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Including Men in Campus Outreach: 1in6 Thursdays on the Joyful Heart Foundation Blog

Over the course of the past year, I’ve had the pleasure of running 7000 in Solidarity: A Campaign Against Sexual Assault at UCLA. The campaign is a threefold effort: awareness, education, and advocacy through a coalition of student groups of a variety of topics and communities working together to combat sexual violence. From the beginning and within the campaign’s name, I have purposely worked for the campaign to be gender inclusive, including the statistic of the number of men who have had an unwanted or abusive sexual experience in childhood – 1 in 6.

“Of the 28,000 undergraduates of UCLA, 7,000 Bruins will be survivors – and most of them before the age of 18.”

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According to peer-reviewed academic journals, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 6 men will experience a sexual assault or some form of sexual violence over the course of their lifetime. Meaning of the 28,000 undergraduates of UCLA, 7,000 Bruins will be survivors – and most of them before the age of 18. (And, this number does not even begin to account for the number of those who do not identify as either gender and experience sexual violence.)  While the focus on universities’ inadequate response to sexual assaults during a student’s time on campus is an important one, most survivors on campus were survivors before they even stepped foot on our quads. Their need for support is just as important as the women and men who will experience assault once on campus.

And, while being a survivor of any gender is a stigmatizing and silencing experience, male survivors of an unwanted or abusive sexual experience in childhood are by far the most difficult to engage and support as a campus survivor activist and campaign. Of the over three hundred survivors who have broken their silence to me through e-mail, phone calls, impromptu campus meetings, and other ways, only a handful have been men. At our on-campus events, men rarely attend unless they are fraternities men incentivized through our Fraternity & Sorority Relations, or a small number of dedicated men who are allies to the cause.

I’ve asked many male survivors who’ve spoken with me why they don’t attend our events – which include lectures, art galleries, workshops, etc. – and how we can do better to attract men. One man gave me a straightforward response: “If I attend, I feel like I would out myself as a victim. Whether I say it explicitly or not, my presence could implicitly say ‘I’m a victim,’ and that’s my greatest fear – someone to know without me wanting them to. And, I don’t think I’ll feel comfortable to come or talk until the silence around this wanes. I don’t know when that will be, but in the mean time, I’ll be quiet.”

“We cannot make strides to end violence against women if we do not adequately address violence against men.”

We cannot make strides to end violence against women if we do not adequately address violence against men. At least 1 in 6 men on our campuses are survivors, and where can we go from here, if the same events I know my fellow survivor activists and I have designed to be a support for survivors of all genders, aren’t a safe space for male survivors?

We have to make it one. We need to break the silence and break it in unconventional and interesting ways, using techniques to reach communities that are generally not interested in this topic. I have one year left at UCLA, one year of activism ahead of me, and another shot to help the male survivors who I could not support the first year of my efforts. We can’t have a full conversation and work to end sexual violence against any gender if we do not explicitly and specifically work to break the social stigma and silence around male sexual violence. I hope through ideas like a 1BlueString campaign in partnership with our campus radio station, connecting with male-dominated campus spaces to put on events debunking myths about male sexual violence, or putting on art and entertainment-related events, like a spoken–word event about silence and male sexual violence, we can start to create a campus culture that supports male survivors.

Sexual violence is not just a women’s issue; it’s a community problem, and it’s about time campus communities take a lead to support our men affected by the issue in hopes of bettering our society as a whole.

By Savannah Badalich

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Savannah Badalich is a Non-Profit Administrative Intern at 1in6, Inc and undergraduate student studying Gender Studies at UCLA. Through her position as UCLA Student Wellness Commissioner – the health representative of 28,000 undergraduates -, she created 7,000 in Solidarity: A Campaign Against Sexual Assault, a multicampus sexual assault prevention campaign that combines education, arts activism, and advocacy work with the help of student governments, campus departments and resources, survivors, and their advocates. The campaign has gotten huge success and has been featured in The Huffington Post, Think Progress, BuzzFeed, and other news outlets, specifically for its photography campaigns such as #AlcoholIsNotConsent.