Rape Culture is a Worldwide Problem and These Organizations Are Solving It

"I did not think that I was doing any violence to my wife or towards my children," said a participant in India after one of the workshops led by Promundo, an organization that conducts research on issues related to masculinity and gender equality. "I realized that violence is not only physical in nature, and can attain many forms including mental and sexual violence," he added.

Using its research, Promundo has implemented intervention programs in India, Brazil, Chile, and Rwanda to engage men in the prevention of violence against women. Many participants do not realize their actions are actually instances of violence — the classic symptom of the worldwide problem of rape culture.

Earlier this month, a video emerged of fraternity brothers at Saint Mary's University in Canada chanting what could be a mantra for rape culture: "Y is for your sister, O is for oh so tight, U is for underage, N is for no consent, G is for grab that ass!"

An alumnus of Queens University told the White Ribbon campaign, "I remember driving to the campus with my parents and seeing posters along the highway that read things like, 'Fathers, thank you for your daughters.' It was pretty brutal."

The problem is indeed a deeply international one. In a report published last week, the United Nations found one in four of the men it surveyed in six South Asian countries had committed rape at some point in their lives. The men who admitted to sexual violence gave many reasons for their actions, including sexual entitlement, entertainment, anger, and alcohol use. Even more terrifying was the fact that about 58 percent of those who had raped a non-partner had committed their first rape as teenagers. 

"I'm not really sure there are that many surprises in [the UN report] in terms of rape and perpetration. It's consistent with what we see in a lot of other countries, even in the U.S.," Joseph Vess, a senior program officer at Promundo-US, told PolicyMic. "It's an opportunity to look at what happens in lots of other regions, including our own."

The UN study also noted that the frequency of rape in these countries is similar to other areas where research of this kind has been conducted, such as South Africa. 

"The problem is shocking, but any place we have looked, we see partner violence, victimization, and sexual violence," Michele Decker, an assistant professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told CBS News. 

Enter organizations like Promundo, that work to educate men about their roles and actions. Men Can Stop Rape, for instance, is an international organization that mobilizes men in the fight against sexual violence through education programs, training workshops, and public awareness campaigns. One example is the Men of Strength (MOST) Club, a youth development program. 

"It intrinsically helped make me a better man," said Adam Middleton, an alumnus of the MOST Club who now attends The George Washington University. "Now, in Campus Men of Strength at GW, I want to help create a similar space for others."

The New York City Urban Project, on the other hand, is part of the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and works to combat sex trafficking and slavery through leadership development programs and outreach campaigns. 

"To say, 'Oh, it's like that over there, and not here,' is to shut our ears to the epidemic of sexual violence and oppression against women that is prevalent around the world," Jonathan Walton, the director of NYCUP, told PolicyMic.

Walton argues that attitudes toward rape in the United States are not that much different than in South Asia. And though workshops and safe spaces may be necessary for individuals to tackle the tough questions, Walton says battling sexual violence requires a deeper change. 

"We believe that brokenness is first personal, relational, and then systematic," Walton said. "We need some personal and relational steps to be taken to acknowledge and then address the brokenness that's there."

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Aliya Karim

A master's candidate in Media and Public Affairs at GWU, I have extensive interest in social media, human rights issues and women's empowerment.

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