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It’s time to man up about women

UNC-Chapel Hill students listen to survivors of sexual assault tell their stories and criticize the university’s response to sexual assault on campus in front of South Building at the #BelieveSurvivors rally this month.
UNC-Chapel Hill students listen to survivors of sexual assault tell their stories and criticize the university’s response to sexual assault on campus in front of South Building at the #BelieveSurvivors rally this month. jwall@newsobserver.com

“It’s a very scary time for young men in America” — Donald Trump

As the president once again hijacked and weaponized victimization during the Brett Kavanaugh hearings, I could not help but appreciate the irony that the man who placed a “Bring Back the Death Penalty” ad in the New York Times to attack a group of eventually exonerated black and Latino teenagers for the rape of a white female jogger was now leading the charge for “due process.” As others parroted the president’s worries about young men, I wondered how many of them did so when it came to the deaths of black youth like Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, and Mike Brown?

Let’s state clearly that what the president meant is, it is a scary time for affluent white men in America like himself. But look up Austin Wilkerson and Robert Richards IV, both convicted of rape, and John Enochs — who pled down to battery. All committed sexual assault and did zero prison time. Why would we believe there is great risk of ruined lives for false accusations for this subgroup?

While racial hypocrisy is a story, let’s acknowledge during Domestic Violence Awareness Month who it truly is a scary time for — women, and victims of sexual assault. Typically, when it comes to rape culture and domestic violence, women must advocate for themselves. I’ve opted to stand as a heterosexual cisgender man to do my part to “man up,” a phrase we use incorrectly in our society. “Man up” is normally used to tell someone to stop crying or suppress a legitimate feeling. I’m going to reclaim it as standing up against a culture that we learned but now know is wrong. It is indeed time for men around the nation to man up, and I’m going to start with myself.

I’m flawed, and I own it. While I’ve never committed sexual assault, I’ve certainly participated in objectifying women in my life. I also have seen the devastating effects of trauma on women and other survivors. It’s for this reason that I firmly resist the manipulative, dishonest, and cruel hijacking of the current #MeToo movement to center false accusations as the real epidemic. It’s also why much of my work is in helping women undo the psychological trauma and lies abusers and society teach them to believe.

In a country where Emmett Till was lynched for flirting he didn’t do, I would never say false accusations never happen. I will say that the frequency is so rare that the “men protecting” talking point universally serves us poorly. Young boys and men are much more likely to be sexually assaulted than they are falsely accused of sexual assault. You know who’s assaulting them? The same men who are gaslighting women into questioning their trauma.

This was a challenging few weeks for sexual assault survivors across the nation. As a clinician who treats trauma, I saw the effects firsthand as the handling of the Supreme Court testimonies triggered many survivors and reminded them why they didn’t report.

As a black man in America, where the mere wrong accusation has led to death, there is a part of me that saw writing this as risky. But as an advocate for women, the risk of not writing it was too great. Racial hypocrisies aside, I’m here as a man, calling on other men to man up. Let’s stop gaslighting and weaponizing victimhood to avoid responsibility. Let’s own our sins of the past and present. Let’s commit to seeing the humanity in women and standing up for survivors in helping them heal. Women can’t end misogyny and rape culture. Only men can. Join me in taking the overdue step to man up.

justinperry.observer@gmail.com
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