‘I need to be proactive’: We asked boys what they’re doing to change their behaviour

‘Small changes can mean more than I would have imagined’

TW: Sexual assault, sexual harassment, rape

I was 16 when I was sexually assaulted for the first time. My trauma and understanding of what happened to me correlated with the rise of the #MeToo movement in 2016. I found that I could speak up about what happened because women all over the globe were doing the same.

Skip forward five years and I’m here again. Even though we’ve seemingly survived a global pandemic and Donald Trump, nothing has changed. When women speak up about their experiences, we are faced with the same shit – Why didn’t you report him to the police? Why did you put yourself in that situation? Why not just kick him in the balls?

I considered myself lucky when I trenched through the countless replies to my tweet. Not only was I met with an incredible amount of support, but I am lucky to have faced all these questions before. I am a survivor that has faced these questions every time I have spoken out about my experience – so I am numb to them. The attention I received and the comments from men saying that I should have done something aren’t new to me, so this seems very same-old.

Again and again, men like to remind us that it’s not all men – it’s just the bad ones – not those of them that sit beside you at pres. Men like to deflect themselves out of the discourse so that nobody around them thinks they are responsible. But when it comes to women feeling safe outside of their four walls, it is everything to do with men.

We spoke to men about what they’ve learnt over the past week, and what they’ll be doing from now on in order to make women feel safer.

‘I will be making a point of giving women space’

Tom is 30, and he told The Tab that he has spent the last few days witnessing the “fury of what feels like the beginning of a new movement.”

Tom says: “For many years it seems people have been telling women ways to not be assaulted or attacked and while it is always good to be vigilant to your surroundings there has been an abject failure at all levels to offer any kind of real protection to women.

“I truly don’t understand how difficult it must be to be a woman, I try to emphasise and listen, but it’s not the same when you have a privilege of being able to walk wherever I want, wear whatever I want and not fear for doing so.

“If I’m walking towards a woman in the street at night my sheer presence has the potential to make her feel uneasy and that needs to be fixed. I have always gone out of my way to make sure if I am alone at night near a woman that I am very visible, specifically my face, this is an attempt to show that I am fine with being identified so they have nothing to be concerned about.”

‘Whenever I come across anything on my timeline I’m trying to repost it and make it known’

Elliott is a 22 and a student at Lancaster University. Elliott said that whenever he comes across anything on his timeline he is actively trying to “repost it and make it known”

Elliott also said that he would never let any of the girls he lives with walk home alone once the sun is down. It’s as simple as “always offering them a lift or saying we’ll pay for a taxi for them, even when they’re like ‘nah, I’ll be fine'”

Men can be actively helping women in the club too. Elliott shared a time where he helped a woman who appeared to be receiving unwanted attention. “One time a woman across the bar gave me what I would call ‘panic eyes’ about a guy who was grafting her from behind. So I went over and slid in next to her, pretended to know her and asked if she wanted another drink. He quickly disappeared and she thanked me profusely.”

‘Small changes can mean more than I would have imagined’

Max is 22 and doing an MA in Economics. He said that he has always tried to do small things: “If I ever find myself walking or running late at night or in the dark, I’ll try to cross the road if possible, but at a minimum I am trying my best to make as much noise as possible. It might just be by stamping a little louder or coughing or saying sorry when approaching them.

“I think the most important thing is to show support and willingness to learn in whatever way possible. I don’t think necessarily its important to do this on social media, but just be active in the conversation and talk to your friends. Generally just talking to my female friends about what I can do seems the most effective way to learn how to be an active male in this conversation.

“I’ve been pretty pleased with the number of conversations I’ve had with mates over the past few days, though I recognise these conversations should be more regular and not spurred on by awful circumstances.”

‘The more awareness we can create, the more men endorse behaviour that keeps women safe’

Tom is 19 and a second year student. He said that the biggest thing he will be doing is “trying to educate and pull up people on toxic behaviour, because that way we can create a safer culture.”

Tom says he will make an effort to call out “Inappropriate jokes or comments regarding women’s safety.” He says: “The more awareness we can create, the more men endorse behaviour to keep women feeling safe.”

‘I’ll find an alternative route to avoid seeming threatening’

Alike to the other boys, Alex aged 18, said: “If I’m walking late at night somewhere and there is a woman that happens to be on the same route, I might, if possible, find an alternative route to avoid seeming threatening.”

Alex also said that when his girlfriend is walking somewhere alone, he makes sure that she texts him to say that she has got home safe.

‘In the past I’ve had to say things like ‘it’s not alright to joke about those things”

Tom is 21 and says he has been “lucky” to receive active bystander training due to his position in a sports exec at uni. “I’ve been aware of the responsibilities of spectators in any situation concerning harassment or abuse, even in a ‘it was only a joke’ scenario. Personally, I have had to say to people in the past things like ‘I’m not comfortable with how you’re talking’ or ‘it’s not alright to joke about those things’ but with lad culture it’s difficult to get the point across to people sometimes, but if they really are your friends then they’ll take on board what you’ve said.”

Tom also said that he will be conscious of other day-to-day things like keeping his distance from anyone else when walking alone. He adds: “There are so many things that guys don’t have to think about, and it’s on us to educate ourselves and our friends on how to change this culture.”

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