Men are Victims "Too"

I've been working in the field of violence against women in one form or another for twenty years now. And one of the biggest pet peeves I have is the "Men can be victims 'too'." Now, make no mistake - men absolutely can be victims of sexual assault and domestic violence, and it's a very serious issue that deserves attention. I worked with many male victims over the years; I believed every one of them just like I would a female victim, I took them just as seriously, and I cared about what they were going through just like I did my female clients. They were real people in real pain, and they deserved the very best services and care that I could provide.

The problem I'm having is the "too". The statement should be "Men can be victims of sexual assault and domestic violence". Period. When the speaker adds the word "too", it's because they are responding to someone who is talking about women who have been victimized. It means they are not simply expressing concern and caring about men who are victims of interpersonal violence - they are using male victims to silence women who are talking about their own victimization. The implication is that women are being selfish for focusing on their own victimization as long as there is one man out there suffering. They aren't talking about male victims at any other times. They aren't out there promoting services to male victims, they aren't trying to raise awareness and reduce the stigma that surrounds male victimization - they are simply trying to silence women.

It is virtually impossible today to talk about women's experiences with sexual harassment, rape, sexual assault, and domestic violence without THAT GUY jumping in and proclaiming, "But men can be victims TOO!" The reality is, no one is denying that men can be victims. But sexual assault and domestic violence are crimes where the victims are primarily female, and the crimes occur in a society that objectifies women sexually, minimizes or ignores their experiences, and blames them for the behavior of their abuser.

Not sure about what I'm saying? Go out and ask ten women you know what kinds of things they do to prevent violence in their lives. They will tell you all kinds of steps they take: parking in a well-lit area, having someone walk them to their car, carrying their keys between their fingers, trying not to be out after dark, taking self-defense classes, not accepting open containers from anyone, only using a first initial on mailboxes or in the phone book....The list will go on and on.

Now ask ten men what they do to prevent sexual assault. Do you think you're going to get the same kind of extensive list? Sexual violence is something that has been used throughout history to oppress and control women, and not only in war. Women have been targeted with violence for simply refusing a man's advances. With the advent of the Internet, many women online find themselves targeted with rape threats simply for posting something someone didn't like. Female gamers can tell you story after story!

My point is that, as women, we live in a different world than men do. The threat of violence is a very real thing in our every day lives. It doesn't mean that we don't care about the safety of men, or that we don't care about their experiences with violence and victimization. Most of us have men in our lives that we love very much. I have a fabulous husband, and two beautiful sons that are the world to me; I can guarantee you I care very much about their safety!

It just means that we want to be able to have conversations about our experiences and the threats we face on a daily basis without having to constantly stop and assuage the feelings of THAT GUY. Because THAT GUY interrupting you and reminding you that "Men can be victims TOO" is ultimately not expressing concern for the safety of men in your life. He's simply trying to shut you up. And we have been silent about our experiences for long enough.

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