Detroit Lions' linebacker DeAndre Levy is asking his fellow athletes to "man up" and speak out against sexual violence.
Levy, who's played in the NFL for five years, published an insightful and important essay on sexual assault and the definition of consent this past Wednesday on The Players' Tribune. In honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month this April, the 29-year-old described why men need to be active and vocal allies for women by speaking out against sexual violence.
"It’s truly astounding how many awful things that occur in this world because men are afraid of appearing weak," Levy wrote.
Although the past few years has brought attention to the high rate of violence perpetrated by male athletes -- particularly in the NFL -- Levy explained that it's not just men in sports who need to have this discussion.
"The dehumanization and objectification of women are not issues that are specific to male athletes. They are societal problems," he wrote. "But they tend to be more associated with athletes in part because we are often idolized because of our athletic ability. In many ways, we’re considered models of masculinity, which is at the very root of a lot of these issues."
We’re essentially dealing with the problem by telling women to be more careful. And that’s bullshit. DeAndre Levy
Levy described his first encounter with sexual assault during his freshman year of college at The University of Wisconsin-Madison:
One time I heard a group of guys joke about “running a train” on a drunk girl. At the time, my 18-year-old brain didn’t process this as anything bad. Maybe those guys were just engaging in a display of bravado. But what if what they were describing was true?... This speaks to just how toxic and backward the culture around sexual assault still is. I was 18 years old -- “man” enough to drive, vote and go to war -- but somehow I didn’t have the courage, or the maturity, to see what they were talking about for what it was: a serious crime.
Looking back now, Levy writes he wished he had taken action and told someone about what he heard.
Levy explained why it's imperative that we teach young men not to rape instead of telling women don't get raped. "The focus always seems to be on teaching young women how not to get raped and on what steps they can take to 'stay safe,'" Levy wrote. "But why are we not also focused on educating young men about the definition of consent and what constitutes rape?" adding, "We’re essentially dealing with the problem by telling women to be more careful. And that’s bullshit."
Towards the end of his essay, Levy described why men should always care if a woman is sexually assaulted -- whether she's a friend, family member or stranger.
"Personally, I know and love a woman who was a victim of sexual assault, and I suspect other women in my life have also been the victims of assault," Levy wrote. "When you approach this issue as a mother’s son, or as a partner, or as a sister’s brother, rather than as a bro, it looks very different. But it shouldn’t take a personal relationship to stand up for this."
Levy ended on a powerful note, writing: "This is not just a woman’s problem."
Thank you for speaking up, DeAndre. Here's to more men following in your footsteps.
Head over to The Players' Tribune to read the rest of Levy's powerful essay.