A Needed Response

This 27 second video was posted on YouTube in response to the Steubenville Rape case that has been much reported on by the media in recent months.  If you are not aware of the case then you can certainly find more information online.

As a man, I completely agree with the video’s tenor and perspective.  I was raised with the idea that men should treat women with respect and protect those in need of protecting.  Taking advantage of someone in a vulnerable situation is a terrible thing.  Inexplicably there has been a variety of responses to this event including victim blaming of the girl involved and a well-publicized empathetic response by CNN anchors towards the convicted rapists.

There is a concept from social psychology, “Cognitive Dissonance,” that lends an explanation to why there are other reactions than abhorrence at this event.  Cognitive Dissonance is the discomfort we feel towards a situation when we have to hold two competing ideas in our mind at the same time.  For instance, a person that victim blames may  struggle with the conflicting ideas that on one hand their world is made up of generally good people who would not harm and humiliate someone in this way and on the other hand the fact that this woman was so abused.  The rationalization that comes from this is that there must have been consent in some form or fashion – however loosely contrived – in the amount of alcohol she drank or the clothes that she wore.

Returning back to the video, I believe that it cuts through cognitive dissonance with its simplicity.  When faced with a decision to help another we oftentimes complicate the situation rather than act.  In this case, the best action is to act compassionately and with regard for the person’s safety.

Next week is Sexual Non-Violence Week across the country and on Loyola’s campus.  This is an opportunity to look at how we can cut through the cognitive dissonance and see the moral simplicity of sexual violence.  No one deserves rape and no one will ever ask for it.  Therefore, I think a charge to the men on campus is in order, a charge to treat women with a higher level of respect, including the most basic form of respect that is sexual nonviolence.  Because, as the video points out, that’s what real men do.

-Logan Williamson, LPC

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