Sexual violence and violence against women go hand in hand. The two are fundamentally linked together — and this is a problem. While the majority of acts of sexual violence are committed against women, by framing the issue in this way we are limiting the diversity of issues of sexual violence we address.

Sexual violence does not discriminate, and we need to stop treating the issue as if it does. Once we acknowledge that this issue affects everyone we can begin working together to find a solution. We must stop focusing on educating women on how to avoid rape and start focusing on educating the population on how to prevent rape. Bringing everyone in on this issue will allow survivors to break their silence, stop the victim blaming and correct the distorted views on sexual violence we see today, thus allowing us to start focusing on the real problem.

Today a girl gets told that her clothes, the fact that she was drunk, her actions, etc. are the reason she was raped. We are told constantly that we need to stop victim blaming, so much so that it feels uncertain that it actually happens, but it does. We know better. Who cares what she was wearing or doing? Rape can never be justified, under any circumstances. Period. There are certain things that can undeniably put you at a greater risk for being sexually assaulted, yes, but that shouldn’t be what we focus on. We should be focusing on the rapist, because regardless of the circumstances, that’s the real problem. And then, in the rare circumstance that these events do get publicized and the victims don’t get blamed, we preach how horrible the rapist is and ask how could anyone ever do that, without ever truly asking ourselves just that question: how could anyone ever do that? What leads a person to commit such a heinous crime?

We have to start asking and answering that question, and not just by looking at the person, but the greater social problem. We have to answer that question by looking at ourselves. How are we perpetuating sexual violence? How are we allowing this person to think that raping someone is okay? Look at the media, look at day-to-day speech, look at your own reactions when you hear of an act of sexual violence, and then ask what is wrong with these things. We have to come together and answer this question. And we have to come together as not just women, but as men, women and everyone in between. Because it’s not just women. Women are not the only victims, and men are not the only perpetrators. Forget the numbers and address the issue. Just because only 3 percent of men get raped compared to 15 percent of women doesn’t mean we should forget about those men who have been raped. Sexual violence is such a taboo subject that those numbers are probably skewed anyway.

I say this as a feminist and survivor myself. I do not want to undermine the importance of women’s rights, but rather highlight that we need to open our minds beyond seeing sexual violence through merely one lens. Yes, the objectification of women perpetrates sexual violence and that must be stopped, but women are not the only ones affected by sexual violence and we need to start appreciating that fact and understand that women alone cannot end this.

Stop blaming the victim. Stop using the rapist as a scapegoat. Stop forgetting about the non-female survivors. Stop ignoring the problem. Let’s start talking. Let’s start taking responsibility for the part we play in this. Let’s all take a stand against sexual violence and stop tolerating it in our community, regardless of our personal experiences with it. Sexual violence is a sickness that has infected our community and it is our duty to cure it. So let’s stop avoiding the real issue and come together to face it.

Emily Potter thinks we should fix it. So fix it!

This is a Daily Nexus online exclusive.
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