Why I Write About Sexual Violence Prevention In Times Such As These

America is still arguing over the proper response to the show of force by White supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia several weeks ago.  Some say that we should ignore them.  Some say that we should meet them with non-violent protest.  Some think that we should resist them by any means necessary including physical violence.  And others simply agree with their cause on some level.  I haven’t met too many people without an opinion and the news media still covers it quite a bit.  It’s important stuff.  The current state of race relations, the future of civil rights, and our national identity are all in play.

It all makes the issues that I write about on my blog (male socialization and sexual violence prevention) feel like backburner issues.  Race relations and the uplift of persons of color were issues that captured my interest long before I was ever introduced the field of violence prevention.  If I’m being honest, I do sometimes wonder if I should give up on my chosen cause and return to speaking on the more visible national dialogue about race.

However, I’m right where I need to be.  I’ve come to realize this over the past few days as I always do.  Here is why:

  1. I would not be much of an ally to the many people that have shared stories of victimization with me if I jumped ship whenever I came across a shiny new object. The issues that I write about may sometimes feel like niche issues but they are anything but niche for those who have spent energy recovering from violence inflicted on them.

2. If there is a silver lining to the unabashed racism displayed in Charlottesville, it’s the reminder of just how many people feel that the ideas that brought people to Charlottesville are repulsive. I saw statements from so many people who provided informed and eloquent rebuttals to racist ideologies.  There’s already so many great people in that arena and I chose the cause of anti-violence largely because I believed that it needed voices that were more diverse and numerous.

3. Though our limited time and resources prevent us from fighting every battle, most causes are not mutually exclusive either. I can very much be an ally to multiple causes and speaking for one does not denounce another.  Building bridges across movements is how critical masses form.

4. Not only are the causes of racial equality and violence prevention not mutually exclusive but they are inextricably linked. They are arguably two aspects of the same fight.  After all, if you strip what folks are saying down to its core, proponents of both causes are simply asking for equality and the right for dominion over their own bodies and lives.  Empathy is key in both fights.  Just as my White peers need to understand that I may not interpret a statue commemorating an officer for a seditionist and slave-holding force the same as them, I spend much of my time telling young men that they cannot presume the intentions and feelings of a potential intimate partner.  It’s therefore best if they take the time to actually speak to those partners.  Ironically, dialogue represents much of the way forward for both racial equality and violence prevention.  We would be much better off on both fronts if people didn’t presume to know what it was like to walk in another person’s shoes.

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