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Patel: The other side of sexual assault

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Patel: The other side of sexual assault

Meera Patel, Columnist

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This year, there has been considerable discussion of sexual violence on college campuses nationwide. There have been many cases where people have come out and spoken about their experiences and filed lawsuits.

But the root cause of assault in our culture is still somewhat murky. I’ve written about the hook-up culture on college campuses and how it sometimes disguises assault as a “bad hookup.” That may very well be a cause of several cases of assault, but before we pronounce judgment on our hyper-sexualized society as a whole, we need to explore the different occurrences of sexual violence.

The typical perception of rape is in a dark alley, with a man attacking a woman. Most people don’t think it can happen to them — until it does. The statistic cited so often is that one in four women will be sexually assaulted during her academic career.

But what about the men who are assaulted or raped? Will anyone believe them if they say that they didn’t want what was forced on them?

As a culture, we glorify the “manly” men, the “players” or “womanizers.” If a guy gets a lot of girls, he’s considered a hot commodity with the ladies and is viewed as someone to be idolized. Celebrities like Robin Thicke perpetuate this stereotype, and the general public tends to listen to their words. “Blurred Lines” was Billboard’s Song of the Summer, for Pete’s sake.

The problem with generalizing all boys as just wanting to get into people’s pants is that we overlook what can happen to guys who go through just as much, if not more, than girls who are assaulted.

The first rule when dealing with friends who have been assaulted is to validate their experiences and to tell them that you believe them. However, for men, this generally doesn’t happen.

Picture this: You’re a guy, and you’ve just been raped at a party. You go to find your friends to tell them that some girl just gave it to you, even though you didn’t want it. What are their reactions?

Probably a round of high-fives, a fist bump or two and several slaps on the back. Man, you got a girl without even trying; you even went as far as refusing her advances and she still came onto you. You are one hell of a hot shot and must feel awesome.

Wrong.

I read an article in Time magazine over break analyzing the way that we as a culture condition teenage boys and their views on relationships. Although girls are allowed, even encouraged, to share their emotions, guys are conditioned to hold everything in, or to pretend everything is okay even when it’s not. They’re told that they should want to get in with girls and are portrayed as the bad guys — pun intended — of assault and sexual violence. Parents worry about the effect of hook-up culture on girls when it affects boys just as much.

Discussion of the aftermath of rape and what it means is the most important thing a victim can do after it happens. If you’re a guy and some person has forced himself or herself on you, you need to talk about it, but often, you don’t know where to turn. You don’t know if anyone is going to believe you, and you worry about what people will think of you once they know what’s happened to you.

Here’s something to think about: This is something that any victim of sexual violence feels. A hundred years ago, it was legal for a husband to rape his wife. Because people stepped up and talked about it, that law has been changed in the United States.

If you are a man, and you have been raped or assaulted, you have every right to stand up and say that it happened. Just as women have come out and talked about being assaulted, more men need to have the freedom to talk about what happened to them, so that we, as a society, can recognize the extent to which it is a problem. We have to start to figure out how to make a real change, but we need to figure out the root causes of the issue first.

We need to start thinking about all the different aspects of sexual assault. We have to increase awareness of the issues that you wouldn’t typically think of when you think of sexual violence, whether this is a “bad hook-up” that was actually rape or a girl forcing herself on a boy. If you’re a victim, stand up and say something, regardless of your sex. I can tell you how empowering it can be.

Meera Patel is a McCormick junior. She can be reached at meera@u.northwestern.edu. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to opinion@dailynorthwestern.com.

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