Lighting the Flame: Men Can Stop Rape

Lighting the Flame is a series dedicated to recognizing the efforts of organizations that work to empower women and girls across the world. These organizations keep families and communities alive by ensuring that the flames of these women and girls are fully lit and prepared to shine as they begin to tap into the power within.

As we come to the end of Sexual Assault Awareness Month I decided that it couldn't be more fitting to use this series to highlight an organization that works tirelessly to prevent sexual violence in our communities: Men Can Stop Rape (MCSR).

Their mission is “to mobilize men to use their strength for creating cultures free from violence, especially men's violence against women.”  They do this by providing youth development programs in local schools, public education (including PSAs like the one above), as well as technical and training assistance. A pretty high-profile program, MCSR has received attention from media outlets such as the New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today and Oprah Magazine.

Though MCSR is not quite like the organizations I've highlighted in the past, they are a perfect example of an organization fighting an injustice women experience every single day.I particularly love that MCSR serves as a reminder that social justice issues like sexual violence (1) don't only affect women and (2) cannot be solved without the support of everyone in our communities.

So while the Lighting the Flame series is all about the empowerment of women, I think it’s important to take a step back and recognize how an issue that overwhelmingly affects the female gender is truly everyone’s problem. Women aren’t the only victims. Families and communities are negatively impacted by sexual violence; furthermore women are also perpetrators of sexual violence.

I recently came across this great list that breaks down why men should care about sexual violence:

1. Men rape The great majority of all sexually violent crimes are committed by males. Even when men are sexually victimized, other men are most often the perpetrators.

2. Men ARE raped We don't like to think about it, and we don't like to talk about it, but the fact is that men can also be sexually victimized. Studies show that a staggering 10-20% of all males are sexually violated at some point in their lifetimes. Men are not immune to the epidemic of sexual violence, nor are male survivors safe from the stigma that society attaches to victims of rape. Male survivors are often disbelieved, accused of being gay, or blamed for their own victimization when they report an incident of sexual assault. Frequently, they respond, as do many female survivors, by remaining silent and suffering alone.

3. Rape confines men When some men rape, and when 80% of those who are raped know the man who attacked them, it becomes virtually impossible to distinguish men who are safe from men who are dangerous, men who can be trusted from men who can't, men who will rape from men who won't. The result is a society with its guard up, where relationships with men are approached with fear and mistrust, where intimacy is limited by the constant threat of violence, and where all men are labeled "potential rapists."

4. Men know survivors At some point in every man's life, someone close to him will likely disclose that they are a survivor of sexual violence and ask for help. Men must be prepared to respond with care, sensitivity, compassion, and understanding. Ignorance on the part of men about the situation of rape and its impact can only hinder the healing process and may even contribute to the survivor's feeling further victimized. A supportive male presence during a survivor's recovery, however, can be invaluable.

5. Men can stop rape Rape is a choice men make to use sex as a weapon for power and control. For rape to stop, men who are violent must be empowered to make different choices. All men can play a vital role in this process by challenging rape supporting attitudes and behaviors and raising awareness about the damaging impact of sexual violence. Every time a man's voice joins those of women in speaking out against rape, the world becomes safer for us all.

That's definitely food for thought.

For more information on Men Can Stop Rape visit their website. For general information on sexual violence check out the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network’s (RAINN) website. It’s awesome, I promise.