Long before the #MeToo movement sparked conversations about sexual assault in the United States, Angelina Jolie was working on a global initiative aimed at helping sexual assault survivors and reducing the stigma associated, called Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict. This initiative provides medical, social, and legal support to survivors of sexual violence, with the help of local NGOs, militaries, and governments around the world.
In a recent interview with Marie Claire about these efforts, Jolie spoke about the taboo that sexual assault survivors often face. "Female and male survivors, and children born of this rape, are often treated as if they are the ones who have done something wrong," she told Marie Claire. "They are rejected and stigmatized, while their attackers go unpunished. That’s what has to change, and breaking the taboo is part of that."
Having conversations with men and women — or boys and girls — about sexual violence is one way that Jolie said she'd like to break the stigma. Many survivors feel as though they can't discuss the incident or their recovery process, because they'll be judged, blamed, or punished by others. Unfortunately, this stigma can keep people from coming forward about sexual abuse at all.
Jolie told Marie Claire that she talks to both her daughters and her sons about these issues, because, "This is not just a problem for women, and the solution is working with women and men. And girls and boys," she said. "Not only are men and boys also victims of these crimes, but those who are perpetrating these crimes need to have other men remind them what it really is to be a man. A man with a healthy relationship to women. And all societies need to be clear about not tolerating this behavior."
Since the #MeToo movement began last October, lots of people have discussed how "toxic masculinity" has contributed to sexual violence. Of course, eliminating sexual violence altogether is much bigger than just getting rid of all toxic men. It involves changing the way that men are raised and socialised to treat women — and that starts with conversations like the ones Jolie is having.
If you have experienced sexual violence of any kind, please visit Rape Crisis or call 0808 802 9999.