When David Vasquez was asked to imagine finding out a close female friend or relative was raped, he remained silent for a few seconds and pictured himself in the possibility of such a scenario.
“I’d be angry,” Vasquez, a non-CSUN student who is involved with different anti-rape groups on campus, said. “I would feel pretty much what every guy feels.”
About 30 males discussed the issues of rape at the first men’s group at CSUN held March 28 in Bayramian Hall. The group tried to find solutions for men to help create a rape-free environment.
The men’s group, called “MenCare at CSUN,” is in its starting phase and was the idea of Mark Stevens, psychologist and director of the University Counseling Services. Stevens led the discussion.
“This is a movement that is happening across college campuses,” he said. “The idea of the group is to have men stand up against rape. To have their voices heard about how men can stop and reduce the rape culture based on their attitudes and behaviors.”
The men’s group was closed to news media, since it is considered counseling.
Within the first five minutes of the group discussion, one individual said a friend of his had been raped two weeks ago, Stevens said.
Another person talked about his sister being sexually assaulted.
Stevens said that these examples are reasons why men should be involved in reducing “the rape culture.”
“We all have sisters, girlfriends, wives and mothers,” Stevens said. “Why not make the world a safer place for them?”
According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, one out of six American women are victims of rape or attempted rape. Every two-and-a-half minutes in the U.S. a person will be sexually assaulted, according to RAINN.
Historically, rape education was taught to women, Stevens said. Statistics show, however, that 99 percent of perpetrators in sexual assault cases were men.
“Why would we not want to talk with men and educate them about how their behaviors are potentially hurting women?” Stevens said.
Vasquez is one of several men who took part in the discussion. He found out about the men’s group through a flyer.
“Two years ago, I went out to (the) ‘Take Back the Night’ rally and it really changed my perception,” Vasquez said. “I’ve been doing a lot more research on men’s involvement in rape and wanted to change it.”
Although Vasquez does not have friends or family members who have been sexually assaulted, he said he understands what a victim’s relative or friend might be going through because his mother was involved with the Sexual Assault Response Team
“Her involvement in (SART) is what got me more involved with this movement,” Vasquez said.
Stevens first got involved in this particular program for college students in 1983. Even though Stevens has only been at CSUN since last August, he hopes a “variety of people (will) pick up the ball and run with it.” He said he wants more men to become aware and get involved in creating a rape-free environment.
Stevens said “bystander courage” was among the most important issues discussed during the meeting.
“You can confront someone when they’re talking about women in a very degrading sexualized type of way that doesn’t really take in account who that person is,” Stevens said. “You can intervene. You don’t have to just sit back as a bystander.”
Rules, attitudes and behaviors that support rape still exist in the U.S., he said. Stevens said pornography influences the way men talk about sexual conquests, adding that pornography contributes to the occurrence of rape.
“Rape would not exist if there wasn’t a culture for rape. (Like) racism would not exist unless there was a culture of racism,” Stevens said.
Additionally, Stevens said understanding what “full consent” means reduces the culture of rape.
“Part of full consent is that both people are both sober (when sexually active),” he said. “Part of full consent is that you listen to the verbal ‘no’ and the non-verbal.”
Stevens said he hoped the individuals who listened and participated in the discussion, such as Vasquez, come out of it with a new sense of vigor and motivation to stop rape occurrences.
“Something like rape, if you can teach the guys what rape is before they commit it, you’re doing them a big favor,” Vasquez said. “If you can get the knowledge out there, this is the way I’d like to change it.”
Stevens said he encourages more CSUN male students to become a part of the group. Creating a rape-free environment is the main objective for the “MenCare at CSUN” group, he said.
“As a white person speaking up against racism, as a non-gay person speaking up against homophobia,” Stevens said, “it is important for men to speak up against rape.”
Arthur Vong can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.