My name is Steve Butterman, and I am proud to serve as Director of the Program in Women’s and Gender Studies at this university.

I must be honest and tell you that I have many ambivalent feelings at this moment. Mostly, I am indignant that we live in a world where mutual consent is so widely disregarded on multiple levels in both our personal and our professional relationships. For this reason, I am very proud of Canes Consent and honored to take part in it.

I am both delighted and deeply disturbed to have the distinction of opening this event, carefully prepared and organized by the diligent students of Dr. Katharine Westaway’s Introduction to Women’s and Gender Studies class.
I would like to thank all of you for coming together in this gathering, and especially recognize the many hours of hard work that Dr. Westaway and her 35 students have done in order to make this event come to fruition.

On behalf of all of us at UM– male, female, student, faculty member, administrator, staff, athlete, nerd, Gay, straight, lesbian, bi, trans, queer, intersex, questioning–I would like to publicly thank you and applaud you for your engagement to social justice issues and your courage to put your thoughts and your principles into concrete action.
How many of you here today know someone who has been the victim of sexual assault, sexual abuse or rape?
How many of you know someone ***on this campus*** who has suffered sexual assault sexual abuse or rape?

I am not going to ask how many of you have personally experienced sexual assault, sexual abuse or rape because we live in a society that does not permit us to ASK that question.

The numbers are astounding. But even one assault or one rape on this campus is one too many.
When one is a victim of rape, she is almost inevitably a victim of additional rapes that go far beyond the body and the psyche. Oftentimes, she is the victim of the rape of dignity, given a criminal justice system that continues to blame the victim for the assault she has suffered at the hands of another. Self-imposed silence is an additional rape, this time of voice, in a rape culture that often expends much more energy to conceal or justify acts of violence than to bring its perpetrators to justice.

I sometimes wonder how many students feel too ashamed to express the nature of their absence, an additional rape, this time of integrity, which shames (and blames) the victim for the violence she has experienced at the hands of a perpetrator.

One of my brave, brave students recently confided in me, sharing her experience that: “There was a time in my life when I didn’t talk at all and was terrified of my own voice. I refuse to go back to that person but sometimes I feel it calling.”

In a rape culture such as ours, the stigma of abuse remains, compounding the trauma itself. Until everyone is safe on this campus, no matter who they are, NO ONE is safe on this campus.

This is the ONLY occasion where I find it ethically permissible and critically necessary for men to exercise our male privilege by accepting responsibility and stepping to the front of the line to break through the apathy that condones rape culture and perpetuates the cycle of violence to continue. All of us, men and women (this time men first) must condemn rape in all of its manifestations and end physical, psychological, emotional, and structural violence against ANY gender.

May we all consent together, here and today, now and forever, to absolute zero tolerance to sexual assault?