College Men, Where Do You Stand?February 02, 2012
About one in five women will be raped or experience attempted rape during their college careers, and about two-thirds of undergraduate students — male and female — experience some type of sexual harassment. Because this isn’t just a “women’s issue,” the nonprofit organization Men Can Stop Rape tackles campus sexual harassment and assault in the work they do.
This week, they launched a fabulous new campaign, Where Do You Stand?, which focuses on what bystanders can do to challenge harassment and assault on college campuses. The campaign uses billboards, posters, T-shirts, bystander intervention trainings, and peer-education sessions to equip young men with the necessary skills and tools to intervene when they see a situation that doesn’t look right.
Tuesday night, they officially launched the campaign during an MCSR bystander training for about 30 young men at Georgetown University.
Early in the workshop, the young men had to answer a question: What would you do if you were at a college party and you saw a guy trying to get a young woman to drink more alcohol when she already looked like she had too much?
They took turns giving suggestions for how to intervene as bystanders in this scenario and in a few other similar scenarios. Four of the young men role-played the suggestions.
Many of the suggestions for the drinking scenario focused on creating a distraction or interrupting what was happening. They suggested coming up and engaging the young man in conversation about something else, accidentally spilling a drink on him, pretending to throw up on him, or storming up and pretending to be the young woman’s boyfriend to get her out of the situation. Some young men agreed that they would be willing to get confrontational or to bring other people into the picture if the young man wouldn’t stop.
Kedrick Griffin and Joe Vess were the Men Can Stop Rape staff facilitators. They went over the importance of having a game plan going into situations where something like this may come up, such as at a party or a bar. They also discussed reasons why people tend to stay quiet when they see abuse, harassment, or discrimination happening to others. Bystanders may be unsure if the behavior is unwelcome, hesitant to assume the person can’t take care of themselves, unclear about what to do, or fearful that the perpetrator will turn on them. For young men, another reason may be the fear of losing status in a social group, especially if they’re not well-established in that group.
Having ideas and tools for intervening can help people feel more comfortable with doing so. Talking to friends about a game plan can make a person feel confident that they won’t have to intervene alone.
I am truly thrilled to see MCSR launch this campaign. I hope campuses all over the country will implement it. Ending sexual harassment and assault is not the responsibility of women alone. We need men as allies. We need men to take a stand and speak out. It is only by working together on these issues that we will see true change on college campuses.