By Heather Jones
“Won’t someone please think of the men?”
Any time the focus is on female victimization, there is a pull to bring it back to the poor men. The most current rhetoric is how it’s a dangerous time for men right now, and how parents are terrified for their sons who could have their lives ruined by false accusations of rape.
We should be worried about our sons – but we’re focused on the wrong worries. Yes, men do get falsely accused of rape – about 0.005 per cent of the time. Compare that to the approximately one in three women who are sexually assaulted, and that concern pales in comparison.
But the fact that female victims far outweigh falsely accused males is nothing new, and hardly unknown. The notion that we are to worry about men’s reputations more than women’s bodies is rooted in misogyny, not fact, and has silenced women for thousands of years. While we are working hard to right this injustice, let’s put a pin in it for a moment and indulge our worry for men. There is reason to worry. Men have a one in six chance of being victims of sexual assault too, and that should concern us.
For those who are spouting off about being terrified for your sons, fueled by President Trump himself, because “What if he has his life ruined by a false accusation?” – your son could be the very victim you are silencing by your victim-blaming.
By sending out the message that victims are not to be believed, you are not only shaming and scaring female victims into hiding, but you are also declaring that you are not a safe person with whom your son can share his own potential victimization. You are telling him you won’t believe him, just as you are saying you don’t believe the female victims. You are sacrificing his need for support on the relatively high chance he has been assaulted in order to use him as a talking point against the unlikely scenario of him being falsely accused as a perpetrator. The anti-victim dogma harms all survivors – women and men.
In addition to being genuinely concerned about our sons being victims of sexual assault, we should also be worried that they will commit an actual assault. Men are more likely than women to commit sexual assault. If the rate of false accusation is 0.005 per cent, that means they are far more likely to actually commit an assault than be falsely accused of doing so. Again, even taking out the effect on the victim, a conviction, real or false, will derail your son’s life. By victim-blaming and detracting from victims’ stories, you increase the chances your son will sexually assault someone.
If you are worried your son could be falsely accused, think about how you would feel if he committed a real assault. As mentioned, he is more likely to do so, particularly with your unwitting encouragement. What will his life be like then?
So, “Won’t someone think of the men?” folk, you’re right, we should be worried about our sons. They are in danger. They in danger of falling victim to the predators you are protecting. They are in danger of becoming the predators you are minimizing. Both of those are scary, and real possibilities. That they may have their lives ruined by a false accusation has no basis in reality, and simply serves to silence victims further – some of them your own children.
If you are worried about your sons, teach them that victims should be heard. Teach them about consent – their own right to give or refuse it, and their obligation to respect others’. Show them you are a safe place to come to if something has happened to them, or if they have questions about what is right and wrong. Do these things not just to protect women, but to protect the sons for whom you are so frightened.
About the Author
I am a freelance writer and mother of two young boys. I am a regular contributor to online parenting publications such as Yummy Mummy Club and the Savvymom group of sites. I’ve been a featured writer on the CBC, HuffPost, Ravishly, and others.