Male Models*

Male Models (*with all due respect to everyone, regardless of how they do or do not identify their gender) is a weekly column applauding ordinary men for their work against gender violence, from a female perspective.

20–25% of women will be raped or experience attempted rape during their college career.

42% of college women who are raped tell no one about the assault.

College is tough for nearly every student. Academic and social pressures collide with new found independence, and it’s almost like learning to live a whole new life. For a student who experiences sexual assault, the difficulty reaches a whole new level.

When I was assaulted as a senior at Syracuse University, I found myself quickly slipping down a deep, dark hole. I felt terrified, and guilty. The few friends I confided in didn’t quite know what to say or how to offer help, and I began to feel more and more alone. I credit one person with giving me the hand I needed to start climbing back up.

Brad Stalter is a Residence Director at Syracuse University. He works to create a nurturing residential community for the students and Resident Advisors in his hall. At the time of my assault, I was a Resident Advisor and Brad was my boss.

As an undergraduate at Salem State University, Brad’s first experience with training related to sexual violence was through a session facilitated by a peer education group. Although he didn’t actively pursue further training on the subject, Brad says that initial training still sticks with him. While earning his Master of Education degree in College Student Affairs at University of South Florida, Brad’s coursework included trainings with sexual assault counselors, and he began working with the American College Personnel Association’s Standing Committee for Men – a group that looks at men’s development in a college setting, including education about violence prevention. Now, at Syracuse University, Brad trains annually with the school’s Advocacy Center to review protocols and procedures for assisting survivors of violence.

Brad may have more training than the average Joe on how to assist victims of sexual violence, but his process for helping his residents is something we can all employ. When I asked Brad to share what goes through his mind when a student approaches him about violence they’ve experienced, he told me that he tries to determine if the student needs medical attention, and then he does what he can to ensure they find any help they want or need. This, of course, sounds like a pretty standard answer.

Speaking from experience, I know that Brad does exactly that. But I can also say that his response is far from a rehearsed textbook reaction. Brad does something very simple. He listens. As he put it, “My goal is to listen to what the student is telling me…and then being a resource for that student as they move forward in their time as a student.”

More than anyone else in the first few weeks after my assault, Brad listened to me. He listened as I pieced together what had happened. He listened as I expressed my feelings. He listened as I told him I thought no one would believe me if I tried to get help. Brad makes it a point to not make any assumptions about the situation. He teaches his staff to be advocates and educators, and to remember that what a survivor feels is more important than determining a title for what they have experienced. When others spent more time telling me that what happened to me was “normal” or that it wasn’t assault, Brad put all judgments aside and reacted by encouraging me to visit the Advocacy Center. To be honest, I don’t know what Brad thought of my situation, and I am eternally grateful that all he expressed was concern for getting me the help I needed and deserved.

As I asked Brad about all of this, he said “I often think back to this experience and every other experience I have had with sexual violence and wonder if I did everything I could have done to help that student.” I can say that in my case, he did. Brad’s determination to listen to his students’ needs without judgment, to advocate for their well-being, and to assist them in finding the help they need are what make him a Male Model.

Thank you for what you do, Brad!

Not-so-fun facts from:

Fisher, Bonnie S., Francis T. Cullen, and Michael G. Turner. (2000). The Sexual Victimization of College Women. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice. Available here.

Warshaw, Robin. (1994). I Never Called it Rape. New York: Harper Perennial

Prerna is an artist, feminist, and interfaith activist. You can read more of her musings at Crafts Service .

Male Models*

When Marc and Sacchi originally asked me to contribute on MasculinityU, my first reaction was “Of course not!” Don’t get me wrong – from the moment I heard about their intentions for this blog, I was thrilled! The idea of men encouraging each other to step up against gender based violence is so awesome. In fact, my love for their idea was why I turned them down. I thought it was important for men to have a forum to share with each other and I didn’t want my voice as a woman to dilute that in any way. But Marc and Sacchi persisted, so I tried to find a way that I could add without taking anything away.

My idea was to write a simple encouragement and thanks from my point of view as a woman and a victim of gender based violence – a small cheerleader piece on the work men have done in this field. But when I sat down to write it, I realized that so many men have played an absolutely vital role in my own recovery and in the lives of others, and in such different ways. I decided that I shouldn’t write just a fluff piece…

I feel like many men approach the subject of gender based violence with a lot of trepidation, not knowing what they can do or unsure of what role they should play in this scary world. So I’ve set out to highlight the myriad of men who are making a dent – men who are supporting others and thinking out of the box. I want to applaud them and encourage others to follow their lead. Each week I’ll profile a “male model” who inspires me, and I hope they will inspire you too!

*With all due respect to everyone, regardless of how they do or do not identify their gender.

Prerna is an artist, feminist, and interfaith activist. You can read more of her musings at Crafts Service .