Rape culture: something NEEDS to change and what you can do to help change it

Monday, June 6, 2016

TRIGGER WARNING: This piece discusses sexual violence 

I am writing this based on what I do know and that is this: two witnesses saw Brock Allen Turner raping a woman. Based on all of the evidence (including the typical, yet revolting, re-victimization and vilification of the victim) he was found guilty. The max sentence for his crimes is 14 years but the judge, Aaron Persky, felt the need to be lenient because "a prison sentence would have a severe impact on [Turner]." He got sentenced to 6 months in prison and probation.

rape culture - woman crying

After reading the guilty-finding, sentencing, the letter from the perpetrator's father and letter from the victim I felt myself filled with rage. I wanted to write a rant, to pick apart the story and all the injustices. There were too many to even start. I'm not going to pick apart the story here. Truthfully, I've done it far too many times in my head and there are people who have captured all the ways this is wrong far better than I'd ever be able to. Instead, I'm issuing a plea of my own and I implore you to read it with an open mind and heart.

We cannot continue to deny that we live in a rape culture. We live in a Society and have a legal system that normalizes, minimizes and rationalizes sexual violence. All the while blaming the victims.

How far do things need to go before we realize and acknowledge our Society is so severely flawed? Whose daughter, sister, mother or friend needs to be raped before things change?

We cannot be silent anymore.

Something needs to happen, something needs to change. 

First, we need to acknowledge that there is a problem. Read the information about this sexual assault. Read the letter from the victim and the letter from the perpetrator's father and try and deny the fact that there is something gravely wrong. It will break your heart but I want you to remember that this is just one case, one victim, one women among the countless who experience sexual violence EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. Her story is but one example of the ways in which our Society condones sexual assault and rape.

Second, we need need to get mad. I don't think it's possible to read the details and not be pissed right off. Remember what I said before? This is ONE case. There are countless victims. That this continues should have people fuming. The blatant injustice should have us ALL screaming at the top of our lungs "this is NOT right".

Third, we need to change it. Big task right? Initially, I was consumed with rage and the more I read the more pissed off and frustrated I became. I sat with that anger and felt overwhelmed. I felt so small in my inability to do anything about it. How could I possibly make a difference in an issue that is so deeply entrenched in our Society? Then I looked over at my daughter and realized that I HAVE to do something.

Challenging oppression and changing societal norms is a daunting task to say the least. It's overwhelming and heavy but my God, our children are worth it. WE are worth it.

What can I do?

This is what it boils down to for me: what do I have the ability to do? How can I make a difference?

Educate yourself - knowledge is power friends. The more you know, the more you can share. I warn you, the rape statistics are shocking and sad but you NEED to know them. Once you're aware you have the ability to SHARE that knowledge.

Talk about it - start the conversations with your partner, your friends, coworkers and your children (age-appropriate, of course). Begin the dialogue because when we start talking about things we present opportunities for healthy discussions, debates and education. People might not even realize the ways Society gives its silent permission for rape to continue, tell them about it. Call people out if they say or do something that encourages the minimization of sexual violence. Try and be kind about it, you'll have more success this way, but say SOMETHING.

Don't minimize or rationalize - "but he's such a nice guy" "I can't really see him doing something like that". Guess what? Some 'nice guys' rape people. Athletes, celebrities and affluent people can rape people. We cannot continue to question the legitimacy or validity of a crime based on the merit of the perpetrator. Rape is NOT an accident. Someone, the perpetrator, makes a decision, no matter how fueled by alcohol, to assault someone. 

Share your story - talk about personal experiences of sexual violence. It can be excruciating but if you've experienced an assault you need to talk about it, to name it and get support. This helps the victim but also makes people, friends and family, aware that this is an issue that impacts them. Unfortunately, chances are that if you're a woman talking to another woman about an experience of assault, she will have her own story to share. Support each other, acknowledge the problem and talk about change.

You don't have to be a victim of assault or know a victim to challenge it you just have to have a voice.

I'm urging you to help make a change for our sisters, friends, daughters, for the victim of Brock Allen Turner and for ALL victims of sexual violence.

rape culture
A fantastic way to explain consent:

Some extra reading:
Unforgiveable father of Standford rapist just offered horrifying defense of son
3 Components of rape culture and what you can do to fight back
12 ways we all contribute to the rape culture without realizing it

the following powerful images are part of a campaign by SAVE (Sexual Assault Voices of Edmonton)