Rally Against Sexual Violence

It?s time the other half of the population took action against rape, according to Utah Men Against Sexual Violence.

UMASV held a press conference at Rice-Eccles Stadium Thursday, hoping to raise awareness of the positive role men can play in combating sexual violence.

Men should not sit on the sidelines, letting women take care of the problem, but should be allies in the fight, said Mitch Maio, chairman of the month-old organization.

While violent crime in Utah has decreased overall, rapes increased by about 5 percent, Mark Shurtleff, Utah attorney general, told The Daily Utah Chronicle, describing the increase as ?totally unacceptable.

?It?s about our mothers, our daughter and our wives,? Shurtleff told the crowd.

Of the 50 or so men present, statistically one would rape or sexually assault a woman. But the other 49 would stand up against him, he said.

A woman adjusts her schedule, selects whom she dates, the route she walks, with rape lurking in the back of her mind, said Ned Searle, the Utah State Department of Health sexual assault prevention coordinator.

?It eats at my conscience,? he said. ?We should find strength in respecting women.?

Men?s interactions with other men can perpetuate the myth that a woman?s actions or appearance justify sexual violence, he said.

Society must dispel this myth, men must transform masculinity.

?We believe the only way we can make this change is socially,? Searle said. UMASV, the first of its kind in Utah, is a step in that direction.

?I come from an angle that is enabling to me to reach people who haven?t been reached,? Maio, who is also a U baseball player, told The Chronicle.

All-male communities, such as those among athletes or in fraternities, can foster myths about masculinity?men are aggressive, women submissive, the necessity of competition?that support rape.

And it is not a threat faced by women alone. In 2000, 19 boys and 395 men contacted the Rape Recovery Center in Salt Lake City.

One of the initial things UMASV discussed was prison rape, but it chose to maintain a broader focus.

?We didn?t want to use the organization to benefit solely men,? Maio said.

Rape is about power and violence. People associate rape with sex because it affects the sexual parts of the body?but the two are not the same, Searle said.

Marital rape laws, for instance, make the distinction between sex and rape.

Victims of sexual assault range in age from three days to 96 years?not individuals who are highly sexualized, according to Maio.

And when convicted rapists are interviewed, often they do not remember details of what their victims wore, how they looked or other details sometimes credited with ?provoking? rape, he said.

Maio followed in his mother’s and older sister?s footsteps when he become involved in combating sexual violence, but his father provided an essential role model.

?There?s never really been a place for him,? he said. ?But he wants his voice as a man who is in opposition to sexual violence to be heard.?

Women are welcome to participate in UMASV, Maio said, but he asks they bring a male friend along.

Many of the people whom the Rape Recovery Center serves were assaulted by someone they knew, according to Jamee Roberts, the center?s executive director.

?Thank you for being part of the solution,? she told the crowd.

UMASV held the press conference in observance of the YWCA?s Week Without Violence.

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