Jeff Cullen is Director of Student Judicial Programs at UMBC.
When I was earning my Masters degree umpthnrumpthteen years ago, I received tuition remission in exchange for working as a graduate hall director in a building of 210 first-year men. In October of that year, the police came and led away one of my residents in handcuffs. It was alleged that after he and his girlfriend had broken off their relationship, he felt entitled to have sexual intercourse with her one last time, against her will and without her consent. She agreed not to press charges, but he quickly left campus under threat of disciplinary expulsion. After I got past the shock and outrage, I felt guilty, as in maybe we should have done more as a residence hall staff to offer programs and engage men in discussion about “how not to rape.” Guilt is one of those feelings that can lead to “stuckness,” or feeling immobilized and doing nothing. But doing nothing wasn’t an option, because I was concerned about the health and welfare of the men in the building who were my responsibility, to say nothing of their female and male partners.
I got some training from the local Rape Crisis Center, did hotline work for victims of sexual assault and child sexual abuse, and did some research about rape prevention, trying to discern what methods “worked the best” to raise awareness among male audiences. Now keep in mind that this was umpthnrumpthteen years ago, and sexual assault was very much considered a “women’s issue.” It still is, which is pretty outrageous when you consider that 99% of the arrests for forcible rape and 75% of the arrests for aggravated assault are male. Not all men rape or assault, and it’s neither accurate nor responsible to approach rape prevention and awareness efforts with that lens. Those that do rape and assault are not the folks who tend to show up at “programs” or “workshops” offered on college campuses. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be trying to “break new ground” and spread the word.
Through the work I was doing, I definitely came to believe that men can and should be talking to other men about this issue. While it may be a few years before I fully deconstruct the topic with my own 12-year old daughter and 8-year old son, I can in the interim endeavor to have meaningful conversations with other people’s sons and daughters. I enjoy privilege in the world as a male, but with that privilege comes responsibility to exert it wisely and in the service of justice.
About 10 years ago, I became aware of the efforts of the Washington, DC-based non-profit Men Can Stop Rape. They really are doing superlative work, mainly in the DC-area high schools, but with other populations and at a regional and national level, as well. Within the past year, they have extended the reach of their after-school mentoring program for high school youth to three sites in East Baltimore. The Shriver Center at UMBC is in the process of trying to form a partnership with Men Can Stop Rape (MCSR) to train up men who can be role models and mentors. MCSR will provide the training and UMBC can provide other supports that would enable the right person to break new ground. You will make a difference to others, and in doing so, see remarkable changes in yourself. If you identify as male and sense that sexual assault and relationship violence is an issue where you would like to make a difference, please be in touch with me and I’ll keep you posted on how you can become more involved.
Contact the author, Jeff Cullen, at email@example.com.