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Teach young men to treat women with respect

By Katie Hanna and Monika Johnson Hostler, Special to CNN
updated 1:48 PM EST, Sat January 5, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Katie Hanna, Monika Johnson Hostler: In the U.S. or abroad, violence against women persists
  • They say there's often a "code of silence" among athletes and fraternities
  • Hanna, Hostler: Athletic teams, coaches should educate boys about respecting women

Editor's note: Katie Hanna is the statewide director of Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence. Monika Johnson Hostler is the president of the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence.

(CNN) -- Just within the past week, a disturbing video released by the hacktivist group Knight Sec exposed details surrounding the alleged sexual assault of a teenage girl in Steubenville, Ohio; more protests erupted over the horrific gang rape of a young woman in India; and the final sessions of the 112th Congress did not reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act.

Whether it's here in the United States, or in other parts of the world, violence against women persists and justice often falls through the cracks.

The Steubenville rape case has come back into the spotlight due in large part to online activists who felt that it wasn't being taken seriously. While the case against two teenage football players is being investigated, with a trial set for February, we as a society must do all we can to end sexual violence against women.

Katie Hanna
Katie Hanna
Monika Johnson Hostler
Monika Johnson Hostler

The video footage and messages that surfaced on social media, which appear to depict the sexual abuse of a girl, highlight horrible attitudes and unacceptable behaviors toward women. One thing is clear: Those "bystanders" who were present on the night of the alleged rape bear a responsibility. Why didn't any one of them assist her or respond to what was happening? And while three members of the football team have come forward to testify in the case, more should have. The "code of silence" that is often found among athletes, fraternities and other similar groups must be addressed.

We call upon our athletic teams and coaches to speak up because they can play an important role in prevention. Coaches can educate young men about the need to treat women with respect, encourage healthy relationships with the opposite sex, and promote non-misogynist behavior. We must ensure that young men see sexual violence against women as despicable and do all they can to stop it.

According to a recent national survey, 1 in 5 women in the U.S. reported having been raped. Most rapes are perpetrated by someone the victim knows. Victimization can start early in life. We still live in a culture where young women are not given a voice and victims of sexual violence are sometimes not believed.

Opinion: Why don't some boys see it as rape?

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The Ohio incident has sparked outrage since it first was reported. Advocates and community members were glad that the case was turned over to special prosecutors in the Office of Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine to avoid potential conflicts of interest. When Cleveland Plain Dealer reporter Rachel Dissell took up the story in September, it inspired people who had been sexually assaulted to come forward about their own experiences. These people know that they were no longer alone.

Alleged rape shocks Ohio town
Murphy: Rape is grossly under prosecuted

Fewer than half of Ohio's 88 counties have rape crisis services available for individuals who have been sexually assaulted, and many existing programs lack the adequate resources to provide needed prevention and community outreach to address the myths about sexual violence and promote a culture that supports rape survivors. In Steubenville, there is no prevention funding to address sexual violence. As for survivors, how can they seek justice and healing if they have little support and resources available?

We call upon House Speaker John Boehner -- who's from Ohio -- to help us end sexual violence.

Opinion: End culture of rape in 2013

The Violence Against Women Act includes provisions for engaging men and boys as allies to ending sexual violence, providing bystander intervention and prevention in high schools and on college campuses. Contact your Congress member and encourage him or her to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act. Survivors and communities across Ohio and the nation deserve your support.

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The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Katie Hanna and Monika Johnson Hostler.

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