Does being a good friend equate to being a good person? Some of us in college might've encountered situations in which standing up for someone meant standing against our friends. Conversely, we might've encountered a moment in which siding with our friend meant watching someone else being mistreated. Let's take sexual assault here at the University of Colorado-Boulder for example.
Only 13 reported cases of sexual offense have occurred over the past three years, according to CU-Boulder's 2012 Annual Security and Fire Safety report. However, the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network reports that only 54 percent of assaults are actually reported to the police. Sexual assault happens at parties we attend and occurs among our friends without us even knowing it. The typical offenders of sexual assault on college campuses are college males. So, the question becomes for male students: How can we take responsibility for preventing sexual assault on campus?
Ending sexual assault could be complicated. As men, we encounter a moral dilemma juxtaposing our willingness to intervene in problematic situations and our masculinity. In 2002 -- and not at CU -- four males raped a 15-year-old girl at a party as six other males simply watched it happen. The male bystanders, as the District Attorney of the case reported, didn't intervene out of fear that their masculinity would be doubted -- that they'd called things like "weak." Not intervening into situations because of threats to masculinity is based in a perspective that's common among male students: "the bro code."
If we saw a friend sexually assaulting a woman at a party, our attempt to prevent the behaviors might mean that we're "cock-blocking" and thus defying the bro code. When we encounter moments like this, we seemingly aren't demonstrating behaviors that fit masculine norms, and ones that a "true friend" wouldn't display. While intervening, we could be seen as an unreliable male companion -- "I thought you were my bro."
Does it have to be this way? Fellas, we must change how male CU-Boulder students view their role in sexual assault, and what they can do to prevent its occurrence. Preventing sexual assault on campus calls for us to explore different communication strategies that males could use to intervene into problematic situations, especially ones that involve other males. Perhaps these communication skills will help us fight against sexual assault, as well as help us be both a better friend to other males and a better person in our communities.
Darrie Matthew Burrage