Monday, 3 September 2012

What can I do, right now today, to help stop sexual violence

It is frustrating to live in a society where sexual violence is commonplace, and feel helpless to stop it. Many people are so disgusted and frightened for themselves and those they care about, that they do not have the patience to wait for our culture to right itself. It is from this frustration, impatience, and usually from a sincere worry for women's safety, that people often will try to pass along rape prevention measures that may or may not be useful.

For example, most people seem to express relief and concern when passing along the chain letter "Through A Rapists' Eyes", for they finally have something that seems concrete and relatively easy to follow. Unfortunately, it's largely comprised of rape myths (eg. - there's no proven correlation between clothing or hairstyles and who rapists tend to target), and self-defense tips based on stranger-in-the-alley tropes that may or may not serve any use should someone be targeted.

Much of the safety advice that is given out is aimed at potential victims (quite often young women), that seems solid and constructive, but that largely ignores the social and societal context in which the violence happens, and also fails to take into consideration the practical realities of women's lives.

Fortunately, there are steps that we can start working on right now, today, to help reduce the instances of sexual violence.

We can make sure that we always get enthusiastic consent from our partner(s), that we respect their boundaries, and that we take full responsibility for our actions with/ against others. Rape is not just an act committed by strange, mentally-ill men against women. We all need to ensure we ourselves do not commit any form of sexual violence, regardless of our gender expression, of how long we've been with our partner, whether we've had sexual relations with them before, whether we mean it "as a joke", whether we've had a bad day and are looking for a pick-me-up, regardless of how turned on or sexy we're feeling. It is all of our responsibility to ensure we do not commit acts of sexual violence.

We can join in public protests and events that give support and solidarity to survivors and let perpetrators know the community is ready to have them held accountable:
We can do our part not to give rapists a social license to operate:
We can do our part not make rape jokes so that we make our culture safer for survivors and less amenable to rapists:
We can talk about and teach people about enthusiastic consent:
We can believe people when they report, and prioritize them above their abusers:
We can understand the many different forms rape takes:
We can challenge victim-blaming:
We can hold abusers accountable for the crimes they've committed, rather than let them off because their rapes weren't "rapey" enough:
We can also support women in asserting and maintaining their boundaries:
We can be more picky about the rape prevention measures we pass on:
We can learn about rape myths to make sure we're not perpetuating them:
A big part of stopping rape is ensuring that rapists are held accountable for their actions and not allowed to rape again. This can be accomplished through different ways. It can happen through the legal system if the victim chooses to report and is believed by police and the case is successfully tried and the judge enforces a sentence that reflects the seriousness of the crime. It can happen by removing the supports in place for perpetrators to revictimize survivors or attack new victims (silence and rallying around the perpetrator and alienating the victim can have this effect). It can happen by empowering the survivor by letting them know they're not at fault and the crimes committed against them, whether by a stranger, a partner, a trusted authority figure, or a family member, etc, won't be disregarded, at the very least not by their support circle.

These might not have the same emotional impact of telling women to always carry handguns or mace, and some of them deal with rape after-the-fact. Sexual violence is an insidious crime that can be committed a million different ways by a million different sorts of perpetrators, which is why there's no neat and tidy cure-all for it. However, these are all very important steps I hope everyone will try to endeavour to take part in, because they can make a real, tangible, and immediate difference in people's lives.

If there are any other tips you'd like to pass on, please leave them in the comments and I'll add them.

3 comments:

  1. I agree and have struggled since dealing with my own issues on sexual assault. Rape is Rape is Rape no matter how you address it.

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  2. Hi there! This is a really important issue to address and I think you have written about it extremely well. I especially think this is very relevant today with the up and coming International Women's Day on Friday, the 8th.

    Would you be interested in having this blog be re-posted in a mini IWD blog carnival for surrounding issues on women's rights, gender, empowerment, sexual violence on Americans for Imformed Democracy's blog site (www.aidemocracy.org)? Americans for Informed Democracy is a youth network working towards empowering other youth about global issues and how they can be more involved through advocacy, learning and leadership. Please email me (amanda@aidemocracy.org) if you are interested and, or would like to find out more information! Thanks!

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    Replies
    1. That would be absolutely great. I've PM'd you. :)

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