Get involved

What can you do?

  • RECOGNIZE that people neither ask for nor deserve to be abused, harassed, assaulted or raped—ever.

  • SUPPORT and believe survivors of sexual violence. (That is, about 20% of the women you know.)

  • CHALLENGE victim-blaming statements.

  • SPEAK UP about why comments or jokes that perpetuate rape culture or sexism are not okay, not funny.

  • INTERVENE when you see someone taking advantage of a person who is not capable of giving consent.

  • Consent is mandatory and every sexual interaction you have must be consensual--no excuse. EDUCATE yourself and others on what it means to get and give consent.

  • ENGAGE in healthy, respectful relationships.

  • DON'T COMMIT OR CONDONE acts of violence.

  • THINK CRITICALLY about how the media depicts sexuality.

  • TEACH your children, friends, parents and peers about the myths and realities of sexual assault.

  • DONATE your time or money to your local rape crisis centers: Hilltop and SMRC.

  • LOBBY your local, state and federal legislators for funding for anti-sexual assault programs.

  • If you witness sexual harassment at the workplace or in public places, EXPOSE the behavior. Don’t tolerate it.

Courtesy of

This is not a women's issue. It's a human issue.

I was hiking with my brothers last summer, talking with them about a friend of mine who, in the wake of sexual assault, felt her community turning against her, blaming her for ruining a man’s reputation. Fragile as she felt every day, how could she construct her life in this tiny town, where every other face might be hostile and blaming?

It struck me as I talked about her that our local courts were overflowing with other sexual abuse cases as well: a local man charged with drugging women to rape them, another with grooming a teen-ager into a sexual relationship, another with involvement in child pornography.

All four of these men charged concurrently in one tiny town, population 979. These are the cases that were making it to trial.

So how many cases, we wondered, went unreported?

Nationally, it’s in the news every day. Cosby. Weinstein. Spacey. Moore. Untold priests, coaches, teachers, leaders, respected men abuse their power, lie, manipulate, deny, and continue. We cannot open a paper or browser without another revelation.

It takes multiple reports, multiple lives broken, before the preponderance of evidence makes the pattern undeniable in any particular case. And only then, grudgingly, maybe the perpetrator admits it, in some minimizing, exculpatory statement. More probably, he never does.

Diana Nyad, for instance, published a heartbreaking account this week of the results in her life of her school swim coach’s assaults on her. She and many of her teammates finally reported him, and he lost his job. But the long-term results in his life?

"Up until his death in 2014, Coach was celebrated by the coaching community, his town, his church. He made it into halls of fame and to the top of the coaching pyramid, the Olympic Games. And so is woven the fabric of the epidemic. These often charming individuals are lauded, presented with trophies for their leadership, from the piggish Weinsteins of Hollywood to the unscrupulous parental figures scattered throughout our suburbs. Statistics bear out the astonishing number of sexual abusers among us."

Personally, the crisis is in our Facebook feed. “Me, too,” exclaims one friend after another, women and men too, tied together by shame and trauma that have shaped their lives. “Me, too.” Many of my friends’ “me, too” stories are out for the first time in that quasi-public social medium. For many of them, it is the first time they are experiencing what we wish the victim of every crime would experience: Love. Support. Caring. Anger on their behalf.

Shouldn’t that be the norm? Why is it so different in cases of sexual violence?

A little thought experiment:

Imagine I were stabbed walking home from a party. How would you treat me? Would you wonder if I brought the assault on myself by the way I’d dressed or by the fact that I’d consumed alcohol? Would you cross-examine me on whether I knew the mugger and provoked the the attack: was I asking for it?

It’s absurd. You’d be angry at the mug who stabbed me. How could he? What the hell was he thinking?

And you’d be appalled that such a thing could happen in our safe little town, and you’d mobilize to prevent, in future, such attacks.

Plus, I know the compassion of people here: you’d do everything you could to help me to heal from the physical and emotional trauma of being attacked.

Wouldn’t you?

Locally, nationally, personally, this crisis is in our hands today. What do we do?

I say, get angry, first of all. One case of sexual violence is too many. But clearly the cases are legion. Clearly there is something in the fabric of our society that empowers men (overwhelmingly, let’s face it, men) to abuse women and children and other men, and to get away with it. Our president bragged about his own sexual assaults. We elect that. That infuriates me.

Own it, next. It’s our society. It’s where we live. It’s people we - I - know and interact with. I’m part of it. I’ve politely ignored or minimized sexist and misogynist and otherwise inhumane comments, not probed them and attacked the assumptions behind them, as I must, if anything is going to change. And certainly I’ve benefited from the relative freedom and safety and power that come with being male: not that I try to capitalize on it, but I don’t have to try. Advantages flow to me. I’m a part of it. We all are. That disturbs me.

Act on it, finally. That will look differently for each of us. I happen to work with kids, which, I believe, puts added responsibility on me to stand up for kindness and compassion and equality, to attack the idea that having power should allow us to abuse it. I talk about that with kids. I teach literature, which tends to spark such conversations.

But we are all responsible. We all have to stand up.

My brothers are fiercely protective, of course, of their (between them) five daughters. When I told them about my friend, they extended their concern to her too, their anger to her rapist, their hope that our community might rally around her, finally.

Brothers, all of us, this crisis is in our hands. Each of us must bring our fierce protection to the vulnerable in our communities, our rage to the abuse of power, our compassion to its victims. How can you help?

John Kissingford

November 2017