Men's role in stopping rape takes center stage

As thunder rumbled in the distance and sheets of rain pelted the Von Canon room windows, a small group endured the storm by attending "Jalapenos, chest hair and the power of Greyskull: Duke men and the violence that affects our lives," the second keynote address for Sexual Assault Prevention Week.

David Rider, Duke graduate and current director of consulting and training for the Washington, D.C. based non-profit organization Men Can Stop Rape, returned to campus with colleague Kedrick Griffin to talk about the role men can play in encouraging a community without rape or sexual assault.

Rider chose to take a more dialogue-oriented rather than lecture-style approach to his presentation, as the intimate size of the audience lent itself to fostering discussion.

"What I want to do tonight is create a space where we can talk," Rider said.

To begin the discussion, Rider asked the group why they thought he had made the choice to participate in Men Can Stop Rape. Various members of the audience volunteered the possibility that Rider was gay, a victim of sexual assault or rape himself, a S.N.A.G.--short for "sensitive new age guy"--financially privileged, or a "bleeding heart" liberal.

"Did anyone of you think I was a rapist?" he asked rhetorically. "Young men are trained to fit into this very narrow box where men who speak about this issue are not real men."

Rider shared stories of his experiences as an undergraduate at Duke. He talked about his best girl friend during sophomore year; they were neighbors in Hanes House and shared everything with each other. One weekend, she went to visit her family and called Rider at 2 a.m. after having gotten home from a party. She told Rider that the best friend of the guy she was dating had driven her home and on the way, pulled over and had raped her.

"If you could list every wrong thing you could say, I said them all--'What were you thinking?' 'Why did you get in the car?'" Rider remembered. "[A while later] she called from the hospital. She had taken every pill in her parents' medicine cabinet."

During his junior year when he lived in Old House CC, he broadened his circle of friends and became close with 10 women, nine of which shared with Rider that they had been sexually assaulted while at Duke.

"The statistics say 1 in 4 women are sexually assaulted, but statistics didn't mean a whole lot to me," he said. "What mattered to me were my nine friends."

Rider then asked the audience how many of them knew someone who has been sexually assaulted. All of the audience members raised their hands.

Rider called stranger rapes "atrocious" acts, but said these incidents unjustly receive substantially more attention than acquaintance rapes, which make up approximately 85 percent of all rapes.

"If the large majority of rapes are between people who know each other, I'm not sure how much more blue lights across campus will help," he said.

The rest of Rider's speech was devoted to a discussion of what constitutes situations that are harmful to women. The audience wrestled with topics such as blaming a woman for being raped because she wore revealing clothes, telling a man that he throws like a girl, opening doors only for women and not for men, and looking at Playboy magazine. After debating each situation, the group voted on where along a continuum ranging from "most harmful to women" to "least harmful to women" each of these topics belonged.

After the exercise, Rider noted that while the mock situations are individually of minor importance, they combine to create the complicated, larger picture of sexual assault and rape.

"We live in something called a rape culture," he said. "We swim in it, it's all around us, it filters into the way we are."

Rider ended his speech by challenging members of his audience to each talk to two more people about what was discussed during the lecture.

"The most radical step you can take is the next one," he said, quoting James Baldwin. "By taking that first step we are changing this culture."


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