Domestic violence, more than just a women’s issue

BY STEFFEN STROUP | Evergreen reporter

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With the increase of domestic violence and sexual assault cases in the spotlight recently, one WSU group is attempting to shift the focus to men and what they can do to prevent these issues.

Coug MENtality is a WSU club whose mission is to give men a voice in combatting what is often considered women’s issues in our society, such as rape or sexual assault. Sophomore Josh Carter, the chairman of Coug MENtality, wants to make sure men are involved.

“We want to create events and get men more interested in what’s commonly referred to as women’s issues,” Carter said.

On Wednesday night in Todd hall, their first event of the year, “I Got Your Back: Redefining Masculinity,” focused on the problematic ideas of masculinity and how American culture perpetuates those ideas.

Hannah Mitchell, a residential education director at WSU, said the phrase “boys will be boys” is a dangerous idea taught to boys at a young age and allows reckless behavior. Mitchell said that gender roles are created at such a young age, and the boys are told, “this is how you’re supposed to act.”

In American culture, media often reinforces the commonly accepted gender roles and the idea of masculinity. Movies often perpetuate the idea of a “prince charming” who saves the woman, or that the obsessive stalking seen in movies like “Twilight” is romantic. Junior Robert Hopkins, vice president of Coug MENtality, believes our culture reinforces these ideas, which disregard women’s decisions.

“In the culture that we live in, men are taught to be persistent,” Hopkins said.

Another issue the group identified is the idea of victim blaming, where women are often blamed for encouraging men to sexually assault them.

Mitchell said that women are told repeatedly to be careful of situations where they are vulnerable to sexual assault, such as walking home alone at night.

Ruben Zecena, junior and English teaching major, used the 2012 rape case in Stubenville, Ohio, as an example of a situation where society blamed the girl for being raped. In the case, two 16-year-old boys sexually assaulted a high school girl who was incapacitated by alcohol. The event was recorded and documented on social media. After the boys were convicted, the community was outraged that two important players on the football team were to be punished so harshly.

These are only a few examples of how American society often blames the victims of rape instead of the people committing the crimes, Zecena said.

Zecena said that they wanted to hold the forum at this time because they know Halloween is one time of the year where alcohol consumption and the potential for sexual assault increase.

Carter said that the biggest issue for men is that the masculine culture is already established when they come to a university like WSU. This culture tells men that domestic violence and sexual assault are women’s issues.

But Mitchell presented statistics that showed that men are the main perpetuators of sexual violence. One in four college women report being involved in rape or sexual assault in their lifetime, and 98 percent of the time the perpetrators are men, according to oneinfour.org. Even when men report being victims of sexual violence, the majority of perpetrators are male.

Zecena said that in order for the “rape culture” to change, men have to get informed and be involved in preventing the sexual violence issues which affect all people. While society and the media often focus only on the women involved in these situations, men at WSU are in a position to try and change this culture and accept the role they play in sexual violence.