Margaret Eby
August 20, 2014 2:53 pm

The prevalence of sexual assault and violence against women on college campuses is a widespread problem. But there may be a simple solution: Dude college students? Make sure that your friends know that you disapprove of rape culture.

“One of the things that matters most to boys and emerging adult men is the opinion of other men,” John Foubert, a researcher at Oklahoma State University, told NPR. And that means that peer groups who generally speak out against violence towards women may act as a preventive measure for rape on campus.

The problem is breaking the cycle of keeping mum, Foubert said. “Let’s say you have a peer group of 10 guys,” Foubert said. “One or two are constantly talking about, ‘Oh, I bagged this b–-h.’ Many of the men listening to that are uncomfortable, but they think that the other men support it with their silence.”

“This idea that getting somebody intoxicated so that you can have sex with them is an idea we just simply are going to have to erode,” another researcher, David Lisak, who on campus rape said.

So how to encourage men to vocally object to situations that belittle women? In one high school program in Sioux City, Mentors in Violence Prevention, upperclassmen pair up with incoming freshman. Throughout the year, the pairs meet to talk about issues around relationships, assault, and rape—the murky social waters that young adults often find so difficult to navigate.

The program is valuable—NPR’s piece follows one upperclassman who breaks up a potentially problematic situation at a bar—but it means that there’s an even simpler solution. Men should speak up.

Actually, we should all speak up. One of the biggest obstacles when it comes to rooting out rape culture is that it’s attached to shame and silence. When people feel that the moment of social awkwardness required to confront someone saying something inappropriate is more onerous than a woman being mistreated, we have a serious problem. It’s time for that to stop. The price of staying quiet, of those implicit moments of social approval, is too high if it comes at the cost of women’s health and safety.

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