Enough is enough for sexual assault

BY GUEST COLUMN | JUNE 13, 2012 6:30 AM

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I want you to join me in standing up and speaking out against violence, along with the Iowa Men's Action Network and the Men's Antiviolence Council. Reject the assumption that boys must be taught that strength is demonstrated through violence and move toward a day in which men everywhere lead with conviction of respect for everyone. This Father's Day, let us say "Enough is enough."

After hearing way too many stories across campus about victims of rape, I could not deny the statistics that say one in four women and one in five men are sexually assaulted in their lifetimes.

Though I am not a father, I chose this Father's Day to take the pledge because of my own father. He taught me that we are only as good as our actions and only as strong as the toughest decisions we make. Without him, I would not be the man I am today.

I chose this Father's Day to take the pledge for my sister entering middle school. Brilliant in and out of the classroom, I do not want her to become the victim of rape, abuse, or degradation at the hands of another man or woman.

I chose this Father's Day to take the pledge because of my experiences as a fraternity man in Phi Kappa Psi. I took an oath to be a leader and strive manfully for intellectual, moral, and spiritual excellence, and yet I still made many mistakes during my time in my chapter to try to fit in.

Because of these mistakes, I take the pledge to remind me to go back to my chapter and help it reject the stereotypes of frat boys, to become stronger and healthier men than I was while in the fraternity.

I chose this Father's Day to take the pledge because my time advising other fraternities and sororities has shown me there is still a need for men to give each other permission to speak out.

To help give that permission, I developed a program called the Real Fraternity Men Project. The project is a peer-mentoring program housed in each fraternity chapter to discuss how stereotypes affect their fraternity experience and their brothers' behaviors.

Nineteen men in three chapters participated during the first semester, and seven knew victims of sexual assault or were victims themselves. All of the participants said they would like to have done something to prevent the attacks if they could have. Most did not know or did not feel comfortable talking to their peers about issues of violence and sexual harassment because they felt they wouldn't be taken seriously or wouldn't receive support from their brothers. As a result, many felt frustrated and daunted by the prospect of making changes even when they thought the community needed to become more aware and more active in preventing violence.

If all of these experiences were isolated experiences, I might not take this pledge. But they aren't. They reflect an epidemic of implicit and explicit unhealthy masculinity. When men are far more likely to suffer from alcohol and drug dependencies, less likely to seek counseling services, suffer academically compared with female peers, and are almost nine times more likely to be convicted of a violent crime, then we have a serious problem.

For too long, we have talked about what not to do as boys and men. It is time to declare how we want to behave. It is time for all of the good men to stand up and speak out about respectful and healthy masculinity. This Father's Day, join me in taking the pledge for your mother, your daughter, your sister, your brother, yourself, and your community. Safety doesn't just happen; we have to work for it. It can begin today, with you and me.

Jacob Oppenheimer
UI Iowa Men's Action Network

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