How to Form a Men 

Against Rape Group

EuroPROFEM - The European Men Profeminist Network 


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29en_vio ... Violence


How to Form a Men Against Rape Group

Jack Straton, Manhattan, Kansas May 27, 198
C/o University Studies
Portland State University
Portland, OR, 97207-0751

Starting an Men Against Rape group (MAR) is really not very difficult. I started one group on my own in Eugene, Oregon, another with the help of Gerry Sütter in Washington, D.C., a third with the help of Theresa Sayles in Manhattan, Kansas, and also helped catalyze the formation of a group at Indiana U. during their anti-rape week. There are men in every community who feel the urge to do something about stopping rape, even if they have no inkling of how to go about it, and this feeling is really your strongest ally in getting things rolling. You will find that some of those who come to the first meeting are more interested in protecting women than in challenging men, but some of them will learn and some will drop out. There will also be those who amaze you at the quality of their understanding.

If your concerns are really to get a group of men together to work against sexism in general, I recommend that you do so under the banner of a Men Against Rape group anyway. I recently walked into a conservative rural high school in Kansas and talked to a group of ninth grade boys about such hot topics as sexuality and pornography. This was only possible because I was invited in by the school counselor to talk about "date rape and how to treat girls [and women] with respect." It is clear that the only way to end rape in this society is to root out the sexist behaviors that are also behind battering, pornography, and other forms of violence against women. Thus if I can stop rape, I am also stopping other forms of sexist violence. I have to discuss hot topics if I am to be effective, and I think those who hear my presentations understand this. Although on one level much of society fosters and supports rape, very often people genuinely believe that they want to stop rape and will give you a lot of latitude that they would not give if you said that you wanted "to root out sexism" in their students or colleagues.

What you do to start a group is simply get the word of the formational meeting out to enough people so that after some inevitable attrition you will still have a core group of at least six members. The most effective method in cities of 100,000 or less is a letter to the editor that appears a few days in advance in the city newspaper and in the college newspaper(s). In larger cities there are often alternative newspapers that will reach a receptive audience. Public radio stations, as well as New Age, Classical, Jazz, and PolitaRock DJ’s on conventional stations, are also receptive to reading a short public interest note. Posters on campus, in coffee houses and in health food and alternative book stores are also helpful. Also phone the local Crisis Center, the Women’s Resource Center, and Women’s Studies Department and ask if they know of any men who may be interested whom you may phone. It is good to start the group near the beginning of Fall semester if students are likely to be involved.

The first meeting, whether it is six or 20 people, can consist of a "check-in" time for people to express their "motivations for coming tonight." Out of this will come ideas for what people want to do or how to go about figuring this out. You will need to be a "process moderator" to point out communication problems that may arise, such as the men talking forever in comparison with the women present. And you can ask in advance that people do some self editing in this regard.

Some groups feel that it is more effective to have an exclusively male membership so that "we feel more free to be more honest about our own behavior toward women." I have found that women who wish to work within the context of a Men Against Rape group have been my strongest allies in the formative period because they are ready sources of wisdom and understanding on sexism. Their anger is also helpful in cutting through the shit. And these women have been receptive to the men getting together separately to work on issues where that seems best.

The people who attend the first meeting will look to you for a deeper understanding than the vague feeling that brought them. You don’t need to be an expert if you are up front about this, but if you read the first 35 pages of Timothy Beneke’s book Men On Rape, (St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1982) you will have a clarity that will be of help. My own advise to you is that you recommend that the group focus on educating men about rape as its primary mission. You will have to play a balancing act of leading when you are needed and helping others discover that they can lead too.

I will be happy to help out in any way possible. In fact, I really would like to be kept posted on the progress.

What follows is a letter to the editor that I used to get the Manhattan group going. You are welcome to use it word for word without attribution if that would be of help, or edit or "quote" as desired.

To the editors:

It is time to shred the myth that rape will be with us forever, that the best we can do is to teach women to protect themselves with outdoor lighting, locks, or martial arts. This attitude is an abdication of responsibility from those able to respond and an acceptance of rape by those who profess to abhor rape. I declare to you that there is no acceptable level of death, no acceptable level of humiliation, and no acceptable level of degradation in a culture that calls itself civilized. How can a country that holds justice high, a country dedicated to freedom, accept the level of fear that women live with daily? We’ve got to stop rape, and we can stop it.

For too long we have lived in denial. I can no longer deny the reality that every rape is a violation of my humanity. I can no longer deny that my silence implies my consent. I can no longer deny my sisters their freedom. What man can look his daughter in the eye and try to explain that "we live in the land of the free, but you must not go out at night?" Which of you can look your kid sister in the eye and tell her you love her and yet do nothing while she and one in three of her girl friends will be raped by the age of eighteen; raped by their relatives and peers? How long are men going to allow our 96 year old grandmothers and 3 month old daughters to be sexually assaulted, before we get off our butts and do something?

I am sick to death of hearing men say that because they would never rape, rape is not their problem. Well who’s problem is it then? Obviously women who survive an assault experience a "problem" — a "problem" that will transform their lives for years to come. But what about the father who is ready to kill because his daughter has been raped? Is he experiencing "a problem?" And why doesn’t he generalize his feelings about his daughter to every woman on the planet? What about the husband of a woman who has been raped whose marriage dissolves within 2 years in 2 of 3 cases? Is he experiencing a problem? What about the college senior whose partner lives with fear of rape or memories of rape? Is he experiencing "a problem?"

What do men say? "Oh I’m sympathetic, but I really don’t have the time right now." Rest assured that unless you make the time right now, your problem of rape will be waiting for you when you finally get around to doing something. "I’ve got to put my energies into stopping nuclear war" or "environmental destruction." When will you make the connection that the same male patterns of violence involved in power, control, and humiliation in international conflict are involved in the violation, degradation, and domination of individual women by individual men? You identify with the porpoises that are destroyed at the hands of the tuna industry to provide a food source for you to eat. Why is it harder for you to identify with the women who are humiliated, mutilated, and murdered at the hands of the pornography industry to provide images for you to view while masturbating? How can a new age man consider himself sensitive if he cannot sense or does not respond to the pain that engulfs his sisters?

"But what can I do?" Consider that:

A 1987 survey of 6,159 students on 32 college campuses by Sociologist Mary Koss found that:

• One in four women had experience a rape or attempted by the age of twenty-five. 
• Eighty-nine per cent of the rapists were known by their targets — men in our own peer groups.
 • One in thirteen men admitted forcing women to have sex, but virtually none of these men considered themselves rapists. These men, in other words, considered themselves normal, and thought that their sexual behavior was excusable, expected, and even acceptable.

Sociologist Diana Russell found that 9.3 percent of female children under 16 years of age have experienced a rape or attempted, with 95 percent of the perpetrators being male (and 38 percent members of the nuclear family). Sociologist Judith Siegel, has found that at about half as many male children are sexually assaulted as females, with 93 percent of all perpetrators being male.

Clearly our male peers need to be educated out of their rape behavior. And who is better to take on this task than you and I? Meaningful social change to end rape depends on action and education — men talking with men about rape and about sexism in general. Men Against Rape is in the process of forming, and this is an invitation to men in this community, and any women who would like to work within this context, to join us in working to stop rape. Our first meeting will be . (For information you may contact me at .)

Having outlined the harshest reasons why each of us should consider becoming personally involved in working to create a rape-free society, let me end on a warmer note. Working with a group of evolving men, in association with activist women, on such a positive goal is a very valuable, fulfilling experience. Personal stories about our own socialization are one of the most effective means to help both men and women understand and eliminate the roots of rape and rape-like behavior in men. And consideration of our experiences also helps us in our own transformations. It is our hope to have the membership of the group be as diverse as possible so that we may learn from the experience of others, particularly personal experiences of racism and other oppressions that are so closely connected to the oppression of women.

Jack Straton earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in photography from the University of Oregon in 1977, worked as a professional jazz drummer for three years, and then returned to the U of O in the 1980s to earn a doctorate in quantum theory. Both as a volunteer and professional diversity trainer over the past 18 years, he has presented several hundred workshops on ending sexual assault and racism. Jack founded Men Against Rape groups in Eugene, Oregon, Washington, D.C., and Manhattan, Kansas. He has published extensively in professional journals from his research in Quantum Scattering Theory, Gender Equity, and Diversity Training Methods. He has served as co-chair of the National Organization for Men Against Sexism (NOMAS) and, as coordinator of the NOMAS Task Group on Child Custody Issues, is recognized as one of the leading writers and speakers in the country with expertise on ethical and public policy issues related to the overlap between child custody, child abuse, and woman abuse. 


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