We are surrounded by men who get it when it comes to sexual assault. Men who protect instead of prey. Men with moral compasses who would never touch a woman without her consent – no matter how drunk she or he might be.
It doesn’t take shining armor or a white stallion to be a hero. Just ask the two Swedish graduate students who were riding bikes, not horses, across the Stanford campus last year and spotted Brock Turner rutting around behind a dumpster with a young woman who was unconscious.
“The guy stood up, and then we saw that she wasn’t moving,” Carl-Fredrik Arndt told CBS News. “So we called him out on it, and the guy ran away. My friend Peter [Jonsson] chased after him.”
They caught Turner and held him until the police arrived, which is how Turner, now 20, wound up being convicted of sexual assault.
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The Swedes could have kept biking past and assumed that it was just a sex thing. Move along, not my business. Instead, they saw something, and they did something. And the woman they rescued was profoundly grateful.
“I sleep with two bicycles that I drew taped above my bed,” she wrote in a searing letter to the judge, “to remind myself there are heroes in this story.
When I posted the photos of the Swedes on my Facebook and praised them for being awesome, 1,400 people shared my post. We are hungry for champions like them – role models for millions of young men and allies in the fight against campus sexual assault.
As a country, we’re on a precipice of change when it comes to gender issues. Although the Turner case is disturbing, the national outrage it has sparked is uplifting and encouraging.
This week, we saw an entire nation of men who get it condemn Turner, his light six-month sentence and his father’s dismissive attitude about the attack. And it happened in a week when a woman made history by becoming the Democratic Party’s presumptive nominee for president.
We do have a huge problem with the way we see rape. We continue to define it as a woman alone in a parking lot assaulted by a stranger.
The truth is that eight out of 10 women who have been raped knew their attackers.
Their attackers aren’t strangers lurking in the bushes or the dorm showers. Sometimes that happens. But usually, the rapists on campus are smiling guys who made their folks and teachers back home proud. Maybe they are star athletes like Turner.
But clearly, they were never taught that no means no. That fearful or drunken silence means no. That anything but yes means no.
Every day, there are more men who get it when it comes to rape. And we need them to teach our boys about consent, teach them the word no, teach them to admire Carl-Fredrik Arndt, Peter Jonsson and the many men around us who are decent and moral. Teach them to be protectors instead of predators.