Once a person is labeled “not like us,” the rules for civilized behavior no longer apply – Mary Pipher
Self defense is at the core of the martial arts that I do. It’s not that I feel generally unsafe or a specific need to be able to defend myself. There’s just something primal and grounding about basing training around protecting yourself. As a result I spend time pondering and reading about a variety of self defense scenarios, but none are as important to me as sexual assault. I know survivors (most of us do, even if we don’t realize it), and I have seen first hand the impact sexual assault can have on people.
It is both easy and common to use labels to separate ourselves from others.”Illegal alien” dehumanizes people who have their own wants, needs, and desires. It turns them into something that is both wrong and strange. That disconnect begets a lack of empathy. Labels like these are used by the media on a daily basis to create stories that allow the reader to remain disconnected from those they are reading about.
There are many harmful labels that are used for people who are sexually assaulted. They create distance between the survivors and the people reading about them, so it is easier to remain unaffected and complacent with the current culture. There is one label that, while not derogatory or specifically harmful, serves to disconnect half of the world’s population with the topic of sexual assault. Female.
Many people believe that men cannot be the victim of sexual assault for a variety of reasons that are beyond the scope of this post, and many men do not feel inclined to dig further into the issue because of this disconnect. It’s easier to ignore something “that would never happen to me”, and thinking about rape is uncomfortable, so naturally men are inclined to ignore it. Not only does this help enable men to remain complacent with the status quo, it also creates an especially painful situation for male survivors because so many people don’t understand the reality of their situation. It distresses me to see a culture that is unable to understand the plight of these men.
The Article on BuzzFeed is important because of both its content and its medium. The content spreads awareness of male sexual assault and of the ignorance of many who do not believe men can be raped. It’s important to highlight the fact that although the headline implies all of the quotes are from attackers, some of the most damaging quotes come from other people after a man reveals that he has been sexually assaulted. While the content of the article is important, the medium of photography makes it even more impactful. The photographs humanize the survivors and make it much harder for a man to read the article and continue to tell himself “that could never happen to me.”