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Comment Editorial

To all the men we’ve known before

CW: sexual assault

I want to tell you what is normal for women and non-binary people. To be regularly told what we must do to ‘keep ourselves safe’. Don’t walk alone after dark, but don’t give the cab driver your actual address, don’t wear headphones, but pretend to be on the phone, always have your keys between your knuckles, always send the “text me when you get home”, don’t get drunk, be careful what you wear, be careful who you talk to, who you reject, who you kiss.

We have had enough. It has never been ok for us to have to modify our behaviour to stop something realistically only preventable by the perpetrators.

It is time for you to do better. It is beyond time for you to step up. I have said it before; most survivors have said it before, but let’s repeat it. It is not the actions of a victim that determines whether they will be assaulted. It is the actions of the assaulter and our society that enables them. Until that becomes established, 97% of women will continue to be harassed.

This is not a conversation that needs to be had by women; it is a conversation that needs to be had by men. This is your conversation. Of course, not all men are harassers, but when 97% of us have been harassed, you all know at least one. You may even have enabled a harasser.

If you are surprised by this, you are not doing enough. Since the #metoo movement, and even before, this was common knowledge to anyone who was ready to listen. How many times do survivors have to keep exposing our trauma and our wounds? How many movements will it take for you to take action? How many times do we have to yell into an apparent void?

All week, sexual harassment has been the main thing on my mind, yet I see so few men I know talking about this. This has been the same since I was 15 – when I see female friends, it is a constant conversation thread, but amongst men, it is either taboo or becomes a joke. You may not be the problem, but your friends are.

If you have laughed or sat silently whilst a rape joke was bandied about, you are an enabler. If you have ignored your drunk mate groping girls in clubs or only ever pulling paralytically drunk women, you are an enabler. If you have ignored someone telling you their experiences with sexual assault or accused them of exaggerating, you are an enabler. You are part of the reason that over half of the population organise their lives around fear.

I am tired of coddling your feelings. Yes, men can be assaulted too, and yes, not all men, but when you remain silent, you are part of the problem. I am so exhausted with having the same conversation over and over again, exhausted from explaining the obvious, exhausted from the barrage of objectification and harassment that affects our lives daily. Step the fuck up, talk to your problematic friends, and do the work.

Image: Pixabay.com via Creative Commons