What Role Do Men Play in Ending Sexual Assault?

Sexual assault prevention requires a change from social norms which make violence normal and acceptable. From a very young age, boys are told by society that they need to fit inside a box made up of societal constructs that encourage domination and control of others rather than intellectualism and empathy. This limits the choices and expressions of men to rigid traditional masculine roles and values, and keeps men from exploring gender constructs.

Men and boys receive, sort through, and enforce messages about relationships, violence and power every day. They also send powerful messages about relationships, violence, and power. Men also enjoy certain privileges in institutions established by sexism. Generally speaking, men have greater access to resources and opportunities to influence large social structures and institutions. They, as a result, play an important role to prevent violence against women.

“It happens to women, not men, so why should men even be concerned with a ‘women’s issue’?”

Although the narrative of sexual violence as a “women’s issue” is slowly changing, there are still men who believe that because they are not directly affected by sexual assault, that it isn’t their problem. It is true that there is a very large disparity in the percentages. This is not a “women’s issue”; it is a pervasive issue that affects everyone regardless of their gender identity.


How big is the problem?

* Statistics can be found on CDC website


Why Should We Want Men Involved?


Tabling event for Sexual Assault Awareness Month on Butler University’s campus. Pictured left to right: Beta Theta Pi members- Paul Reese, Michael Walker, Nicholas Kuster, Jared Clemons, and Thad Boone

Engaging men as allies in the movement to end sexual assault can be a complicated task. If we are going to begin this work we first need to understand and support the reasons for having a men’s program in our communities. Steven Botkin, Director at Men’s Resources International, provides this valuable insight to answer the question why we want men involved:

  1. Because men are hurting others. An overwhelming amount of the violence in our society is being done by men and teenage boys. Focus needs to be placed on addressing the perpetrators of violent crimes and developing effective resources to prevent further harm.
  2. Because men are hurting themselves. Many men are in pain; physical, mental or emotional, and usually all three. Some men recognize it, but many do not because they have learned behaviors that tell them to hide pain and not show emotion.
  3. Because men are divided against each other. Very early in life men are taught to compete against each other, to view other men as enemies, dangerous, or someone whom they have to defend themselves or their family from. They have used differences of race, nationality, class, and sexual orientation as battlegrounds for their fear of other men.
  4. Because masculinity is in transition. The understanding of what it takes to be a successful man is going through some serious changes in today’s society, and that is a great start. Men are being called upon to develop new ways of relating to their emotions, their partners, their children, and their work. This major shift in identity and ideology can easily leave men feeling confused, disoriented and overwhelmed.


Group of Beta Theta Pi members from Wabash College upon completion of SUSOP’s 8 session programming. Pictured (left to right): Lucas Soliday, Burton Patterson (Rape Prevention Education Coordinator), Michael Krutz, Matthew Fajt, and Jeffrey Inman.


Speak Up Speak Out Project

How do we engage men in these conversations and help them see the importance of their role in the fight to end sexual assault? ICESAHT developed a primary prevention program called Speak Up Speak Out Project (SUSOP). SUSOP was created to increase engagement and education of college age men in sexual assault primary prevention efforts to change rape culture and eliminate the occurrence of sexual assault.

The program is aimed to break down the rigid traditional definition of masculinity and discuss how it affects men’s ability to express themselves.

Creating a safe space for men to discuss other meanings of masculinity helps engage them as allies in the fight against sexual violence, it empowers them to practice bystander intervention, and it helps foster the ability for them to imagine a healthier version of their gender identity. SUSOP is a semester long comprehensive program with a wide range of topics, including; healthy masculinity, male privilege, intimate partner violence, rape culture, and many more. A major goal of SUSOP is to motivate participants to encourage peers and campus community members to engage in sexual assault prevention programming while ultimately becoming sexual assault activists in their fraternities and on their campuses as well. If you would like to know more about SUSOP or resources surrounding engaging men in the primary prevention of sexual violence, please contact ICESAHT’s Director of Prevention and Education, Burton Patterson


Former and current campus partners include:

  • Butler University
  • Indiana University, Bloomington
  • Indiana University Purdue University-Indianapolis
  • Goshen College
  • Wabash College
  • DePauw University
  • Ball State University
  • Purdue University

Change Making Men in Action