While Detroit Lions linebacker DeAndre Levy is used to defending his team on the football field, he recently stepped up to fight for something other than a touchdown: women who are the victims of sexual violence.
According to the Huffington Post, Levy penned an essay on sexual assault in honor of April’s theme of Sexual Assault Awareness Month that was released on Wednesday, April 27 in The Players’ Tribune. In the piece, the five-year veteran of the NFL “described why men need to be active and vocal allies for women by speaking out against sexual violence.”
Explaining that men can sometimes avoid topics that make them appear weak, Levy said that while men in sports need to engage with the issue, the onus of solving the problem also falls on society at large.
“The dehumanization and objectification of women are not issues that are specific to male athletes. They are societal problems,” he wrote in the essay. “But they tend to be more associated with athletes in part because we are often idolized because of our athletic ability. In many ways, we’re considered models of masculinity, which is at the very root of a lot of these issues.”
Offering some insight on why the topic is important to him, Levy then shared a personal experience with the topic of sexual assault, the Huffington Post reports.
“One time I heard a group of guys joke about “running a train” on a drunk girl. At the time, my 18-year-old brain didn’t process this as anything bad. Maybe those guys were just engaging in a display of bravado. But what if what they were describing was true?…” he shared. “This speaks to just how toxic and backward the culture around sexual assault still is. I was 18 years old — “man” enough to drive, vote and go to war — but somehow I didn’t have the courage, or the maturity, to see what they were talking about for what it was: a serious crime.”
While he regrets not taking action in the moment, Levy thinks it is not too late to make a change in the present — a change that would come not by telling women to avoid being raped, but by teaching young men not to be the perpetrators.
“The focus always seems to be on teaching young women how not to get raped and on what steps they can take to ‘stay safe,'” Levy offered. “But why are we not also focused on educating young men about the definition of consent and what constitutes rape?”
The Huffington Post said that the 29-year-old linebacker added, “We’re essentially dealing with the problem by telling women to be more careful. And that’s bullshit.”
Urging men to always be an ally for women who have been sexually assaulted, Levy wrote:
“Personally, I know and love a woman who was a victim of sexual assault, and I suspect other women in my life have also been the victims of assault … When you approach this issue as a mother’s son, or as a partner, or as a sister’s brother, rather than as a bro, it looks very different. But it shouldn’t take a personal relationship to stand up for this.”
His best point: “This is not just a woman’s problem.”