The New York Times has a comprehensive article about the proliferation of sexual assault bystander campaigns taking hold on campuses. Anything that encourages all students to see themselves as responsible for the wellbeing of their classmates, and with the power to help them, the better. The article omits certain discussions I would love to hear more about. First, it only discusses male on female sexual assault, with no mention of whether students would be as strong to intervene in the assault of a man by a man, or of a trans woman. It also frames heterosexual assault as harmful to women because, well, they’re assaulted, and harmful to men because if caught, it might end their college or athletic career. Are there no men who have sexually assault a woman who feel psychological harm afterwards? There is a body of literature that discusses the harm it does to individuals to inflict violence, I wonder if that question has been investigated in this context. Finally, the article does mention that only a very small percentage of college men commit sexual assaults; the good news there is that most men are possible allies. The other question though is what is going on for the men who are committing the assaults; how are they “different,” why are they disproportionately in the athletic community, how can we not just stop them in the act, but understand how to stop them from starting? I am fully supportive of bystander campaigns, but don’t want it to stand in the way of believing primary prevention is possible.
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