How to Listen to Women When They Share Their Stories of Sexual Assault
Bridget Phetasy

Don’t take it personally. One man said in response to a piece I wrote, “Stop making all men guilty for the crimes of a few.” Highlighting a problem doesn’t automatically lump you into the behavior. If I say, “People are starving,” I’m not blaming you for global food shortages and complex geopolitical forces out of your control. The same goes for when women highlight the epidemic of sexual assault and harassment we face daily.

When you say, “people are starving” it is very different than saying “Men are starving people.”

Take her word for it

Just listen and believe, no need to question.

Check your privilege. If you flinched when you read this, I get it. I hate this phrase too, and I realize that it’s become like “thoughts and prayers” on white male ears. All I’m asking is that you think about the privilege you received physically when you were born a man. Living life as a woman is living life as prey. We don’t know that the man who catcalls us isn’t going to follow us home.
Recognize that you aren’t living your life looking over your shoulder and that means you have an entirely different worldview.

You mean the privilege of having other men push, shove, kick, stab and punch me? That privilege? You mean the privilege of having a drunk female friend get up in a guys face at a bar and being expected to jump to her defense when she slapped him? Or do you mean the privilege of more often being the victim of every other violent crime except sexual crimes? If you don’t think men aren’t watching over their shoulder just as much, you are kidding yourself. We were born and raised in violence of one form or another. I know that walking down a dark alley at 3 am is dumb. I also know that if two guys start following me down that alley, I better be ready to fight to the death…and I will. Men are taught that our lives are disposable and that no one will come to our rescue, so we had better learn to defend ourselves because no one is coming to save us. I also had the privilege to take up martial arts and combat sports because I expect to have (and have done so) to fight off another man bigger and stronger than me.

In fact, just shut up.

This is the best advice for men. Men when she starts talking about the hundreds of times she was harassed but didn’t report them, and the scores of assaults that were also not reported and the dozens of rapes she has had or so narrowly avoided that no police know about. Just shut up….and walk away. You will be the next guy assigned to one of those categories.

Resist the urge to white knight.

Never go to battle for someone who won't fight for themselves.

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