Considering the age of our target audience… a quick pop culture history lesson seems to be in order.
“A Time to Kill” – 1998 award winning movie featuring a star studded lineup including Samuel L. Jackson, Sandra Bullock, Matthew McConaughey and (painfully ironically) Kevin Spacey. This film tells the story of an enraged father to young daughter who had suffered unthinkable sexual violence, battery and rape. The movie details his murdering of the rapist and the subsequent attempt to defend his actions in court.
Though the story was written in 1996 by John Grisham, the narrative it profiles seems to transcend time. Even within our own ManUp networks, the “if someone ever …” sentiment gets passed around causally and continually. Most memorably, one of our guest speakers at conference once shared his assertion that he would be compelled to “break the neck” of any man who might assault the women in his life. While the unanimous sentiment in that room was absolute faith in the Mamouthly humongous guest’s physical ability to follow through on this threat. I was left with an overwhelming sense of tension. I recognized this type of thinking in myself and I could see a room full of boys connecting with this man and his feelings. My thought (that stays with me to this day) was, “why are we as men so inclined to take extreme action in response to sexual violence but so reluctant to take small steps to prevent it?”.
Sadly, our instinct to fight / seek revenge or avenge the pain and honour of our loved ones is a useless act. Killing or otherwise hurting perpetrators of violence provides exactly no benefit, relief or value to survivors. The revenge sentiment is triggered by a feeling of desperation and helplessness that we know we would experience. We are deeply offended at the thought of a predatory male attacking our mothers, sisters, girlfriends and wives. To be clear, this is justifiable, the impact and long range torment caused by these heinous acts is devastating to its survivors. But … while we are offended, disgusted and enraged by predatory men we continue to allow predatory behaviours, ideas and thoughts to circulate and percolate amongst each other. The data has been collected; its available and its clear. The #metoo era has taught us that sexual assault and sexual harassment are way more common than we want to know about or admit to. Amazing studies are revealing that more kids than ever are regularly consuming violent pornography. More kids than ever are exchanging and publicly sharing nude photos of their classmates. More women in our city and country are being taken into sexual slavery. More date rape drugs are being trafficked and used. More platforms for sexual predators are being created. Just this week I learned of a group of young men in Ottawa who had devised a strategy to lie about their own age and to apply filtering criteria to target minors on their dating apps. Sadly, more people than ever are consciously letting this continue and escalate without resistance.
Gentlemen, the time to kill is now but the thing to kill isn’t a rapist. We need to target and eliminate a prevailing culture that encourages men to use and abuse women for personal pleasure. We need to learn to identify male objectification and domination of women when we see it. We need learn to interrupt and correct behaviours effectively and immediately. We need to strengthen the networks of people and organizations who are working together for prevention but also those who are overburdened in their work to support victims. We need to develop the courage to act and we need to be clear … the time to kill is now.