Both approaches are in stark contrast to how rape and sexual assault prevention have long been framed. The standard response has been “what women can do to protect themselves from men.” It’s almost as if the criminal behavior of sexual assault is to be expected, or is even considered inherent, in what constitutes men as a gender.
That attitude is insulting to young men. It’s also factually inaccurate.
Most men are not sexually violent toward women. But studies do suggest that most men are too complacent. So the Obama administration is pointing out that many men overestimate other men’s acceptance of abusive behavior toward women. It’s the locker room affect, misjudged.
“I want every young man in America to feel some strong peer pressure in terms of how they are supposed to behave and treat women,” Barack Obama was quoted saying.
Attitudes are changing. More men, especially younger ones, do see themselves as allies of women and able to influence the behavior of male peers.
More people stop before proclaiming that a female victim of sexual assault somehow deserved what happened. We’ve at least come that far. But the kneejerk to focus on a woman’s behavior first and foremost continues to twist the conversation and, therefore, preventive measures. Investigations stall or are never pursued when a blaming attitude is displayed by police and campus security.
Studies cited by The White House Council on Women and Girls indicate that college attacks are often by serial offenders who use alcohol as a weapon to incapacitate their female victims. A 2002 study found that 7 percent of college men admitted to committing rape or attempted rape and 63 percent of these men admitted to committing multiple offenses, averaging six rapes each.
The study raises the question of whether predatory young men are emboldened by the fact that so many cases aren’t reported.