Reflect on your own story.
Reflect privately on your experiences and your ideas. You might ask yourself some of the following questions:
How did you grow up thinking about men, women, and nonbinary people? What was your family life like? What were you taught about rape, sexual violence, and sexual harassment, formally and informally? Did your school cover it in sex-ed? What kinds of conversations did you have with your friends in high school? What habits have you learned or unlearned? What sexual situations have you felt uncomfortable in? Do you think you have ever made a partner feel uncomfortable in a sexual situation? What do you think about asking for consent?
Do you know people who are out, either publicly or to you, as survivors? Did you believe and support them when they told their stories? Have you read writing by people who identify as survivors? Have you watched films about sexual violence?
Do you believe sexual violence is primarily about sex or power? Why?
Do you know people who have been identified as perpetrators? How have you treated them? Does this square with your idea of how perpetrators should be treated? What do you think about the term “rape culture”? Do you think men who are not assailants participate in or benefit from it? What did you think when the Pussygate tape came out? What did you think when the Harvey Weinstein stories came out? What do you think about supporting male creators and businessmen who are known perpetrators? Have you offered public or private support to your community? Is it your role to do that?
If you’re unsatisfied with or unsure of your answers to any of these questions, those may be areas that can offer paths to greater education and awareness. Discuss these issues with other men who are not survivors of sexual violence.
Recognize that not all survivors are public.
Listen to and support people who identify as survivors.
Absolutely do not push anyone to tell you their story in greater detail than they have offered. Ever.
Engage in conversations gently and humbly.
If someone shares a story of sexual violence with you, either publicly or individually, believe them and tell them you believe them.
You can write a message on social media or send an email to friends and family members letting them know that you are working on becoming a better ally to survivors. Write a content warning at the top telling them that your message is about sexual violence, so that they do not have to read further if they are not in an appropriate space. In the body of the message, ask your community for guidance and resources. Let them know that they are by no means obligated to respond or engage. Tell them about the self-work, education, and reflection you have already undertaken so they know you are not asking them to do this hard work for you. Ask for mutual goodwill and share that, in the process of educating yourself, you may make mistakes in how you talk about sexual violence. Be open to criticism and feedback. Work hard to not be defensive. Do not center yourself in the conversation, humble brag, or act like a hero for doing this work. It is your responsibility, not your bragging right.
Let people who work with you or for you know that you have their back.
Move your feet.