LB DeAndre Levy urges athletes to 'man up' in essay on sexual violence

— -- Detroit Lions linebacker DeAndre Levy wrote an essay Wednesday for The Players' Tribune urging all athletes -- not just NFL players -- to "man up" and speak out candidly about sexual assault, victim blaming and rape.

"This isn't about the NFL," Levy writes in the piece. "It's much bigger than that. But I'm asking my fellow athletes to take this opportunity to step up. Some of the funniest, most insightful and honest conversations I've ever had in my life have taken place inside a locker room. But this particular topic is one that has never come up.

"As professional athletes, we have the prominence in our communities to effect real change. When we talk, people listen. So in a sense, our general silence on this issue is condoning it.

"So let's change that. Speak out with me. Man up."

In the piece, Levy explains how he was ignorant on this topic as a freshman at Wisconsin. He heard teammates discuss their sexual exploits, but couldn't process then what they were saying. Now, 10 years later, he writes that he carries guilt for not stepping up and acting then on what he identifies as rape.

Levy writes that stories he heard from his youth clouded his mind, despite believing that what he was hearing was wrong. He says the NFL's presentation to players on domestic abuse and sexual violence caused him to reflect on his past and "challenge ideas that I had internalized."

And this has led him to speak out.

"I was pretty ignorant on this topic for a long time," Levy writes. "I think a lot of men are, because it's often talked about as a women's issue. 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.' But why are we not also focused on educating young men about the definition of consent and what constitutes rape? We're essentially dealing with the problem by telling women to be more careful.

"And that's bulls---."

Levy believes this issue goes beyond football and beyond athletes. It is an issue throughout the United States that he is now raising, as he put it, in honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

"The dehumanization and objectification of women are not issues that are specific to male athletes," Levy writes. "They are societal problems. 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."

Levy has become increasingly vocal about issues that matter to him this offseason. Before Wednesday, Levy previously challenged the NFL for some of its policies about brain injuries. First he took to Instagram to question the league, then he wrote an email to ESPN.com further outlining why he was taking on the NFL, calling for transparency.