We need to talk about rape culture
Please take care of yourselves
TW: Sexual assault threats, Sexual assault.
The arts and culture section of a newspaper is a great place to find some easy reads on local events, artists, businesses, and general happenings, but the actual culture of our area isn’t often brought up. This week I’d like to address an aspect of ours called rape culture, which is when a culture or society has specific attitudes/norms that trivialize sexual assault and abuse; to take that a step further, these cultures have a tendency to blame the victims of assaults when they occur. The only reason I’ve found for victim blaming comes with the just-world hypothesis – a way of rationalizing crisis. In this thought pattern people are desperate to find causes for events (be them manmade or natural disasters), which often winds up circling around the victim(s) to find out what they did to “deserve” the event in an attempt to alter the victim’s actions to stop the crisis from occurring again in the future.
A couple weeks ago a stranger added me on Snapchat, started asking very forward questions, and asked if I’d like to see videos of him playing with himself. I said no (dude, I don’t even know your first name, and I’ve got the entire internet if I want to see that . . .), which made him angry, and he threatened to rape me until I was crying.
I’m being blunt in my wording right now because I need to get the extreme nature of his actions and reaction across. I didn’t know him, I still don’t know who it was, and I still don’t know how serious of a threat that was. When telling friends and asking for advice, one acquaintance had the bright idea to tell me to take the threat as a compliment because “he must really like you!” It’s that comment and reaction that sparked this article. I’d like to establish plainly that if someone likes you, they will not threaten to sexually assault you. If someone values you at all, they will not threaten to sexually assault you. Threats of assault, abuse, and rape are never compliments, and it’s our society’s rape culture that has perpetuated that mentality. It starts in the schoolyard when boys pull girls’ pigtails; later when the girls get upset they’re told it’s just because the boy likes them – non-consensual violence is never a show of affection. It’s an act of abuse to degrade the other and assert oneself over them – that isn’t a compliment, and attempting to justify their actions is just teaching those boys that that’s an appropriate way to treat people.
As I said before, I don’t know how serious that threat was, or if it was some psychopath’s idea of a joke, but as someone who’s been sexually assaulted it really shook me. I fell down the rabbit hole of victim blaming by trying to figure out what I could do to prevent it from happening in the future, but I couldn’t find a thing. I wasn’t walking alone, I wasn’t walking at night, I wasn’t dressed provocatively, I wasn’t acting flirty, and I wasn’t too drunk/high to control myself. The standard “she was asking for it” attempts at justification didn’t apply at all – all I did was say no to a stranger’s advances over Snapchat. So while I couldn’t find any special tips for my specific scenario, I did find eight rape prevention tips by @xcrazyraerae on twitter that I think are absolutely perfect, so I paraphrased them and will leave you with this food for thought:
First – Beware of drugs. To prevent sexual assault, do not put drugs in drinks that are not yours.
Second – To prevent sexual assault when walking at night, do not assault those around you.
Third – Watch what you wear. If you feel you may sexually assault somebody, it is best to wear a shirt that says “rapist” so that others can steer clear.
Fourth – Be mindful of others in your neighbourhood. To prevent sexual assault, do not follow, harass, break in, or sexually assault them.
Fifth – Be careful around alcohol if it causes you to become violent or sexually assault others.
Sixth – When you encounter someone who is asleep or unconscious, the safest course of action is to not sexually assault them.
Seventh – Carry a whistle. If you find yourself about to sexually assault someone, blow the whistle until somebody arrives to intervene.
Eighth – The buddy system is your best friend! If it is inconvenient for you to stop yourself from sexually assaulting someone, ensure a guardian is with you at all times.