Last night, a man I follow on Twitter sent me a DM. He asked how men could lift up survivors like me who are voicing their stories of sexual harassment, violence, and rape. He also asked if he was burdening me with the question. I didn’t feel burdened, but I was grateful that he asked. There were other points in my life when I might have felt differently. In speaking with him, I recognized the deep paralysis some men feel when it comes to how best to support and advocate for survivors.
For too long, sexual violence has been considered a “women’s issue.” This is problematic for a few reasons. For one, many survivors of sexual violence are male or nonbinary. For another, it is nonsensical to place the burden of solving a scourge on its victims. As perpetrators are primarily — which is not to say exclusively — male, the work of fixing this systemic problem should be considered “men’s work.” And being a real ally to survivors is dedicated, often-painful, life-altering work.
For facility, I use the word “men” throughout this piece — but this advice is not only for men. Many women and nonbinary people who have not experienced sexual violence can also be more thoughtful allies. This piece is for them, too.
Here are six ideas on how to start. Do you have others? Leave them in the comments or tweet them at us, @refinery29 and @velvetmelvis.
If you have experienced sexual violence and are in need of crisis support, please call the RAINN Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).