is that women themselves may not
recognize that they have been raped because they don't see date rape as a
crime. Is forced intercourse okay if he spent a lot on dinner or drinks, if the
couple has been dating a long time, or if he was drunk? No way. It is never all
right. The message needs to be clear. Rape is a crime regardless of the
relationship to the woman.
Young women need to be educated about
sexual assault. In the past, programs took a "just say no" approach, which was
problematic for a couple reasons. First, it ignored the power relations that
are in place, and assumed a simple solution with no consequences if the woman
did say no. Second, it hands the responsibility to the woman rather than
focussing on the man changing his behaviour.
Although awareness of sexual assault is
being raised in our community, work still needs to be done. Parents need to
educate themselves before they can talk to their kids. While it's important to
talk to your daughters, it's even more important to talk to your sons. We can
educate women, but the reality is that change has to come from our males.
Our society sees sexual assault as a
women's issue, but isn't it a men's issue? While it's true that both women and
men are sexually assaulted, most sexual assault is committed by men against
women. The systems of gender inequality and male privilege run deep and people
often resist change. But it's change that needs to happen; even on a small
So don't forward the email joking about
sexual assault. Re-examine your views about machoism. Teach your sons about
healthy, respectful relationships. Remind your daughters about stranger danger,
but don't leave out dating danger.
Small changes still mean change and the
ripple effect can often be powerful.