By Elaina Moradi – Moxie Intern
“Grab my wrist,” Amanda Costopoulos, 20, said with excitement in her eyes. When her boyfriend grabs her, she moves so swiftly everyone in the room is left dumbfounded when he ends up being the one on the ground.
Costopoulos is one of many women who take self-defense classes at the Academy of the Holy Cross in Maryland.
“My grandpa was always the one who told me I had to take a self-defense class,” Costopoulos said. “He said I needed to be able to protect myself and be independent so I wouldn’t have to rely on anyone other than myself in bad situations.”
Men can be important allies when it comes to supporting the effort for women’s safety, whether they are acting the teacher, mentor, loved one or simply as a fellow human being. It’s a clear sign the men in women’s lives respect them when they encourage women they care about to empower themselves.
“Our instructor didn’t take the course lightly,” Costopoulos said. “If we laughed he would get really serious and remind us there could be a time when we need to defend ourselves, and if we take him seriously then we’d be able to.”
Men can also step up as allies by contributing to organizations that focuses on women’s personal safety rights. Alpha Sigma Phi, a national fraternity (local chapter pictured above), has made efforts in supporting women in need through philanthropy events.
“My fraternity did an event to raise money for RAINN,” said Desmond Boyle, 21, referring to a Towson University campus carnival where all proceeds went to the organization. “We all have at least one woman in our lives who we hold close to us – whether it be a sister, a niece, a mom – and there was no doubt in our minds that we wanted to help a cause like RAINN.”
Though multiple studies have shown men in fraternities are three times more likely to commit rape than other men on college campuses, there are also allies in these groups who are dedicated to keeping women safe and increasing awareness of sexual assault.
Recently a fraternity at Northwestern University decided to take a stand and hang signs that said, “This is everyone’s problem” and “We stand against sexual assault,” though many frats are know for hanging offensive signs from their houses.
The fraternity was criticized by some students who said they should do more than just hang banners, but the truth is every little bit helps.
“There are frats on campus labeled as ‘bad frats’ that take advantage of girls, and we don’t want to be grouped with them,” Boyle said. “We wanted to be able to show that we respect women and we stand with them and want to help.”
There are many opportunities for men to get involved as allies – including supporting women’s rights campaigns, volunteering with women’s advocacy groups or domestic violence shelters, educating other men on sexual assault and challenging the status quo in their own lives.
It’s crucial that men and women work together to combat violence against women and ensure that each woman feels safe and capable.
“I feel stronger now,” said Costopoulos. “I feel confident when I go out, like I can take care of myself and that’s exactly how my grandpa wanted me to feel.”