I will never forget the day I found out that someone very close to me was attacked in a grocery store parking lot. She was getting something for breakfast before she headed off to work. It was about 5 a.m.
A man in a van jumped out, held a knife to her throat, and attempted to rape her. She fought back. She won.
Many of us, wandering through Fort Collins on a Friday night in a drunken stupor, have found ourselves in one of the many bars and clubs in Old Town. Maybe we even wound up at someone’s house, not exactly sure where it is, but still having the greatest night of our lives.
We look over in a corner and see a woman, a man standing over her, talking. As we glance back occasionally during the night, he’s getting closer and closer, she grows more uncomfortable. As he begins to push himself on her, people begin clearing away, afraid of starting something at a time when something desperately needs to be started.
Or maybe at a local bar, we see two men standing on either side of a doorway, grabbing every single woman who is forced to walk through that door. Sound familiar? Things like this happen every day.
Here is something else that happened, right here on campus. Another friend of mine was at work one day. While talking to his boss, the man walks forward and grabs him in an inappropriate place. Right here on campus, even a man isn’t safe from sexual assault.
We know it’s everywhere and we know it’s a problem. And it needs to stop before someone you know, someone you’re close to, or even you are a victim of sexual assault.
I have a collection of my favorite bumper stickers framed and hanging on my wall at home. Two of them read: “Stop the War on Women” and “Support Your Local Feminist.” People ask me how a man can possibly be a feminist. I ask, “How can a man not be?”
We need to wake-up and realize that it will take all of us to wage this war. This isn’t something that we can do in a matter of weeks. There is no “shock and awe” phase of this war. It is a long fight and one that has been fought since the beginning of humankind.
Men and women, together, need to take back the night. This fight will not end until men, the power-holders in our society, step up and stop allowing this to happen. This will not end until women fight and take back the night. This will not end until the message is clear that no one – no one – will allow this to happen to anyone.
The chasm created between men and women will not grow smaller until we are all feminists. Until we are all willing to ensure that women are treated just as equally as men are.
This also won’t end until we recognize that sexual assaults can be perpetrated against men. Women are not the only ones who have feared for their personal safety. Date rape drugs are being used on men more and more both by men and women. There are men both on our campus and in our lives who have been attacked. These people are often silent victims and either not talked about, forgotten, or ignored.
Don’t shy away the next time you see a woman growing more uncomfortable under a man’s advances. Keep an open ear if a man begins to cry. And don’t assume that someone else will help. If they haven’t so far, why will it start now?
Until we all stand up and take back the night, physical, verbal and sexual assault will continue to occur and affect us all. Maybe you will be one of the lucky ones and you won’t have a sister who was almost raped or a good friend who was groped at work, but I promise you that someone out there dearly loves that frightened woman, standing in a corner, which you just walked away from.
Rod would like to thank his sister for making him a feminist. His column runs on Fridays.