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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Bystanders Must Stop Rapists

I listened today as a mother described her daughter's rape. She began by relating how her daughter got into a troubling relationship with a boy as an early teen, how her daughter was abused by the boyfriend, physically and verbally, how her daughter broke off the relationship, how her daughter dated a new guy who then became her boyfriend, how, when the new boyfriend broke it off, the old boyfriend lured her daughter to his home to 'help sort it out' and when she arrived the old boyfriend raped her while a friend of his watched.

As I listened to the account I felt my anguish grow for the girl, her parents, her brother and sister, and her friends. So too did my disgust grow for the rapist, the deviant, perverted rapist. But the boy I loathed most was the boy who watched and did nothing. He is the one I can't figure out. A rapist ends up in the penitentiary but what happens to the guy who hides and watches? Why do I despise this coward so much?

In a moment of self reflection I wonder if there is a piece of him in me. Like when I've turned a blind eye to the sexual antics of my male companions or when I’ve let slide the derogatory word or comment about women. When I’ve passed-on an email that degrades women to the point of being objects of sex and not human beings. When we, males, laugh and wink when a guy at a bar explains that he intends to get a woman drunk so he can have sex with her. These are all moments of weakness committed by the ‘innocent’ male bystander.

I do know that I loathed that young man because he did not have the guts to stand up and stop the rapist. It seems we, men, too often stand by with our hands in our pockets knowing that something might happen or does happen but our code says we shouldn’t say anything. Our code says we should laugh or worst case, we watch. We pat each other on the back while a guy's sister, another father's daughter, a mother's child becomes a victim of the big guy, the rapist, the man men don’t stand up to.

I felt the anguish of the mother today. I could see the hug she received from her daughter who once was a victim but who today has rebuilt, and constructed a new life. I also felt my anger toward the rapist and his buddy the onlooker, the ‘innocent’ bystander, the observer who did nothing. Was he a victim also? That guy needs to find his voice. He needs to stand. He needs to man-up as they say in sports and protect his corner of the world. We all need to man-up against men who rape.

I found in her story today another definition of heaven. Heaven would be knowing that a mother and a father never again have to relate a story like that about their child.

What can we do to stop the men who rape?

Ken Mellard

Attendee at the MOCSA Johnson County Fall Luncheon