As I read about the Stanford rape decision, I felt nothing but a mix of different negative emotions: Disgust. Anger. Disappointment. Sadness. Both the act itself and the reactions from the judge and Turner family left me an emotional mess. Then, I read the survivor’s statement. Feelings of horror persisted as she described the incident, but pride and hope were mixed in too. She was so eloquent and brave, and created a call to action. People began to publicly express support for her—even the vice president of the United States. Never in my life had I seen such widespread efforts to help a survivor of rape. I realized, then, that there are groups of people who genuinely want to make things better and do whatever they can to make rape culture a thing of the past. But how do we do this? In a world full of victim-blamers and Brock Turner defenders, it can be hard, but any small action or attempt at education can help. We need to move forward from this horrific situation in a positive, productive way. Can we make things any better for the survivor? Is there anything we can do to prevent things like this from happening again?
I'm not an expert by any means, and we surely aren’t going to “End Rape Culture With These 5 Easy Steps!", but I do think raising queries and answering them is vital to healing and moving forward. So, here are 5 things we can do to help society after it has been struck by such a devastating act:
- Learn The Real Definition Of Consent
Lately I’ve been hearing the phrase, “Sex without consent is not sex. It’s rape” - and that is 100% true. However, many aren’t entirely sure what “qualifies” as consent or know what it really is. Here at Project Consent, we like to say that, simply put, “if it’s not a yes, it’s a no.” If a person is unable to give consent, it’s a no. If a person originally gave you consent, and then changed their mind, it’s a no. And if you are in a relationship, that doesn’t automatically imply consent either. The bottom line is this: if there is ANY sort of question as to whether you are given consent, it’s a no.
Youtuber and Sex-Ed advocate, Laci Green, describes that consent needs to be given both verbally and physically (Green). It needs to be both heard and seen in their body language. Think of it this way: during sex, when somebody is enjoying themselves, there is generally physical and audible evidence of a positive reaction. Consent doesn’t have to be awkward or complicated. Just be aware and conscious of your partner’s feelings. If you want further details or examples, check out Laci’s Consent 101 Video or this awesome illustration.
- Challenge The Status Quo: Talk To Your Children About Consent
Rape and sexual assault seem like primarily college campus issues, but they aren’t. Rape culture is just that: a culture. Culture creates norms and cultural mindsets. These thoughts and beliefs become what we are used to, and ultimately become the norm for us because they are all that we know. Normalizing the importance of consent in young children has the potential to create new norms for their future. It has the power to change rape culture.
Teach them that they are in charge of their own bodies. Teach them to be conscientious and aware of the feelings of the people they spend time with or care about. Teach them to respect and take care of one another. As they grow older, these habits will transfer over to behaviors that correlate with whatever age they are, like sex.
This is definitely easier said than done, but Project Consent has another article that helps make talking about consent with your kids a little easier and a little less confusing.
- Get Angry
Rape culture and those who perpetuate it can be immensely and excruciatingly frustrating. To many of us, concepts of respect and not taking advantage of those in a vulnerable situation just seem like common sense, so when others don’t understand these concepts or aren’t willing to learn, we get angry. This anger isn’t just justified—it’s necessary. These emotions are what fuel us to try and alleviate the problem.
Use this anger, and get involved. Educate your peers. Stand up for what you believe in.
If getting involved involved means learning more in order to educate others more effectively, so be it. If it means a simple Google search for volunteer opportunities in organizations similar to Project Consent, all the better. Any little step taken can do wonders.
This topic is beyond frustrating and can take a toll on your heart and spirits. More often than not, a lot of effort can make little progress, but don’t get disheartened. There are so many people who are angry with you, and who also want to make things better.
- But, Also Not Too Angry
Many of us are well-versed on the topic of rape culture and consent, whether it was spurred by a desire for change or personal experience. However, we can tend to forget that not everyone in the world has as much knowledge on the issue as we do. The people who provoke our frustration and anger don’t always have malignant intentions—sometimes the most ignorant people are just that: ignorant. Some people truly don’t know enough about rape culture to understand how prevalent and severe it really is.
Men especially don’t experience the world of rape culture the same way women do or have the same risks for sexual assault, which leaves them, for the most part, unaware of the full gravity of the issue. If someone, man or woman, no matter how aggravating they may be, is discussing rape culture with you, there is at least a tiny chance that they want to learn more. As frustrating as it can be, welcome the conversation, educate them, and try your hardest to not push them away with anger.
- Understand That Survivor Support Is EVERYTHING
Cases of sexual assault and rape, whether they are personal or not, can be hard to digest. They are emotional and heartbreaking and, truthfully, very confusing. Standing by the survivor is the best way to respond, and sometimes is the only way to put victim blamers in their place. If a rape case is personal, you can find a plethora of helpful resources here.
It is never the victim’s fault. Only rapists can prevent rape. Don’t be a silent bystander. Use your voice, show empathy, and care for one another. A world of opportunity awaits.