After years of saying, "Kids will be kids, " as a society we woke up to the fact that bullying is horrific, cruel, abusive, dangerous, and can lead to suicide and death. We're now addressing the issue of bullying head on because we changed our minds about it. It was a long time coming.
Something of a similar sort seems to be bubbling just under the surface when it comes to rape and sexual abuse. Perhaps I'm being optimistic, but I'm seeing a new kind of advocacy with men getting involved in what was once largely seen as a "women's issue." (Stupid idea, that. It takes two to tango, partners aren't always of the opposite sex, and men are raped too.)
I've seen hints of this shift in pop culture. (Witness The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo -- both the books and the films.)
I've seen changes from on high. Earlier this month, the U.S Department of Justice's announcement that they were redefining rape at the federal level is a long-overdue overhaul of guidelines that were first set down in 1927 -- no joke -- and required proof of force. (If you weren't beaten up or didn't visibly show evidence that you resisted, well, good luck sister.)
And today I saw a truly striking anti-sexual violence campaign pop up on my Facebook feed -- one that appears to have gone viral recently. MoveOn.org began promoting it 5 days ago as "The Poster Every Parent Should Show Their Kids", but it comes out of California and is the product of years of sexual violence prevention and education.
MyStrength.org encourages us reconsider sexual violence through the lens of "My strength is not for hurting," and shows couples of every color, sexual orientation and ethnicity in positive relationships. Targeting young men 14-18, My Strength emphasizes "positive masculinity and enables men to maintain their strength in relationships without using coercion, intimidation, force or violence." Developed by the California Department of Health Services and the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CALCASA), a statewide coalition of rape crisis centers and prevention programs founded in 1980, MyStrength.org is an outgrowth of a program originally launched in 2005. The My Strength website updates the idea of what it means to act like a man:
We created this site to help you as a Man of Strength, so you can learn about other young men like yourself who are living a life based on equality, caring and respect. Here at MyStrength.org, you are an ally in taking action in your community to stop rape.
We changed our minds about bullying. We can still change our minds about rape. Rape has never been solely a women's issue -- it's everybody's issue. Women on their own can't stop it. But with thoughtful, responsible men as allies and partners, we can change hearts and minds, policies and perceptions. As My Strength reminds us, real men don't resort to rape.