The chances are that at some point, one of your male friends is going to say something about a woman that you find inappropriate or offensive or just totally unacceptable. It’s possible that they might treat a woman in a way that you know is just not OK – he might not be taking no for an answer; he might think it’s OK to hook up with a woman who has had too much to drink. He might not realize that his behavior is threatening or intimidating.
You might not want to say anything. Maybe no-one else is saying anything.
The thing is that sometimes behavior and comments like these can lead to sexual assault. They reflect an attitude that isn’t respectful to women and can escalate into actions with consequences that both your friend and the woman he assaults will have to live with for the rest of their lives.
Sadly, research indicates that the chances are that most of us will assume that someone else will take a stand and intervene. In fact, the more people there are around, the less likely an individual is to speak up or take action. So if there’s a big crowd of you, it’s less likely that any one of you will call your friend out on his comments or behavior.
And the natural conclusion of this is that no-one speaks up; no-one intervenes. No-one stops it and no help is given.
Sometimes, someone is sexually assaulted because no-one speaks up or takes a stand.
The good news is that there are things that you can do to intervene and challenge your friend’s behavior. Here’s some practical advice for some of the situations you might find yourself in with your friends:
When your friend is harassing a woman:
- Challenge his behavior – tell him it’s not OK to talk like that; ask him to stop; tell him to move on; make it clear that the woman isn’t interested and may even be scared
- Ask questions – ask him what he’s doing, why he’s doing it – make him think about the consequence of his behavior
- Use ‘I’ statements – for example, ‘I’m really not OK with how you’re talking to her’ – state your feelings, your reasons for them – tell him how his behavior makes you feel, whether it’s uncomfortable or angry.
- Make it personal – ask him how he would like his mom or sister or girlfriend to be treated like this
When you think your friend might be taking advantage of a woman, particularly when she’s had too much to drink:
- Ask her questions: check in to see if she’s OK; if she needs to get a cab and go home
- Ask him questions: ask him what his intentions are; remind him that having sex with someone who may not be capable of consenting is wrong; tell him it’s a problem
- Separate them: split them up, get other friends involved, and get them both home safely
If you feel that, despite everything you’ve said, that there is a risk of sexual assault, get help – call the police, speak to management if you’re in a bar or other public place or get other people involved to back you up.
Standing against sexism and sexual assault is not always easy or comfortable but it matters. You might be the one person who can prevent a sexual assault taking place. You might be the one person who can make a difference.
For more practical advice and tips, visit www.mencanstoprape.org
Source: Fort Bend Women’s Center and Men Can Stop Rape