Men: When Women Talk About Their Trauma, Your Job Is Just To Listen

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As a woman, I’ve had more encounters than I can count on both hands where I've experienced trauma at the hands of a man — whether it’s from being catcalled, or being sexually harassed/abused.

Most women have also experienced some form of traumatic event that involved a man. According to NPR, 80% of women have experienced sexual harassment, compared to men who have experienced 43%.

And it’s more than okay for men to have moments where they share their own experiences, and make room to heal from that, but it shouldn’t be at the cost of women having to be silent and listen.

Men being the victims of sexual abuse and assault is absolutely horrific, but it will never negate the centuries of trauma and suffering that have happened toward women because of the simple fact that we live in a patriarchial society that has inflicted injustices upon women for centuries.

When women talk about the mistreatment and trauma they've lived through at the hands of men  men should be quiet and just listen.

When men interject women's trauma with, “Well, men are raped, too” or “Men also get catcalled” — while valid statements — the sentiment often comes from a place of trying to silence women and gaslight them into realizing they aren’t the victims. (It's similar to when white people tell black people, "all lives matter.")

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To be clear, women are not saying what men go through is invalid or doesn’t happen. Women are simply trying to have a space where they can freely share their experiences without fear of judgement or ridicule. So when men jump in, elbows first, to try and divert the conversation from women, it feels really silencing to us.

This also stems from societal views: Women are the victims of sexual abuse and assault. About 90% of adult rape victims are women. And often, a women’s abuser is not given jail time. 

From a statistical standpoint: 60% of rapes/sexual assaults are not reported to police. If a rape is reported, there is a 50.8% chance of an arrest. If an arrest is made, there is an 80% chance of prosecution. If there is a prosecution, there is a 58% chance of conviction. If there is a felony conviction, there is a 69% chance the convict will spend time in jail. Even in the 39% of attacks that are reported to police, there is only a 16.3% chance the rapist will end up in prison.

Factoring in unreported rapes, about 6% of rapists will ever spend a day in jail. That's a lot to swallow.

So, if a woman decides to finally open up about her experience of trauma and damage done at the hands of abusive men, it’s not the right time for a man to suddenly declare the lower numbers of men who have also been raped. 

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Men do not need to be centered in every single conversation women have. When I’m talking about the years of brutality and hurt inflicted on women by the patriarchy — or when I’m talking about the simple experience of a woman being catcalled walkign down the street, never am I trying to say that these things don’t happen to men. Women are just trying to create safe spaces for women. 

Because the reality is, women don’t often get to have these kinds of spaces  and when we do, we’re usually on the receiving end of victim-shaming.

If you’re a man, and you find yourself in a situation when women are discussing their traumas, please don’t take that as an open invitation to butt in with unwanted opinions and statistics. 

What women want from men is for them to hear us.

What women want from men is for them to reflect within themselves on how they can work towards tearing down patriarchal values that have hindered women to such an extreme that we cannot exist in this world without bearing the trauma and hurt of abuse at the hands of an injust system.

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Nia Tipton is a writer living in Chicago. She covers pop culture, social justice issues, and trending topics. Follow her on Instagram.