Practice Listening to Women: An Anti-Rape Strategy

In the last two months four women I know have been raped and told me about it. I don't know the number of women I know who have been raped and have not told me about it. But four women in two months. And only one of them is reporting it. The other three don't want to ruin their lives over a choice that they did not make. They don't want to be known as victims. They don't want their parents to find out. They don't want to make the person who raped them a central part of their lives. They don't want to be the center of attention for something like this; they don't want to be known as, 'the girl who was raped'.

The one consistent thing that makes all of these women wonder if they should report their rape is: will the man who raped me do it again to another girl? That is the only sticking point in their otherwise clear desire not to speak up about the crime that was committed against them.

All four rapes required the women to miss days of work to go get tested and to sit at home to be miserable. Loss of wages! Impact on the economy! Maybe that will cause some people to pay attention to this epidemic who haven't listened before.

One of the four rapes which I am speaking about was a 'stranger rape', in which the woman was randomly and violently attacked by someone whom she does not know. But the other three were 'acquaintance rapes.' (Somewhere in the last 10 years or so we realized that you don't have to be on a date with someone for you to know them and rape you. So we switched from the term, 'date rape' to the term, 'acquaintance rape'. And my tiny sample size is about accurate for the stranger rape to acquaintance rape ratio. Most rape victims know their assailants.

If you are reading this you are probably the so-called-choir on this issue so I won't get into the statistics. But I have something new-ish to say on the topic of acquaintance rape. I think that there is an intervention that men can take on a day-to-day basis that may help with this epidemic: Start listening to women.

Here is my theory on acquaintance rape: men get trained for it everyday, everywhere. They get trained to interrupt women, not listen to women, to take credit for our thoughts, to find our talking and sharing of feelings annoying. When women do something that men don't understand men are not trained to ask more questions, they are trained to call the woman, 'psycho.' And good men get this training everywhere! They get trained by sitcoms and video games; in classrooms and boardrooms. And so when a woman says, 'no' in a sexual situation, the man does not think to himself, 'this is an opinion that I should respect.' He is used to tuning women's voices out. He honestly doesn't register it.

Obviously, it is a small minority of men who take their socialization around women to this extreme. Most men are not rapists. But to be clear; all it takes is not hearing a woman once and having sex with her when she doesn't want to have sex to be a rapist. More men might be rapists than think they are.

So this post is a call to all men to practice listening to women when the stakes are low. Notice when you interrupt a woman. Retrain your ears so that you value the pitch of a woman's voice. Don't finish her sentence for her; she can do it herself. Practice listening attentively to women when it's easy. Tune in and try to hear. These practices will help when the situation is confusing and the hormones are rushing. Practice listening. ALL THE TIME. And then maybe fewer men will accidentally find themselves to be rapists.