Rape and sexual assault were subjects I never thought I would cover in my young writing career. In my mind, rape was like a tragedy in a faraway country: It's a terrible thing that happened to people I didn't know.
Like a catastrophe you read in a history book, it's something you try to skim over as quickly as possible and don't want to think about for too long. This is coming from someone who has never experienced either.
The situation became real to me when I found out that women I've met, women I've talked to and women I've become friends with had been victims of rape and sexual assault. I cannot express this enough: No one — I repeat, no one — deserves to be raped or sexually assaulted, and I could not fathom it happening to these smart, funny and awesome women.
I guess it's like how people can't believe when the ones they love get sick. I had never experienced this type of sadness, and I was feeling something deeper: sorrow. I tried to imagine how scared and violated they must have felt.
The tragedies of life spare no one, but I can truly say I have never gone through anything like that. I hope no one does, but unfortunately, that is not the world that we live in.
I am usually good with separating the perpetrator from the group. When a black or Latino person murders someone, it doesn't make me embarrassed to be black or Latino. When a Mets fan hurls insults at visiting fans, it does not make me ashamed to be a Mets fan. I am me, and they are them.
But when a man rapes or sexually assaults a woman, it truly makes me embarrassed and ashamed to be a man. Maybe I shouldn't, but it's just the way I feel. As men, we have to do better.
This behavior is unbecoming of a human being. "How could anyone do that?" is almost always my first thought when I hear of an incident of rape or sexual assault.
What can drive a man to do this? Pure madness and disregard for the human person is the best I can come up with. Intense sexual arousal is no excuse, and wanting and/or liking sex has nothing to do with it.
I don't rob banks not because I don't like money. I love money. I don't rob banks because it's wrong. It's a violation of someone else's property and trust — unless I'm invited to share in that money by the owner, and not when that person is drunk or unable to reason clearly — and I have no right to partake.
I remember having a conversation with a friend when I said murder was the worst crime a person can commit. My friend said rape was the worst crime you can commit because unlike murder, you leave a victim alive to suffer. I argued then that murder is a worse crime because the victim has no more life, but I am starting to reconsider my reasoning.
I've heard and seen stories of rape and sexual assault victims who have used their horrible experience to help others who have gone through the same thing. My aunt was a coordinator of a rape crisis center in North Carolina, so I know the amazing impact survivors can have on other people, even people who have never had the misfortune of being raped or sexually assaulted.
With that being said, after knowing people who are victims of rape and sexual assault, it's moving up on my list of terrible crimes. It was number two, and now it's a tie for first.
As my uncle from Mississippi would say, I'm slapping 30 in the back of the neck. As I get older, I've noticed that I have stopped thinking about the world that will be left to me.
At 29 years old, this world is the world that was left to me. With the upcoming births of more cousins in my family (most of whom are female), I'm starting to think more and more about the world we will leave them.
It is one of my greatest hopes that this forthcoming generation of men will stand for women's rights in all areas in life. I believe more attention must be given to take a stand on rape and sexual assault.
I know I will take a more active role in the fight, whether it's taking better notice of the signs of abuse among my own friends and family, or whether it's more encouraging when brave women like Beth Stelling come out and take a stand against abuse. Whatever I can do, I will do it. Enough is enough.