It's time to stop the silence, and call out men who harass, assault, and target violent behaviour against womenr2hox

Donald Trump, Chris Brown, Casey Affleck, Johnny Depp, Woody Allen, and Charlie Sheen: unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last few years, the connection between these men will be obvious. More shocking than the fact that all of these men have been accused of sexual assault, harassment, and violence towards women, however, is that everyone knows about it. These men have made it to the top of their game in spite of their repulsive sexism and rampant abuse. And they have managed it, in part, because of the failure of the people around them to call out their behaviour earlier.

In my 20 years on earth, I have come into contact numerous times with abusive and sexist men in various places. Statistically, this is not an anomaly. It is estimated that 70 per cent of women worldwide will, at some point in their lives, experience physical and/or sexual violence from an intimate partner. The problem is insidious, not confined to high-profile celebrities, but everywhere you look. A little closer to home, for instance, I can count at least three men on the Cambridge Tab’s ‘BNOC’ list who have been perpetrators of sexual harassment and/or abuse, based on my own experiences and information from friends.

“It is estimated that 70 per cent of women worldwide will, at some point in their lives, experience physical and/or sexual violence from an intimate partner”

We like to lull ourselves into believing campus rape cover-ups are a peculiarity of American colleges and their obsessive protection of ‘good sportsmen’ like Brock Turner, but the reality is that many are met with the same incompetence and apathy at university in the UK. As is the case with many other problems at Cambridge, the college system means treatment of victims varies. But ultimately, the University disciplinary committee have historically doled out meagre and insubstantial punishments to perpetrators, letting them get away with a slap on the wrist. It comes as no surprise, then, that many don’t bother reporting at all.

However, in recent years, what I have found even more disappointing than all this has been the lukewarm, apathetic responses of the men who surround these abusers. I wish to qualify here (anticipating the unquenchable outrage of male internet commentators) that excusing sexist, abusive, and violent behaviour is not limited to men only, nor is abusive behaviour singularly a male characteristic. However, when one is dealing with men who obviously have little, if any, respect for women, it is other men who have a privileged position, and thus responsibility, to speak out against sexism and abuse where they see it.

Yet in the male circles I have observed, this simply doesn’t seem to be happening. Take for instance the John’s drinking society scandal which hit the national press last year for its repulsive ‘fines’, one of which including a fine for ‘if your favourite kind of girl is asleep.’ Whether this referred to a real event or not is irrelevant: regardless of whether anyone in this exclusively male circle thought this ‘fine’ abhorrent or not, none of them spoke out.

"Unlike most women, men have been socialised to be stoic, to not appear too sensitive, and to not make a fuss. But this silence is, quite frankly, unacceptable"

I have, more than once, revealed shocking information about abusive and sexist behaviour in an individual to their male friends, only to find that they were already aware – they just hadn’t bothered to do or say anything about it. Many times, I have heard men laugh off such behaviour lightly, as perhaps a quirk or minor character flaw, not wanting to stick their neck out in fear of being ostracised or mocked. Unlike most women, men have been socialised to be stoic, to not appear too sensitive, and to not make a fuss. But this silence is, quite frankly, unacceptable.

When millions of women are still killed at the hands of men every year, and our institutions and legal systems continue to fail vulnerable women, it is disastrous that these conversations are not taking place enough. I am utterly sick of men who would otherwise claim to be progressive continuing to gloss over this issue with a watered-down version of Trump’s dismissive ‘locker-room talk’ excuse, and I am sick of men getting away with abuse because of it. And for those who love to trot out the argument so much, no, not all men are violent, sexist or abusive, but there remain far too many men pacifying and accepting the ones who are.

Studies have shown that condoning sexist jokes, comments, and remarks can lead not only to a belief that such comments are acceptable, but to sexual violence itself. Silence on these matters is complicity, and though it is unrealistic to suggest that all male violence and sexism might be totally halted by other men calling it out or having a quiet word, it can certainly make a difference. It follows the same logic as asking an abuser to imagine their own behaviour inflicted upon a mother or sister. They are forced to understand their horrific actions framed in relation to people they love and respect. In an ideal world it wouldn’t have to be this way, but sexist men are, unsurprisingly, far more likely to listen to another man over a woman

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