Brooks: Honorable Relations
Although it feels like so long ago that I was confusedly eyeing a map and carrying way too many papers as I walked around campus, I am not that far removed from Orientation week. One of the "mandatory" events that I didn't skip that week was a performance addressing issues related to sexual assault and violence. Since then, I have become increasingly resolved to do what I can to help prevent violence from occurring at Dartmouth. Combating issues of sexual misconduct will take a concerted effort from everyone at Dartmouth, and I have witnessed situations that could hamper such efforts.
Recently, I completed training with Mentors Against Violence. Sexual misconduct affects all genders and sexual orientations, but the majority of harmful acts are committed by a small group of men against a large group of women. Therefore, it is extremely important for men in our community to take a stand and speak out against these acts. During the second day of training, we were given a scenario that involved a group of men making degrading comments involving personal sexual escapades in front of a female friend. After discussing how we would approach different issues raised during these facilitations, the women in my group began discussing how "all men do this" and that "even the best guys I know talk to each other like this."
Looking around the room, I noticed that only one other male was completing the training, and I began to feel ostracized. I fought off the urge to confront the women about their one-sided argument even though I was worried about the responses they would engender during MAV facilitations at fraternities. Assuming an "us against them" mentality will dissuade key participants in the discussion. We cannot afford to turn this important issue into a gender war.
Similarly, during a recent presentation by a Sexual Assault Peer Advisor, I noticed that she only mentioned issues involving the misconduct of males towards females. She also used terms that suggested that most men engaged in such behavior. At the end, one of the male audience members asked, "So when is it not rape?" From the half-smiles that spread around most of the men in the room, I could tell that she had lost her audience.
The majority of men do not support sexual misconduct, but it is important to keep men from becoming complacent. Training should be tailored in the most relatable way possible to make the issues important to the individual. Statistics can be a great tool, but they aren't nearly as powerful as walking someone through the immense burden that a victim of sexual violence has to bear especially once he or she reports it. Also, language that implies that a majority of men engage in violent behavior should be avoided. Men will not engage with this issue if they feel they are being unfairly attacked.
During my time in the Marines, the sexual assault prevention and response coordinator conducted training that I found very powerful. Using a clip from a bar scene in "The 40 Year Old Virgin," she asked the audience if they believed that getting girls drunk was really the proper way to pick up a woman. The laughs in the room made it apparent that most of the Marines didn't see any problems with this approach. However, she then asked the group if this was something that someone with honor, courage and commitment engaged in citing the Marine Corps ethos. I could tell by the Marines' silence that she had made a powerful point.
Similarly, we need to relate these issues to Dartmouth men and fraternities in ways that cause them to take an active approach in preventing violence. Recently, I saw a member of a fraternity intervene when a woman who was very drunk was making overt passes at the fraternity members. This is what we need to create an actively participating campus that takes stands and looks out for one another. More than this, we need men who will intervene when their brothers are acting inappropriately.
In every group, there will be a few misguided individuals and a few overtly predatory people, which makes it important that all students stand together to prevent acts of discrimination and violence from occurring in our community. We must, however, be cautious and endeavor to promote this message without disaffecting a segment of our population.