Young girls are especially susceptible to words, and during their teenage years, self-worth and self-esteem seem to be commodities. With the pressure to fit in and to be ‘popular,’ being slut-shamed can decrease young girls’ self-esteem significantly, to the point where even in their adult years they may wonder if they are ‘worthy’ of being in a relationship because a boy in high school called them a slut or feel isolated by their peers. This doesn’t even touch dress codes, which often perpetuate slut-shaming.
Worst-case scenario - I feel as though there was something I must have done to deserve an unwanted comment, wink, or touch. Comments from the women in my life such as, “Are you sure you want to be wearing that in public? You don’t want to hurt yourself” or “Don’t forget to bring your mace—don’t want to put yourself in a dangerous situation,” only fuel a fear that a catcall is my fault, or in fact a compliment.
But sexual harassment is neither of these. Sexual harassment in public spaces is a violation of consent and a form of sexual violence. No matter if the harasser physically grabs someone or stares predatorily, they overstep the boundaries of individuals trying to go about their day.
To our elected representatives: the well-being of millions of survivors is not some damn political football. Our president may not understand the impact that sexual harassment and assault has on communities, or the vital role that health care plays in our recovery. But we ask you not to turn your backs on victims. It might mean reaching across the aisle. It might mean sitting down and spending significant amounts of time crafting new policy. It might even mean listening to the needs of the survivors. Despite those challenges, protecting our pathway to healing, safety, and well-being is worth it. We are worth it.
Slut-shaming can make a judge sympathize with a rapist and wreak havoc on one’s mental health. As women, our personal lifestyle choices should not be used as ammo against us. Our bodies are not to be sexualized by men to make themselves feel better for their intolerable crimes against us. Our voices are not to be silenced because we had sex, wore a skirt, or any other reason people come up with to guilt us for our own tragedies. With this in mind, I asked five people to share their personal experiences with slut-shaming.
Unfortunately, women are often victims of the hookup culture on college campuses. Men are almost encouraged to sleep with a number of people, whether that be from their peers, their fraternity, or the media. Almost every movie that is on a college campus has some scene where the boy hooks up with someone and gets a round of high fives from their friends, while in another scene, a girl is shamed for having hooked up with a boy and she “should have known better” than to think a hook up meant they were exclusive
Wilkerson’s victim stood in court and asked the judge to “have as much mercy for the rapist as he did for me that night.” Caryn Datz, the attorney for the victim, told the judge that Austin Wilkerson felt a sense of entitlement. “He felt entitled to rape her, he felt entitled to get away with it, and he felt entitled to lie on the stand about it,” she said.District Judge Patrick Butler seemed to agree with Datz. However, he “struggled with whether or not to put Wilkerson in prison.”
Communication and connectivity via technology is a great thing - usually. With the click of a button, a phone call can be made, a text can be sent, or a tweet can be posted. Just one of the benefits of this broad audience is the ability to have conversations about sexual assault. The use of social media (hashtags, sharing, etc.) allows much needed attention and support to be brought to sexual assault organizations.
It’s hard to believe this is ever going to end. I don’t see that happening any time soon. As a survivor, it’s exhausting to constantly see these things. The scariest part is that I was a survivor for many years who was still laughing at these things. I was raised in a rape culture where all of this was normalized. I didn’t see anything wrong with it. But I’m glad that I do now.
Every day for two years this outfit was deemed inappropriate enough to pull me out of class and send me down to the office. There the vice principal would scrutinize me and either tell me I passed or that I needed to put on a sweater. Every day my education was interrupted while other girls in the same clothes were allowed to go about their business. Every day boys walked around oblivious to the fact that a dress code even existed.
It was a year of growth in combating rape culture and stigma surrounding survivors, but it cannot end in 2016. With the new year, we have to work even harder. We have to support survivors. We have to protest and stand up when there is a trial sentencing that is much less than is deserved. This year was a show of strength, and next year is going to be even stronger.