Letter: Men's Behavior Is at Issue

To the Editor:

Robert Spottswood’s thoughtful reasoning (“An End to Sexual Assault,” Forum, April 10) gives me hope if we can manage to maintain focus on the core problem with sexual assault. I worry, however, that in the aftermath of the trial involving two Dartmouth students we are allowing that focus to disperse. Perhaps the woman could have prevented this encounter by being more demonstrative or vocal in her rejection of Parker Gilbert’s advances. Perhaps other students could have prevented it by interceding. Perhaps Dartmouth could have prevented it by installing keyless locks in its residence halls.

On the other hand, I am pretty certain that if Parker Gilbert had chosen to return to his own room that night, if he had chosen to climb into his own bed instead of hers, if he had chosen to sleep off his drunkenness, these two erstwhile students might not now be dealing with shattered lives. Let me be clear. It seems to me that the core issues in sexual assault are the behavior of a select group of men and, as Spottswood notes, what we as a culture find ways to excuse. Of course we all need to be responsibly vigilant about our own welfare, but until we can agree as a community that we will no longer tolerate this type of misbehavior, it will not go away. That is, until society, as well as our legal system, is willing to impose sufficient consequences, some men will continue to believe it is their right to assault women. Robert Spottswood has quite persuasively described the problem and its context. We just cannot let it take another century to solve.

Stanley Colla