Sexual Violence is a Men’s Issue


Caribbean journalist Ricky Singh indicts regional and national women’s groups, women lawyers and women politicians for being silent in the face of sexual violence against women.

Roberta Clarke, on her Roots and Rights blog, pointed out that for the last 20 years women’s organisations have in fact been speaking out, advocating for legislation, running shelters and crisis centres  etc. Caribbean women have been anything but silent in the face of relentless and ongoing violence. In the 1980s schoolgirls in St. Vincent and the Grenadines marched to protest sexual violence and in 2013 women’s groups across the region continue to do unrecognised, invisibilised work.

When it comes to sexual violence the overwhelming majority of persons who are raped or sexually assaulted are women and girls and the overwhelming majority of rapists are men.  Men and boys too are victims of rape (though not at the same rates as women and girls) and in these cases too, men are the overwhelming majority of rapists.  It should therefore be self-evident that sexual violence is a men’s issue.  And the more appropriate question to ask is why men as the majority of elected leaders in the region, as individuals and members of various men’s organisations are not doing everything in their power to end sexual violence. Rape is a men’s issue.  Ending rape, speaking out against violence against women and girls is the collective responsibility of men.

Yet, men collectively, as major power brokers in the region, are silent.

Why are Caribbean men silent on rape? Why did it not occur to Rickey Singh to ask this question? Why is men’s silence not shocking?

Everybody should be outraged when schoolgirls are sexually harassed in the street and on public transportation, when women are killed by their intimate partners, when police officers turn away rape survivors for being naked, when payments are accepted in lieu of prosecution in cases of child sexual abuse, when our legal system supports this form of injustice, when deputy commissioners of police suggest that teen girls are the ones responsible for the sexual crimes against them. Everybody should be outraged.  Not just women.  Not just the handful of women parliamentarians.  Not just overworked and underfunded women’s organisations. EVERYBODY.  And that includes men who for too long have been shamefully silent.  (Big up attorney Lennox Sankersingh and the other lawyers who have offered to support rape survivors throughout the legal process in Trinidad and Tobago).

Why are men silent on sexual violence against women and girls?

What does their silence communicate?

Does it communicate an acceptance of rape culture, of gender inequality? An understanding that violence against women and girls and the threat of it is part of what helps to maintain male privilege? A desire to see that privilege maintained at all costs?

It’s time we heard from Caribbean men what they intend to do to end gender-based violence.

I’m all ears…

13 thoughts on “Sexual Violence is a Men’s Issue

  1. many men are silent because they are themselves guilty of rape. many others are silent because they understand that the patriarchal system they live in so comfortably is sustained by the rape and battery of women and children as much as it is by their woman-hating, father god religions. still more are silent because they they fear that if rape culture is dismantled then it will be replaced by a new culture where angry women are in charge and free to seek revenge upon them. the “good” men who do not rape but are silent about it also fear changing from a rape culture to one where there was a greater chance of being falsely accused, or one in which they were required by law and culture to report the rapes they know about to police, or to abandon friendships and business relationships with known rapists and child predators. they see themselves as losing a lot of friends and having to testify in court all the time.
    oops, just seeing where you are asking men to respond. but it is an important question, i want to respond too. thanks for asking.


  2. Thanks for your comment, Lynn. i wasn’t only asking for responses from men. You have added a lot to the discussion. I like that you mention the relationships that men would stand to lose if they did speak out against sexual violence. There are lessons there for all of us about our own silences and how they make us individually and collectively culpable.


  3. Thank you so much milidread. i too left a link to it in the comments. i think it would be useful if Ricky Singh can open up a dialogue with those who responded to his article on their own blogs and in the comments of his column as well as other Caribbean journalists who have written recently about sexual violence in the region like Attillah Springer. Let’s see if he responds.


  4. Corey Gilkes says:

    I just came across this through someone on Facebook and I’ll tell you what I wrote to her. While I’m in basic agreement with you, I think (and take no pleasure in saying so), you’re asking a bit too much of most of us men at least for the time being.

    It is a male issue, yes, but the reality is that ours is still a society deeply steeped in patricentric/patriarchal ideas of morality. As such, most of the men (hell, AND women) who rightfully decry rape, sexual harassment and so on, (un)wittingly contribute to the problem by the very ideas they have about how it can be stamped out. I listen to certain radio talk shows in Trinidad and hear many of the speakers and callers; many of the responses can be put into one of two groups: those who blaming the woman cause of how they dress [the elderly woman who was raped recently, I wonder wha she had on] or dance around Carnival time and there are those who totally dismiss that but hold views about women apparently taken straight out of novels that idealise women as fragile, passive, in need of male protection and up on pedestals.

    Rape is a male issue, rape is about power, all that we can say. But we aren’t going to get very far in tackling the problem far less voicing it unless we seriously address age-old assumptions of male power and entitlement. And given the profound influence of patricentry largely through religion, that’s not going to be addressed anytime soon.

    So for the time being, let the women’s groups and educated figures confront the thing, I do what little I can through some writings on but I think the various women’s groups including CAFRA and better placed to stand and make your voices be heard.


  5. Thank you for you comment, Corey and for engaging with us in this dialogue. As you noted, “But we aren’t going to get very far in tackling the problem far less voicing it unless we seriously address age-old assumptions of male power and entitlement.” Exactly!


  6. Corey Gilkes says:

    Ahhh, but how are you going to do that given the deep influence in our society of masculinist assumptions through religion. Keeping in mind that some of the most passionate upholders of many of these ideas happen to be women.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s